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How Spain's Financial Crisis Influenced a Generation of Architecture and Design

The Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (BEAU) at Cooper Union highlights Spain's most adaptive designers.
Factory of Electric Assembly - Industria de Montaje Eléctricos, Don Benito, Spain, Architect: José María Sánchez García, photo by Roland Halbe. All images courtesy of XIII BEAU

This November, The Cooper Union is hosting the Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (BEAU). The exhibition, Alternativas / Alternatives, highlights the use of innovative architectural techniques developed during Spain’s financial crisis.

Spanish design has never been defined by one architectural style, having had a long history of multicultural influences. The exhibition reflects this, proving that Spain has become a prominent international space for architectural innovation featuring installations constructed from local Spanish materials. Reinventing and resilient, contemporary Spanish design draws upon its prolific history to develop new designs with scarcity of means.


Recovery of Caminito Del Rey - Recuperación Del Caminito del Rey Málaga, Spain, Architect: Luis Machuca Santa-Cruz, photo by Juan María Álvarez Espada

As Nader Tehrani, dean of The Cooper Union’s The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture tells The Creators Project, “The Iberian Peninsula, as a geographic entity, is linked to Europe and yet separated by the Pyrenees; historically its culture has been as much impacted by the mix of Muslim and Jewish influences as its Christian roots. This heterogeneity has made its design culture quite resilient to transformations of historical periods, absorbing them as much as adopting them for inventive hybrids.“

104 House - Casa 1014, Barcelona, Spain, Architect: HARQUITECTES, photo by Adrià Goula

BEAU presents an overview of current urban production and architectural work via small scale and large-scale interventions. Alternativas/Alternatives features 3D printed models of 22 jury-selected projects, varying from schools, public parks, and residential homes—each project displays the use of substitute architectural processes developed over the last two years. Each model has a specific barcode, that when scanned, presents audiovisual commentary on the exhibition screens, introducing the advantages of each alternative design.

Gallery view of the XIII Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism at The Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, photo by Marget Long and The Cooper Union

Featured is Recuperación del Caminito del Rey, designed by Luis Machuca Santa-Cruz, a reconstructed walkway, fastened along the vertiginous walls of a gorge in Málaga. Only recently restored, it had been closed for over a decade. Also exhibited is Wind House-La Casa de Los Vientos, designed by José Luis Muñoz Muñoz, a holiday home constructed with far less than the initial budget—without falling short on comfort and space. Andamio House, designed by bosch.capdeferro Arquitectures, presents a set of buildings transformed by lightweight constructions that provide solar protection, increase privacy, and support local plant life.The Factory of Electrical Assembly and the School of Architecture in Granada showcases how Spain's current generation of architects are imaginative in inventing alternative design solutions.


As co-director of the BEAU, Begoña Díaz-Urgorri tells The Creators Project, “We highlight the presence of a young generation of architects who stand out with interesting proposals, for which the crisis is not a problem but an incentive and encouragement to provide qualified responses that improve our places of life,” says Díaz-Urgorri.

Wind House - La Casa de Los Vientos, Cádiz, Spain, Architect: José Luis Muñoz Muñoz, photo by Javier Callejas

School of Architecture in Granada - Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura en el Antiguo Hospital Militar de Granada, Granada, Spain, Architect: Víctor López Cotelo, photo by Lluís Casals

Andamio House - Casa Andamio, Girona, Spain, Architect: bosch.capdeferro arquitectures, image by José Hevia

Gallery view of the XIII Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism at The Cooper Union’s Arthur A. Houghton Jr. Gallery, photo by Marget Long and The Cooper Union

To learn more about the Spanish Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism (BEAU) at Cooper Union, click here.


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