A Lightweight Music Festival Venue, Built At A Moment’s Notice

When the 2011 Red Bull Music Academy was relocated to Madrid due to a natural disaster, a local firm had just four months to come up with a plan from scratch. They needed only two.

The Red Bull Music Academy, an annual, traveling symposium, was slated to be held in Tokyo when the devastating earthquake hit in early 2011. With just four months before the event was to take place, it was relocated to Madrid, and local architecture firm Langarita-Navarro was charged with putting together a venue for the festival’s diverse set of programming. Their lightweight solution–a cluster of pop-up buildings erected under a series of historical, open-air warehouses, proves that sometimes urgency can be a powerful catalyst for innovation.


While the hard deadline of the festival opening was four months away, the design Langarita-Navarro proposed for the “emergency project,” as they refer to it, took only two to complete. The venue was Matadero Madrid, an early 20th-century warehouse complex that has been repurposed variously as a creative space in recent years. The festival called for four distinct areas: offices, practice studios, recording studios, and an area for conferences–each with its own unique acoustic requirements.

What sprung up under the aging industrial canopy was a village of small structures, custom-built for the occasion and replete with small, clever design touches. The conference area, for example, was outfitted with a cloth dome for absorbing sound. As the buildings needed to be temporary, sandbags were used for recording studio walls, and the venue was dotted with potted plants that could be transplanted to other areas of the city after the programming wrapped. “The materials had to be available in a very short term,” says team member Paula García-Masedo.

The architects, García-Masedo explains, strove not just to create spaces that could work for the Music Academy’s various offerings but were, in fact, designed specifically for each. “It is a kind of adaptability not based in the traditional concept of flexibility but more on diversity and heterogeneity,” she says.

In the end, the festival went off smoothly, and though the venue was designed to be temporary, Langarita-Navarro’s contribution wasn’t forgotten. The project garnered a handful of awards, including the 2012 FAD Architecture Prize and an AR+D Emerging Architects Award for 2012.

See more work on the firm’s site.