In this preview of the first episode of Rebel Architecture, we meet Santiago Cirugeda, a legend of Spanish self-build who has dedicated his career to reclaiming urban spaces for public use. The documentary series, which we first wrote about here, premieres 18 August on Al Jazeera.
The series features six architects around the world who are shunning the glamour of massive, multi-million-dollar commissions to tackle the world’s urban, environmental and social crises.
In austerity-hit Spain, where the state has retreated and around 500 000 new buildings stand empty, “people are doing things their own way,“ says Cirugeda. “In times of crisis, people come together to find collective solutions.” With his expertise in urban planning legislation, he isn’t afraid to occupy abandoned space and use his knowledge of the law to enable community building.
“Sometimes we do things that are illegal, but we’re not doing anyone any harm,” he says. “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 he thinks contemporary architecture has lost sight of in its obsession with aesthetics.
The episode follows his biggest quest 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.
Read more about the series here and tune into Al Jazeera on 18 August at 22:30 GMT for "Guerilla Architect".