“Santiago Cirugeda is a leading figure in a socially responsible and responsive collective movement in Spanish architecture that seeks to find grassroots solutions to the problems being faced by ordinary Spanish citizens in times of extreme austerity. Both the Red Internacional de Colectivos and the Recetas Urbanas websites offer advice on the legal and economic resources available to community groups and individuals wanting to self-build. Cirugeda is similarly pragmatic about his own practice, stating: “People say my architecture is ugly. They say it’s interesting, but it’s ugly — but I say, who doesn’t have an ugly friend? Everyone has an ugly friend! Architecture today is obsessed with beautiful buildings and pretty projects – that’s bullshit! Architecture should be cheap, functional and it should be an excuse to bring people together: and that’s what we’re doing.
Cirugeda is particularly known for his ingenious subversion of regulations and Spain‘s Byzantine planning bureaucracy: he’s savvy with the old “know the rules in order to break them” trick. But he is also recognized as a hands-on architect that self-builds his low-cost projects with a ragtag group of collaborators who have varying skill levels and interests in the end result. As Cirugeda explained to Ana Naomi de Sousa for The Guardian: “I get a kick out of the confrontations with technocrats and politicians, but most of all I like building my own projects … in Seville, the crisis affects us all, we are in a desperate situation and there’s a lot of injustice in the way things are being done. What about all these empty houses and unused land? There are lots of situations that interest me — as an architect and as a citizen.”