santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
feb 23, 2015

santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies

santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
image courtesy of recetas urbanas




quickly becoming well known amongst a new breed of ‘guerrilla’ architects sprouting up all over the world, seville-based architect santiago cirugeda speaks at the 2015 design indaba conference in cape town about his unconventional creative practice. subverting the traditional bureaucracies involved in the building process, cirugeda questions the values many architects and political powers place on urban development and finds the legal loopholes and forgotten spaces to create functional architecture by the people and for the people. from the popularity of his first public project where he converted a dumpster into a ‘a self-built and self-managed urban playground’ that would transform from a swing to a seesaw to a flamenco stage, he continued to intervene in a variety of scales in all the recession-battered sites. spain proves to be a veritable breeding ground for this type guerrilla studio. with over 500,000 abandoned skeletons spread throughout the country, there are plenty of situations begging for intervention — be it legal or illegal.


a brief documentary on the work of recetas urbanas
video courtesy of recetas urbanas



the significance of his work lies more in the process of the projects while the structure itself is merely a finished product whose reward has been the journey and the use it provides afterwards. the public and in fact many architects have gotten very enveloped in the idea of building ‘beautiful’ buildings and making money, and in the process the architect separates himself from the groups of people that are involved in making the building a reality, and from the larger question of hwo the building serves its community. ‘recetas urbanas’, his studio based in seville, is built around the premise of creating inclusive architecture that integrates all trades from design to realization, to take a palpable need and answer it with functional design. the studio also considers education of paramount importance- that is they aim to spread their cause and their strategies so that everyone around the world can implement similar goals.

santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
la carpa includes workshop structures, concert, and theater venues made of discarded circus tents
image courtesy of recetas urbanas



there’s nothing glamorous about the lifestyle- after 17 years he still hasn’t received a paycheck from his work.  cirugeda apathetically states that his projects are often criticized as ‘ugly’ to which he responds, ‘who doesn’t have an ugly friend?’ his partner ‘bifu’ spent a year living in the ‘spider’ structure in one of their most well known projects ‘la carpa’, in order to claim the illegally-squatted space. he lived without electricity or water and endured routine muggings every couple of days.  for an entire year.
in return, tens of thousands of people attended free live music concerts, theater performances, circus shows, and workshops- until the government shut it down.

santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
la carpa- auxiliary structures
image courtesy of recetas urbanas



the work of cirugeda and indeed the thousands of ‘guerrilla’ architects around the world is not to aim for the glory, for the big beautiful commissions from big names and deep pockets.  instead they urge us to look at all the corners and pockets that surround us, to find opportunity in the derelict and to involve the community to improve a space for the many, as opposed to the elect few. 

santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
cirugeda’s first project in 1997 gave the community a traveling playground installation that could be placed anywhere
image courtesy of CCA



santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
working on collaboration with bauk, the teams converted los santos de maimona cement factory into a co-working atelier for artists



santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
exposing the inefficiencies of governing bodies, the result of asking the state for money to begin the basics of the restoration process was an immaculately paved walkway complete with patches of grass, bins, benches, and lights- the structures themselves, however, still suffer the same ruin as they originally started with.



santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
the classroom structures for tretzevents educational organization’s primary and secondary school stem from a self-build mentality that allow the organization to afford to erect the desperately needed spaces.
image courtesy of elojo con dientes



santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
construction of the classroom structures



santiago cirugeda prescribes urban recipes for ailing societies
urban tree house installation



design indaba
is a multifaceted platform committed to a better world through creativity. the south-african online publication hosts an annual festival and social impact do tank in cape town. the design indaba festival has been created by ravi naidoo in 1995, with focus on african and global creativity, through the lens of the work and ideas of leading thinkers and doers, opinion formers, trendsetters and industry experts.



design indaba conference 2015
is a three-day event (february 25 – 27) in cape town and is all about illustrating how design, creativity and innovation can positively impact the world. so much more than a ‘how-to’ conference, this is a forum fueled by inspiration that breeds ideas, ingenuity and innovation. the conference is an opportunity to listen to the world’s foremost creatives, entrepreneurs and trendsetters. it’s the not-to-be-missed creative event in africa. see designboom’s coverage of the 2014 design indaba conference here.


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