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Santiago Cirugeda
Urban Prescriptions

Spanish urban planning acts on the placing of gaps in urban spaces and define exactly what these gaps should be like: measurements, materials, positions - but they do not define purpose because a gap is for disposing rubble and rubbish, isn’t it? The design works in different ways because people pay the local government for their permit, and then do what they want, or need to, with it: an urban reserve, breathing space, a meeting point, a children’s playground, a tree plantation...

In the case of regulations on scaffolding, you can obtain a permit to install one because you “need” to paint the facade of the building you wish to contaminate. You can always produce this need by scribbling some eye-catching graffiti on it. You then install your scaffolding and build your new space, your own private refuge, your architecture of silence, with whatever materials, style and rneasurements you decide. The duration is up to you, because the architecture of silence ought to be provisional and variable, because these are the conditions which the other architecture (the regular sort) does not have. In the same way, there are other loopholes or “URBAN DESCRIPTIONS” we can employ to remind the institution of its inabiltity to deal with plural realities, and to point out people’s ability-and their need- to take part in urban drift.

Strategies for subversive occupation

All realities manifest themselves with a gradient of variable factors. If I want to talk about urban phenomena, I have to do so in terms of complexity and difference. The paths we have to pursue to understand them cannot reproduce the paths of conventional urban planning, as the invisible, mutant structures which interact in the urban space create a complex fabric. We get the impression that the various levels of complexity grow and die. The production system, and the political and economic variables and mechanisms which predominate in architecture make the idea of global, closed planning inconceivable.

The speed at which changes take place in urban space suggests specific places and given epochs, so the design and construction of this space constantly require regenerating mechanisms which address the particular factors of the various places and their interaction with global changes and systems. For institutions, the idea of a global process is an attempt to simplify and control all possible forms of behaviour and action. My proposal consists of perpetually redefining global systems (urban planning and legislation), looking for possible loopholes and uncertainties which allow the various human groups freedom of action.


Santiago Cirugeda, born 1971, has produced architectural projects, written articles and participated in different educational and cultural contexts (master classes, seminars, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, debates, etc.). He is currently preparing an architectonic project in Seville, for a cultural and visual arts centre, and is immersed in investigations regarding emergency dwellings, developed in distinct forums such as the Barraca BCN - a winter factory for the ETSA in Alicante. He occasionally acts as professor in Bogota’s Javeriana School.

Since 9 years, Santiago Cirugeda has developed subversive projects with distinct ambitions in urban reality which has allowed him to endure a complicated social life. From systematic occupation of public spaces in containers to the construction of prostheses in facades, patios, covers and lots, he negociates legal and illegal zones, as a reminder of the pervasive control to which we are all subject.

He was invited to the Venice Biennale where he critically demonstrated socio-cultural differences which nourish interventionist projects in distant urban surroundings, and which move through issues of self-administration and precarity to stupid frivolty.

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