Santiago Cirugeda's practice is borne of the frustration that as an artist or an architect it is quite easy to transform the space of the city through obtaining permits for installations and temporary interventions, yet as a citizen it is almost impossible to take action to improve your own environment. His work therefore questions what it is to be an architect in this context and he tries to empower citizens to act in their own locality by showing how it is possible to subvert laws, regulations, and conventions. In this, his work is about the possibility for action, appropriation, occupation and use, where the citizen can act as initiator, using the guidelines and instructions set out by Cirugeda to build, display or create space. At the same time, Cirugeda's practice questions the notion of the architect as sole author-designer. His is an open-source architecture conceived as a tool kit or a user guide, distributed freely through his website Recetas Urbanas or 'Urban Prescriptions'. His antidotes to capitalist and commodified space are available here for anyone to replicate. Cirugeda describes his practice as 'an urban and social renovation', making an architecture that is cheap and available to all.
A substantial part of the studio's work so far has tackled those sites in cities that have been left over by demolition, lying empty or walled in-unusable for reasons of active neglect, lack of care or abandonment. One suggested action gives specific advice on how to apply to the local council for a permit to install something temporarily. This 'something' is, however, never to be taken literally, but acts as a mask for alternative actions. In the project 'Public Domain Occupation with Skips', the structure merely resembles a skip but is in fact a vehicle for citizens to occupy the urban realm through 'taking the street'. Another proposal applies for a permit to erect scaffolding for re-painting the façade of a building, but instead creates an enclosed space in a scaffold-type structure that can be used as a temporary extension or simply as a semi outdoor space; Cirugeda calls these pockets, 'urban reserves'.
Taking the Street. Skips. Dumpsters
Building Yourself an Urban Reserve. Scaffolding
Insect House. The Tick's Stratagem
The Closet Stratagem
Cirugeda, Santiago, Situaciones Urbanas. (Barcelona: Editorial Tenov, 2004).
Fernández Rubio, Andrés, "Cheaper by the dozen [Casa Pollo,
Barcelona]." Architecture, 95(4)(2006).
Nufrio, A., "Interventi di Santiago Cirugeda a Siviglia: Strategie di Appropriazione Urbana." Abitare, (423)(2002): 130-135.
Salazar, Jamie, Ramon Prat, Albert Ferré, Tomoko Sakamoto, Anna Tetas, and Manuel Gausa, eds., "Recicapa Construccion," in Verb Processing: Architecture Boogazine, (Barcelona: Actar, 2001).
Sanguigni, Giampiero, "Addition to the Centre for the Contemporary Arts, Castellón: Santiago Cirugeda." A10: New European architecture, (5)(October 2005).
'Architecture as a social art. Architecture like an urban and social renovation.'
'Citizens should have freedom to act in their own city, the city planning law cut this freedom.'
'A cheap design architecture is more important than a fashion architecture, architecture should be available for everybody.'
'Institutions cannot limit the complex human realm. Institutions cannot limit architecture.'
'The alienation generalized of the human groups to a society
pathetically accommodated, to all the levels, is destroyed
instantaneously by which of subversive way, commit such actions,
that beyond producing changes in structures that accredit and
control suppose a critical parodia that demonstrates the
incapacities of the same ones to limit the complex reality.'
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