Should Designers be Outlaws?
Santiago Cirugeda is the founder and principal of Recetas Urbanas (Urban Recipes), a design & advocacy collective of architects, lawyers and social workers based in Seville, Spain. Recetas Urbanas was founded in 2004 to promote the well-being of city residents against a bureaucratic framework that favored investment and development over community life. The group’s activities include building cheap ‘condos’ on rooftops, attaching micro-apartments to scaffolding or placing them on stilts in alleyways, and disassembling buildings slated for demolition and reassembling them into arts centers.
However, Cirugeda began his practice while still a student in 1997, examining how & why the formal structure of the city – zoning ordinances and building codes – seemed constructed in such a way to enhance and promote investment opportunities in the city while simultaneously leaving most middle-income and lower-income residents displaced or without the amenities necessary to create neighborhoods.
The projects of Recetas Urbanas exploit loopholes in civic law to create community gathering space, playgrounds, and other civic amenities which the city is unwilling or unable to provide. Through this work, Recetas Urbanas adds a secondary layer of provocation: by providing these amenities through novel means, the group calls attention to the absence of such amenities, as well as to the fact that subversion is necessary to achieve them.
Most recently, Recetas Urbanas has confronted the effects of the mortgage and dispossession crisis in Spain. Through its current work, Recetas Urbanas also works with Arquitectura Colectiva, an international association of about 80 collectives of artists, architects, and hackers.