With developments on the architecture front taking place at a much faster pace than before, it’s been a while since I’ve wanted to do a post that reflects on the practice and the state of architecture. Doha based Al Jazeera had produced a series called ‘Rebel Architecture’ that revolved around the lives and works of certain architects from around the world, who have moved away from the typical practice typology onto one that involves contributing to society in a fashion that greatly respects the profession and context.
I plan to write this as a series that would cover every architect that was featured, in an individual article. When I look back at what every one of them have achieved, it is inspiring to see how little spaces and small projects go a long way in creating meaningful architecture. You don’t have to be a big-banner firm nor do you need to have your hands full with a dozen commissions. What the ‘rebel’ architects go on to highlight is the impact that meaningful, functional architecture can create.
Santiago Cirugeda is a new breed of architect from Seville, Spain. After the country hit a major economic crisis that was triggered by the housing bubble, many buildings and housing projects in the country have reached a stand-still and remain as skeletons in the vast landscape. With the increased demand for community and cultural spaces, architects like Santiago are taking up the initiative of creating spaces using recycled materials in abandoned buildings.
In the documentary, Santiago mentions how his work is tagged ‘interesting but ugly’ and goes to make the point of how architecture cannot just be contemporary. It has to be functional and most importantly, affordable. Architecture cannot be viewed as a luxury like it is in India; it should be a necessity and one way of getting there is by making architecture more functional than glamorous.
In the course of the story, he talks about how it is difficult to adjust to a lifestyle where you are living in what used to be a brothel, driving around in a second-hand van and not having any money saved up because everything is spent on wages. He’s been arrested, reported and faced a great deal of retribution for the “illegal” work he carries out. However, he still emphasizes on the importance of sticking to your vision of bringing about a greater good, personally and politically.
With facts that are so alarming, it only becomes imperative that as architects, we practice with all morality possible. Over the course of the story, Santiago, along with other architecture collectives, takes up a project that involves the restoration of an abandoned cement factory that will be used by the local activists, ‘Conceptuar-Te’ as a creative hub for performances, studios and bars.
At the end of the documentary, I was left wondering what architecture has really come down to and what we were taught it architecture school. It isn’t about the fancy facades or the posh interiors, wooden paneling or the Italian marbles. Architecture should always remain functional and most importantly, accessible.