Participatory Mood – Social Architecture in Madrid.

Page 1


fifth section

Social Architecture in Madrid Collectives, Networks and Adhocratic Relationships. Domenico Di Siena | ARCHITECT AND BLOGGER

In Madrid, the professional and cultural architectural scene has been experimenting with different emerging processes. In the last few years we have witnessed the growth of urban innovation, ideas and practices developed by groups of architects in close collaboration with professionals from other fields, and with the support of citizens that were tired of more and more restrictive and exclusive policies, projects and regulations. This is a very special moment. Part of the citizenry is acting autonomously by means of the support and mediation offered by architects.

(...) We have witnessed the growth of urban innovation, ideas and practices (...). 118

Portrait of the Basurama group (source: Basurama).

Where does it come from? Keep in mind these three key points: – Working spaces created by students have multiplied; – The world of culture offers economic resources and visibility for the young; – Located Collective Intelligence. Working spaces created and shared by students In Madrid, students have been renting apartments and transforming them into shared working spaces for years. There are no hierarchies within these spaces and the pressure we often find in a working environment does not exist, since economic sustainability or starting up a company are not the goal. They are more like laboratories, places for freedom and independence. In these labs one can find an impressive amount of creativity and innovation, not only in their “productions” but also in the dynamics of how work is organized – in a more open and 119

horizontal way. These structures quickly take up the so-called alternative cultural, economic, and political views. Criticism of the economic, political and social model In the last 15 years Madrid has experienced the beginning of a very important cultural change of which the “indignados� (the outraged) movement is one of its most famous consequences. It is no coincidence that this movement started in Madrid. There is no doubt that this movement was enriched by a much more alert and critical view of what is happening in the world – a proliferation of very active social movements with a strong presence among the citizenry. Certainly, most of these movements share a common trait, a certain radicalism and lack of spirit of inclusion. Nevertheless, they have done a tremendous job in injecting into society new points of view and an increasing demand for social justice. Over time, their discourse has matured, thus allowing for more inclusive processes. This has even allowed other groups to make those ideas their own in theory and in practice. Regarding architecture, something very similar has happened with this new generation of collectives. It is impossible for them not to take into account these new cultural and social sensibilities from the very beginning. On the one hand, it is clear that the boundaries between professional lives and personal development are disappearing. On the other hand, our economic activities are now more

Installation of the Exyzt group during the 2010 Nuit Blanche (source: Basurama)

¡Esta es una Plaza! (source: rh2ox).

related to personal ethics and a lifestyle that is more aware of the demands of the communities we belong and relate to. In other words, this is the turning point for a generation that rejects money as the sole and only element of efficiency (Pierre Levy, 1994). The world of culture offers economic resources and visibility for the young During the Spanish real estate bubble, the city’s main cultural promotion agents, whether from the public or the private sector, had at their disposal vast economic resources and were in need of content for the many recently open venues and spaces. The new generation of architects seized this opportunity and became the stars of the cultural program of different exhibitions and spaces. This, in turn, helped them gain visibility in a very short time. Zuloark and Basurama are, perhaps, among the most remarkable in that generation. However, there was no real debate between the generations. It is now, in a crisis situation, that the former “masters”, those who did nothing to stop the crisis, want to open a dialogue. All of a sudden there is a lot of talk about collectives and collaborative practices going on.


Located Collective Intelligence There is one trait that differentiates Madrid from any other Spanish or European city, namely the connection between the agents that transform the city – professionals, students, public administrators, technicians and cultural managers. There is a constant exchange of ideas, projects and references between them. This exchange does not take place in television debates nor is it the result of the meddling of intermediaries – curators, magazines, public or private entities. It comes from everyday interactions that allow us to be better researchers and that improve our work. Open culture ethics and open culture philosophy are the basis for the creation of this network and, mostly, the cultural references that come to the meeting of this impressive landscape of connections and exchanges within the network. We are talking about a new professional ecosystem built upon the idea of learning from each other, upon synergies between each other’s skills, and upon sheer imagination. Events, decisions, actions and people come together in a shared context, synchronised in real time and generating Located Collective Intelligence. In this sense, we can highlight some places that have promoted this kind of culture, such as Medialab Prado, a cultural center

Tabacalera (copyright: Ignacio Bernal).

that belongs to Madrid’s city council. It is basically a laboratory focused on the production of projects related to the Arts, Technology and Society. Another example is Patio Maravillas, a self-managed cultural center in an occupied building in the Malasaña neighborhood. New spaces for emerging citizenships Campo de Cebada (Barley Field). This is quite a big outdoor space in the center of Madrid. Managed by a local community of citizens, it is truly an empty space, a site left without any activity, waiting for a new market to be built. The neighbors – with a little help from some architects – requested to manage the site and found the means to make it possible. Right now this is Madrid’s most interesting public space, a place to experiment first hand with self-organizational citizenry. It goes well beyond market relationships and classic urban management practices. Tabacalera. Madrid’s old tobacco factory is currently managed by a community of neighbors and citizens. It has become a cultural referent in a very short time. The different rooms and spaces are not assigned to a single person but to projects and ideas. The “users” share working labs and discussion spaces with the social and political practices of the neighborhood and the rest of Madrid. They have put in place a collaborative production model and the ongoing processes are integrated in their environment. ¡Esta es una Plaza! (This is a square). ¡Esta es una Plaza! was established in a workshop where students and young professionals transformed a construction site, closed for the last 30 years, into an urban vegetable garden for the neighborhood. After the workshop, the neighbors obtained permission to use the site. The entire site is available to everybody. They are selforganizing and each participant contributes some time to keep the site alive.