Forest fires are a recurrent problem in Spanish summers, as it also happens in other countries as the US or Australia. The risk is increased with urban sprawl. Luis Galiana’s text (english version) is a good reminder of that problem and the need to adress it.
One of my personal interests, in a very interesting publication by Andrew Hudson- Smith and the Bartlet- Center for Advanced Spatial Analysis. Worth reading if you are into maps
Urban trees allow a more comfortable thermal sensation through shadow, moisture and wind moderation. And grass can also help. All those elements are present in many traditional Spanish architectures, but also on more recent buildings, as in the new residential areas of Madrid. For some, these are just “gated communities” as in the US, but on a vertical layout (dwellings on these multi-family buildings are accessed through a single access to the block courtyard, so sometimes there is a guard at the gate), but these are also spaces where, around a swimming pool and under some trees, you can have a summer day.
The thermal sensation is influenced by temperature, but also by humidity: to much humidity can fast become annoying, but a bit of water well used ca be of help . During the 1992 Expo in Seville there was a lot of buzz about the sprinkler systems that allowed improving the thermal feeling in public spaces.
In the Spanish tradition the botijo (a porous clay water container) is an example of adaptation to summer heat: the water inside transpires through the ceramic pores and, getting in contact with dry external air, evaporates, extracting energy from inner water and refreshing it. Openings are small, so most of the evaporation happens through the ceramic wall. This is evaporative cooling.
Can this be done with a building? Yes, but it is not that common (or perhaps, you do not see it). The citizen initiatives Pavillion in Expo Zaragoza 2008, a project by Ricardo Higueras, was a quite figurative attempt to build a oversize botijo. On the other side, the use of ceramic building materials, something quite common in Spain, contributes in part to that effect (if ceramic elements are allowed to transpire) and andalusian patios, with fountains inside, can play a similar role…
In Andalusia and in cities as Madrid, the way to ensure that life stays in some retail streets during summer is, simply, to cover them with awnings. This year the municipality of Getafe (south of Metro Madrid) has covered its main retail street with a lot of umbrellas; the experience has been short-lived due to problems with anchoring safety, but in fact, nearly anything bringing shadow can be of use…
Sierpes street in Seville uses traditional awnings, while Preciados street in Madrid uses a more complex system (less elegant, but perharps more fit to stand wind) and Getafe has tried to innovate… Urban planning usually does not establishes rules for that, and anyway these are temporary structures that have to abide by general regulations concerning the use of public space, even if just to address civil responsibility in the event of a problem.