The Plight of Spanish Architects

Sure, everyone knows who Antoni Gaudi is, right? The man responsible for all things architecturally surreal in the Ciudad Condal ?

And then there’s good old Santiago Calatrava. Famous for such works as Rioja’s Ysios Bodegas and of course, Valencia’s  €1.1 billion “starchitectural theme park” known more formally as City of Arts and Sciences. Some would say more famous for sucking up all of Valencia’s public funds and running off to Switzerland with all his loot, but we’ll save judgement on that for another day when I’m feeling feisty.

For decades, Spaniards such as Calatrava, Rapael Moneo, FOA’s Alejandro Zaera Pol, Enric Miralles Moya, and many others have risen to fame inside their native Spain and gone on to acquire much deserved international acclaim.

But what about Spain’s non- starchitects these days? Who’s currently enduring the floundering Spanish architectural scene?

Well, despite the ongoing creesus, there are some very talented Spanish architects who are managing to persevere through these troubled times and producing some incredible projects along the way.

Take a look:

1) Taller Abierto – I heard about Taller Abierto after they won a very unique architectural competition that called for proper housing for the Aleutian Islands. In fact, on this particular occasion, Spanish architects swept the competition, taking home first place, third place and an honorable mention out of 100 entries from around the world. Olé ! (Damn it- I’ve never been able to pull off a good Olé.)

The winning design is below and, okay, while it may not be the best looking house in the world, keep in mind that there were incredibly technical location-specific regulations for this particular competition.

Taller Abierto_ Finnesko_13
Photo provided by Taller Abierto


2)  24Studio – Based in Madrid and Brazil because they’re so fancy pants, 24 studio’s Aleutian competition entry was my personal favorite. I really don’t mean to harp on this competition, but it’s the reason I heard about these two studios and I’m keeping an eye out for more of their work.

24 studio, Spanish architects
Photo provided by 24 studio


3) Some might already consider Ecosistema Urbano starchitects as they’re known worldwide for their distinct projects. They certainly have a broad portfolio under their belts.

Ecosistema Urbano is a Madrid-based “architecture and urban design studio operating within the fields of urbanism, architecture, engineering and sociology.  We define our approach as urban social design by which we understand the design of environments, spaces and dynamics in order to improve self-organization of citizens, social interaction within communities and their relationship with the environment.”

Well, alrighty then. We’ll have to keep an eye out for more work from these guys. I don’t know, I see the yellow Ecopolis Plaza, a school/social center, and I think, “so creatively cool”.

Ecopolis Plaza by Ecosistema Urbano
Photo credit: Emilio P Doiztua
Ecopolis Plaza by Ecosistema Urbano
Photo Credit: Emilio P Doiztua

But then, again, these guys also bought these hideous ” air trees” to Madrid, which, okay, might serve an ecological purpose on the surface, but come on … Perhaps it was one of those “good intention breeds mixed results” projects?

Good idea, maybe, but these thingys just don't do anything for me.


4) Madrid-based A3arquitectos is a great recent discovery. Again, hardly new to the world of architecture, these guys have a great eye for design. Sara Solé Wert and Juan José García-Aranda Pez designed Moratalaz’s “vivero” and I’m in total love with it.

El Vivero de Mortalaz,
Photo provided by A3 Architects
Photo provided by A3 Architects


5) I’ll never forget the day I accidentally stumbled in front of the ABC museum. It’s not often that I’m “struck” by something so unexpectedly. M.J. Aranguren and J.G.Gallegos of Aranguren y Gallegos  designed this space and even after visiting it many times, I’m still obsessed with it. It’s pure architectural infatuation from its blue annealed steel wall to its floating cafeteria.

ABC Museum


ABC Museum


Well, I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you further architectural lustings. Madrid is a wealth of architectural gems, although new discoveries are getting harder and harder to find. Potentially great projects have been on hold forever and waiting for things to improve around here is turning into a seemingly futile act. Oh, well, great things come to those who wait,  right?

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2 Responses to The Plight of Spanish Architects

  1. I dunno, but these “new” Spanish architects are kind of leaving me cold. I’m not finding their work warm or inviting. Actually, for some reason, I like the Aleutian houses the best. At least they’re practical for the setting and are not screaming “Here I am.”

    Disclaimer: The last time I studied anything about architecture was when I took an Art History class in college. The class was at 8:00 a.m. — in an auditorium. They showed lots of slides, so the lights would be off. Nuff said.

    • Hamatha says:

      Thanks for your comment, Suzanne and I kind of agree – to a certain extent. I mean, it’s all about personal tastes when it comes down to it, right? I love architecture, but I’ve never officially studied it so I’m certainly no expert. I absolutely love the ABC museum, not only for the design, but because it’s smack dab in the middle of a “traditional” Madrid street, all brick and not much else. So, I like that ballsy type of contrast, but others may find it too bold. Depends on how you see it … eye of the beholder and all that.

      And eeeewww … a 8:00 a.m. art history class with slides and lights off? Yes, that would mean nap time for me as well! :)

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