Last night the first episode of Al Jazeera’s new series “Rebel Architecture” was launched, featuring Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda. Based in Seville, Cirugeda reclaims abandoned urban spaces for the public, despite the fact that self-building is illegal in Spain. His buildings are often fast-build, mobile structures made from recycled materials, but the key is that they all serve a social function. In this 25-minute episode, Al Jazeera looks at his latest project: converting an abandoned cement factory into a vibrant cultural center. Will Cirugeda successfully complete his biggest challenge yet?
Watch the full episode above and read on after the break for a full episode synopsis and to learn more about the series and upcoming episodes...
From Al Jazeera: "Guerilla Architect," Directed by Ana Naomi de Sousa
Santiago Cirugeda, Seville’s most subversive architect, has dedicated his career to reclaiming urban spaces for the public. In austerity-hit Spain, where the state has retreated and around 500,000 new buildings lie empty, “people are doing things their own way,“ says Cirugeda. “In times of crisis, people come together to find collective solutions.” With his expert knowledge of urban planning legislation, Santiago isn’t afraid to “occupy”, or squat, abandoned space and use his knowledge of the law to enable community building. “Self-building hasn’t been legalised in Spain, so any architect taking on this problem has to take on civil and criminal liability” he says, referring to the logistical issues he faces whilst working on the edges of the law. “Sometimes we do things that are illegal, but we’re not doing anyone any harm. On the contrary, we’re doing it to benefit more people. The decision to work illegally means a different approach.” His buildings are often fast-build, mobile structures made from recycled materials –design for Cirugeda is about matching available materials with the skills of those keen to build it. The key is that they serve a social function, which Santiago thinks contemporary architecture has lost sight of in its obsession with the aesthetic. We follow him as he takes on his biggest task yet, saving a huge abandoned cement factory, and negotiating with the authorities to let his National Architects’ Collective turn it into a vibrant cultural centre.
Rebel Architecture is a new series featuring architects who use design as a form of resistance and activism. By designing for the majority rather than the elite, the architects in “Rebel Architecture” are tackling the world’s urban, environmental and social problems. Through six, half-hour documentaries the series will highlight architects working in Vietnam, Nigeria, Spain, Pakistan, the Occupied West Bank and Brazil. Stay tuned for next week's episode featuring Pakistani Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan’s first female architect and an expert in providing disaster relief shelters.