LaBoqueria: “We Propose New Models of Cooperative Relations”
LaBoqueria is an architecture studio in Barcelona that has the experience of multiple local and international collaborations. This global, multidisciplinary and participative perspective allows them to have a renewed and different vision of architecture.
Focusing on social, economic and environmental aspects, they seek to approach their projects in a comprehensive way, bringing together the different people involved in the process. Among their works are the housing building La Balma carried out together with the architects’ cooperative Lacol; the Reformation of premises together with Marta Peinado Alós; and the Ca’s Bouer House together with Jordi Queralt.
ArchDaily, interested in collaborative and participatory processes through the theme Democratization of Design, conducted an interview with LaBoqueria to learn about their main inspirations, challenges and visions.
Fabian Dejtiar (FD): ArchDaily’s Monthly Topics aim to be a response to the most pressing issues in architecture. In June we were working with Democratization of Design, looking at whether it is possible for design to be for everyone. What is your point of view?
LaBoqueria (LB): Democratization in design can be looked at from different angles. From how to include designs for everyday needs to how to design in an inclusive way. Depending on the type of architectural project, a type of relationship with the end-user is established. In a single-family house, for example, a direct relationship is established with the client, whereas, for example, in participatory processes of public spaces the relationship is established with a representative social mass. In any case, we understand the relationship with the end user as a constant dialogue of the architectural process that evolves and adapts to the needs.
In the case of the architectural design process of a cooperative housing building, and where there is a consolidated group as a collective, all participants, including tenants, developers and technicians, carry out participatory processes to make decisions on design, energy advice and maintenance from our technical point of view.
LB: Our studio was founded at a time of economic crisis and when the social and economic foundations had been called into question. That is why as a cooperative we promote new models of relationships between people with the aim of generating architectural projects and community infrastructures that promote sustainability, cooperativism, and participation.
We understand cooperative architecture as the transversal management of social, economic and energy resources. We understand sustainability as a key tool for socio-economic transition and we bring architecture closer to people, generating an exchange of knowledge and empowerment for users.
FD: In this sense, what is the working process like to implement this cooperative architecture, and what are the main challenges you face?
LB: We understand our workspace and collaboration with the members who make up the cooperative as a horizontal relationship, bringing generosity and solidarity to each working member. This means that decisions are taken horizontally, democratically and with the participation of all the members, with a commitment to equality and fairness.
We believe that the fact of creating business statutes where people are at the center allows us to provide transparency and respect that is transmitted both internally to the team and in any relationship that is established with collaborators or clients. All this brings us closer to a circle of people who are also committed to projects in which we think about the common good, the environment, equality and social respect, and companies of the social and solidarity economy.
Concern for the surroundings and the environment means that we are committed to designing strategies that reduce the environmental impact of buildings. We introduce sustainable materials for better comfort. We also believe in the reactivation and reformulation of spaces to provide them with new uses and adapt them to the changing needs of citizens.
FD: The Mies EU Award 2022 for Emerging Architecture went to Lacol’s La Borda cooperative housing in Barcelona. In a way, this follows the trajectory of the Mies EU Award 2019 for the Transformation of 530 social housing units by Lacaton & Vassal, by highlighting residential works that seek to be primarily efficient with economic resources. I would like to know, what do these works say about the future of housing and cities?
LB: Cooperative housing proposes an alternative to the speculative real estate market, centered on the idea of community, sustainable, self-managed and co-responsible living. It is a model that is very profitable on a social level. As the community itself is involved in self-development, more resilient communities are developed. These communities are installed in the environment and participate in the responsibility of the neighborhood, bringing and creating a circular and close economy, and promoting a social return to the community. Although there were no references in Spain, in other places there were experiments with similar models, such as in Quebec (around 1% of the housing stock in the whole country), Uruguay (3%), and Denmark (8%) or Switzerland (8%).
These buildings are designed to understand coexistence, with common spaces and spaces for common use. Common spaces are staircases, lobbies, and other elements present in all communities. The common use spaces are those in which we promote coexistence between the different housing units in the building itself, such as common kitchens, multipurpose rooms or the use of the roof. The model is therefore based on the creation of community and the architectural design responds to these needs.
The fact that this type of architecture is awarded and recognized is for us a sign of recognition of our way of understanding architecture. This type of architecture award responds to the eco-social transformation we are experiencing, where social, economic and sustainable aspects are increasingly valued, and this is what we understand when it comes to designing architecture.
FD: One of your most recent projects is the Balma Cooperative Housing (Lacol + LaBoqueria). Are there any similar projects in the pipeline?
LB: We are currently developing new projects along the lines mentioned above. We are working on a new building for young people’s housing in Cabrils, which includes community spaces. In the facilities sector, for example, we are building the new town hall in Polinyà, a new social center in Tàrrega and a facility for social organizations in Argentona. We also actively participate in Territori de Vincles, a non-profit initiative to face the challenges of the rural world from a specific context of the Vall del Corb. We are carrying out actions in favor of rural repopulation, climate change adaptation and the creation of new life opportunities, understood in a broad sense: housing, work, community and landscape.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Democratization of Design. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.