Negotiating Legality

Nau de les Arts / ProyectaLab. © Recetas Urbanas.


Projects by Santiago Cirugeda, architect and director of Recetas Urbanas


Santiago Cirugeda defines himself as a social architect, a designer whose goal is to address the needs of the citizens. His work covers an ample spectrum, from recycled and repurposed architecture, temporary structures, strategies of urban occupation, to public space appropriation, citizen participation and even cyber activism.

During his years as a student in Seville, he started to do urban actions as a way to understand the way the city truly works. One of his first actions, his “Containers” project done in 1997, already shows the interest that Santiago has in exploiting the loopholes and legal voids in the city planning legislation, something that has remained a constant in his works since. For “Containers,” seeing that there were no swings in the neighborhood and that the city was not willing to install them, he applied for a license to place temporary dumpsters that he then reconfigured to become a playground. Despite the interest of the police to fine him for the action, nowhere in the legislation did it state that he could not use the dumpsters for a playground.


Containers, Seville, 1997. © Santiago Cirugeda.


Another of his known actions from that time is “Scaffolding,” a project in which he graffitied a wall and sued himself in order to be able to install temporary scaffolding in the street. It ended up becoming a new room for the adjacent house for several months.


Scaffoldings, Seville, 1998. © Santiago Cirugeda.


Santiago has gone on to build housing units in rooftops, classrooms on roofs of institutions, and civic centers built with repurposed materials that he personally collected from buildings waiting to be demolished. All of his projects have become a staple in the national newspapers, generating an intense debate about their legality but also the necessity to provide services that the administration cannot or does not want to provide.


Insect House, Seville, 2001. © Santiago Cirugeda.


Insect House, Seville, 2001. © Santiago Cirugeda.


Housing units in a rooftop , Madrid, 2007. © Recetas Urbanas.


AAABIERTA, Granada, 2005. © Recetas Urbanas.

“Chicken” House, Barcelona, 2005. © Recetas Urbanas.


Trench – School of Fine Arts of Malaga, Malaga, 2006. © Recetas Urbanas.


Projects featured and discussed in Spanish national newspapers. © Santiago Cirugeda.


From his initial “strategies for subversive occupation” done as a sole practitioner, he later created the office Recetas Urbanas (Urban Prescriptions) and has recently established an extensive network of international collectives that share similar goals. “Trucks, Containers & Collectives” is the latest outcome of this network of collectives.


Trucks, Containers & Collectives. © Recetas Urbanas.


The images below show projects built with the 42 containers rescued and reused from the dismantling of 14 housing units in Zaragoza. From top to bottom and from left to right: Initial location in Zaragoza; Straddle3 (Arbucie, Barcelona); Nautarquia (Sant Pere de Torelló, Barcelona); Niú – Bolit (Girona); ALG-A (Valadares); Caldo de Cultivo (Tarragona); Fiesta Consejería de Joventud (Martorell); EspaiDer3* / La Fundició (Esplugues).


Trucks, Containers & Collectives. © Recetas Urbanas.


The Nau de les Arts / ProyectaLab is a multidisciplinary space, conceived to host different cultural activities such as courses, workshops, exhibitions, and conferences. Its was created with the will of solving the need for a creative and discussion space of Collectives and people who have no resources.

Initiated by Association Proyecta and built by Recetas Urbanas in collaboration with Rehasa Estructuras, Lucas Construcción, and the help of numerous collectives, the space, promoted by the Benicassim´s municipality, starts with the re-utilization of six containers provided from Zaragoza and belonging to project Trucks, Containers and Collectives.

The work was based on the rehabilitation and improvement of an old train station warehouse, on which was added a prostheses made of containers, in order to make it able to host new uses. With this process of collective construction, space, and material recycling, the facility was fast obtained under a more economic way.

Equipped with different classes, courses, meeting rooms, warehouses, and residence for artists, the space with nearly 400 m2 hosts, under a shared management model, the activities of Nau de les arts during winter and Asociación Proyecta ones during summer, making possible the multiples uses of the same infrastructure.





Nau de les Arts / ProyectaLab. © Recetas Urbanas.


Benicasim Colectivos Constructores. © Recetas Urbanas.


Project name: Nau de les Arts / Proyectalab
Architect: Recetas Urbanas – Santiago Cirugeda
Promoter: Benicássim City Council and Asociación Proyecta
Builders: Lucas Construcción, Rehasa Estructuras and collectives (Recetas Urbanas, Asociación Proyecta, Los Catalinos + Aurora, Conceptuarte + Raquel, Straddle3 + David, Los Navarros, Todo por la Praxis and Caldo de Cultivo)
Graffiti artists: New Now Studio
Location: Benicássim, Castellón (Valencia)
Project iniciated in: February 2008
Beginning of construction: September 2010
Inaugurated: March 2011
Surface: 400 m2
Cost: 160.000 € (400 €/m2)


Santiago Cirugeda defines himself as a social architect, taking advantage of the legal voids to benefit the community. Through his interventions, he investigates the legal aspects that define the city, developing protocols to improve urban areas and housing issues. | @santicirugeda

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