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Architecture in Spain today: a laboratory for innovation

Spanish architects need reinventing to overcome the crisis

The change in the way we understand and practice the architecture profession is a global fact. The RIBA already announced in its report “The Future for Architects?” that our professonal practice will become in something diferent in 10 years. We are living in a moment when the prediction for global population growth is stablished around a 128% and it´s going to be focused in emerging markets, while the demand for our services is decreasing globally. The gap between what architects want to do and what market is demanding us is also denounced in the same report, so there is no other choice than thinking more as businessmen than as vocational.

Author | Germán Cintas Araújo.

This report came to light a couple of years ago and  it´s worth to read it. It is a summary of the facts that are just happening now in Spain in an accelerate way due to the crisis. It discusses over questions as who could remain active because their stable condition, where to find the new opportunities for professional practice, which are the industry trends or what industry segments are next to collapse. I think that these are the same questions which all the Spanish architects are wondering, and it provides similar arguments to those we are mantaining in bsA. On the other hand I guess than the situation of any young architect from any first world country is the same. After finishing his studies he has to face a market cornered by existing companies, so his professional future is to reinvent himself o working for others.  In short I could say that architecture is a professional service industry that has become both globalized and mature.

However the circunstances in Spain are especially peculiar. We are in a country whose architectural scene reached a recognition of excellence at the international level a few years ago (remember the MOMA´s retrospective On-Site: New architecture in Spain). National economy suddenly collapsed when we were inmersed in the apotheosis of the constructive efervescence. Constructioni activity has declined a 90% along the last four years.

But these are not the only problems we are facing by now. There are a lot of sectorial reforms undertaken by the government to converge with Europe that are wiping out a sector which has been ruled as a guild by the legal professional asociations (Colegios), whose role is also now under consideration. I guess you can imagine the suffering involved in a professional sector with exceptional qualifications that laks of tools to deal with the new situation nor avoid loosing their expectations. The inmediate consequence for frustration has been the brain drain to other countries, mainly Germany.

Those who chose to stay here have no other choice but evolving or finding a different job. It is necessary to innovate at the heart of the profession and perform in new ways. Because of our particular misfortune and turmoil we can find that our particular professional reality in this country is the driving force that leads us to an acceleration on experimentation and the development of new practices that go even beyond those provided by the RIBA in its report.

So that is why I think that Spain is a laboratory for innovation in the architecture profession at this moment, because we are experiencing urgent needed new formulas that sooner or later will have a global replica, and it´s unfortunate that the suffering does not allow us discern this reality as an opportunity.

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