Santiago is a name no stranger to those familiar with the architecture realm. Most people would instantly associate Calatrava and his Milwaukee Art Museum which was also featured in the Hollywood films. Little do we know, Spain also inherited another Santiago who has emerged in the recent years to become a society-transforming architect, changing urban spaces and gradually redesigning the landscape of Spain in ways more impactful than iconic buildings alone could achieve. Some calls him the rebel for the lack of a better term. He is a design activist who uses architecture as a means to change social behaviours, challenge norms, perceptions and make affordable, designed spaces for all.
Thomas Markussen, an Associate Professor at the Kolding School of Design wrote in his report on Social Innovation, ” …by making a change in the physical environment, he created a small opening in the normal order of things, that offers an opportunity for people to behave differently. Importantly, this kind of activism can be a trigger for social change without being overtly political, or violent, or concerned with the overturning of power or institutions: aesthetic dissensus offers more opportunities than political dissensus. So instead of the usual forms of activism (protests, for example) he proposed some sites of activism within the normal activities of urban existence: walking, dwelling, playing, gardening & recycling.”
Featured here, Cirugeda’s scaffolding extension was erected as a result of his cunning tactics to thwart pass legal permission when he was denied the planning approval for an extension to his first floor apartment. The Seville-based guerrilla architect, who reclaims unused and abandoned spaces for community-focused interventions began with small scaled projects, most of which are unauthorized. What may be his hidden agenda? Well, simply to reject the notion that the city centre is solely a place of consumption.
Reeling from the effects of the global recession, Spain was slowly being transformed by Cirugeda’s bold contributions. The school at La Foresta, for example, would have still remained in the planning stage if he were to conform to authorities protocol. The teachers, together with the students and construction team joined hands to build a new classroom, a proposal which was also rejected by 3 other architects prior to its realization. Cirugeda also exploited the laws around rubbish skips since it was allowed to be placed anywhere, which he later used to make a number of structure including a mini playground.
The hallmark of his profession is La Carpa, a community-centric fixture, which was build temporarily for the purpose of accommodating cultural activities. Until it was dutifully removed, the spider container housed tens of thousands concerts, theatre performances, live music and workshops there.
Alice Attout – his partner and fellow architect – Recetas Urbanas counts on a support network of dozens of so-called “collective architects” all over the country. Recetas Urbanas is known all over Spain as a reference for low-cost, self-build projects that need the expertise of someone used to navigating – and often exploiting – Spain’s complicated planning bureaucracy.-Guardian