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Photo of Magic Box fully constructed on the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid campus before Solar Decathlon 2005. Enlarge image

The movable walls in Madrid's Solar Decathlon house allow the space to be organized into one, three, or five rooms, while moving the living room creates an internal Spanish-style courtyard.
(Courtesy of Universidad Politécnica de Madrid)

Who: Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
What: Magic Box
Competition House
Future House Exhibition
Changping District of Beijing
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Model House
Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
28040 Madrid, Spain
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Public tours: Not available.

Solar Decathlon 2005

Universidad Politécnica de Madrid: Teaching at Home and Abroad

The Universidad Politécnica de Madrid team built two versions of its Magic Box house when preparing for the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2005. One house remained on campus and is being used by the Institute of Solar Energy for graduate-level research. The other house traveled to Washington, D.C., to compete and was one of 10 buildings commissioned by China’s Ministry of Construction for display in Beijing, China as part of the Future House Project.

The small, solar-powered community was erected in 2007 as a precursor to the 2008 Olympic Games. The houses—built by countries including England, Italy, Norway, South Korea, and Sweden—remained open to the public through 2014.

Several changes have been made to Magic Box since the competition ended. The photovoltaic system was modified so that it could connect to the Beijing power grid. A Konnex graphical interface replaced the original control system to allow for real-time monitoring of the house. And a reflection pool was built in front of the house as specified in the team’s original conceptual design.

The original design for the 2005 house was also enlarged and modified slightly in constructing a permanent prototype in the Plaza Ecópolis area of Madrid, Spain. The design was selected by the City Council of Rivas-Vaciamadrid as part of “Rivesecoplis,” a complex of sustainable buildings. The Magic Box prototype is now the office of Madrid’s Energy Agency.