the architect as punk
santiago cirugeda gave a conference at the cccb last night. he's shorter than i expected. actually he looks like a kid, a little rascal, a rollicking misfit. he's cute and scruffy and has a big fat smile. he has to be the most unpretentious architect and speaker i've ever met (bordering on reckless). in a messy presentation, spiked with a foul mouth that delighted the audience, cirugeda did a quick overview of his heavier, hands-on building projects, like the aula abierta student shack at the university of granada, the art barracks on the roof of the university of málaga or the i want a house! temporary rooftop housing project (including a coquettish playmobil reenactment video).
cirugeda's work takes architecture as a means of confronting legal and political intransigence. his basic premise is that one can still do architecture without money, without a client, without a program, and even without a project. his philosophy is do now, ask later (or better sorry than safe). negotiation–be it in politics, architecture, or both–is never even or lineal, but a discontinuous process of positions and tactics that are constantly in flux. this adds to the spirit of an architecture that is quick, dirty, pragmatic and ephemeral. someone asked him what he hoped the future of his buildings would be. he replied, without haste: "i hope they disappear. imagine you fuck something up and it's standing there bugging everybody for years and years. who the hell wants that kind of responsibility? buildings should always be designed with and expiration date in mind." he admitted to creating fugly architecture, but charmed his way out of the muck, comparing his cooperative buildings with the ill-favored best friend that you can't help but love. for cirugeda building has to go back to its popular roots, understood as binding (and bonding).
he complained that most of the people in the practice take him for a buffoon, a sort of archicourt jester. there's something to it (he did a fantastic impersonation of richard rogers staring at infinity on the roof of the T4 in madrid), but hey, after all, clowns are usually the highlight of the circus. when i asked: santi, what drew you to informality? he said: my dad is in the military, and showed his pearly whites.