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Rebel Architect #1: Santiago Cirugeda, Spain's 'guerrilla architect'

A new series on radical architects begins with Seville-based ‘guerrilla’ Santiago Cirugeda who reclaims unused or abandoned spaces for community-focused interventions

While Spain’s economy is still reeling from the effects of the global recession and the austerity measures imposed by the government, Cirugeda uses his knowledge of self-build architecture and urban planning law to quickly occupy unused spaces to create community-oriented projects.

‘Guerrilla Architect’, directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa and the first in Al Jazeera’s six-part Rebel Architecture series, follows Cirugeda as he works on a number of projects which bypass local planning authorities and provide interventions called for – and often built – by local residents.

'Urban skeletons' - an example of some of the 500,000 abandoned new homes in Spain. Image: Al Jazeera.

‘Urban skeletons’ - an example of some of the 500,000 abandoned new homes in Spain. Image: Al Jazeera.

‘In times of crisis, people come together to find collective solutions. There are many collectives appearing, talking about re-using stuff, recycling,’ Cirugeda says. He points to the fact that an office skyscraper for a bank near Seville is being completed, while nearby, a residential block which started on site before the recession lies abandoned, just some of the more than 500,000 new homes which were scrapped due to government cuts. ‘People have been abandoned by the state. Now people are doing things their own way.’

The cement factory in Los Santos de Maimona occupied by Santiago Cirugeda and members of other architecture collectives. Image: Al Jazeera.

The cement factory in Los Santos de Maimona occupied by Santiago Cirugeda and members of other architecture collectives. Image: Al Jazeera.

One of Cirugeda’s projects sees him take on a project to build a new classroom extension for a school in La Floresta, 20km from Barcelona, where there is little budget, no planning permission and which has already been rejected by three other architects. Teachers and students join the construction team to save costs and build the new classroom, a process which would still be in planning if Cirugeda had gone through established routes.

School at La Floresta during construction. Image: Al Jazeera.

School at La Floresta during construction. Image: Al Jazeera.

The film also follows Cirugeda as he teams up with circus master Jorge ‘Biffo’ Barroso to create a community arts centre on abandoned land, while an abandoned cement factory sees Cirugeda join other architecture collectives in a bid to save and re-use the building.

‘Contemporary architecture is all about “what a beautiful building” or “what a pretty project”’, says Cirugeda. ‘Architecture is more than that, it should be functional, cheap. It should be a reason to come together – and that’s what we’ve done.’

‘Guerilla Architect’ is being broadcast as part of Al Jazeera’s Rebel Architecture series at the following times: Tonight: 23.30 (BST, premiere); Tue: 10.30; Wed: 04.30; Thu: 17.30; Fri: 20.30; Sat: 15.30; Sun: 05.30; Mon: 09.30.

For more details visit: www.aljazeera.com/programmes/rebelarchitecture

 

 

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