Spain’s ‘guerrilla architect’ occupies abandoned half-built properties to build hope out of crisis
Santiago Cirugeda’s 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. All of these done, through a negotiation process between the legality and illegality, as a way to remember the enormous control we are subjected. The backdrop to Cirugeda’s work is Spain’s economic crisis, during which 500,000 half-built properties have been abandoned, while hundreds of thousands of Spaniards unable to pay their mortgages have been evicted from their homes under draconian repossession laws. Cirugeda and his fellow “collective architects” are trying to redefine the possibilities for architecture. In 2013 they launched a website that offers guidelines on how to occupy and lay claim to abandoned municipal land, circumvent planning laws, and how to build basic structures, all using previous projects as case studies.