Spanish Architects Confronting Challenges

Madeline Carey
12. October 2018
Madrid skyline (Photo: Guzmán Lozano/Wikimedia Commons)
In conjunction with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Consejo Superior de Colegios de Arquitectos de España (CSCAE, Council of Spanish Architects) and World-Architects.com, World-Architects interviewed CSCAE President Lluís Comerón Graupera.
CSCAE is a corporation governed by public law that represents all the associations of architects in Spain. Established by official decree on June 13, 1931, the Council brings together all the associations throughout Spain and lobbies for their common interests. Furthermore, it is the representative body for schools and professionals when dealing with public and private corporations as well as international organizations and acts as the final corporate court of appeal.

The Memorandum of Understanding (PDF link) that CSCAE and W-A signed on 26 September 2018 aims to promote quality Spanish architecture and foster general interest about architecture as a cultural, economic and social asset by focusing on three key points:
  1. Increasing the visibility of the Council’s agenda on World-Architects and Spanish-Architects;
  2. Promoting the Council’s philosophy and vision as well as the views of Spanish architects on current universal challenges;
  3. Working together in order to give more visibility to exhibitions and cultural and educational activities related to both the Spanish Biennial of Architecture and the Iberian- American Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism.
Lluís Comerón Graupera, President of the Council of Spanish Architects. (Photo: CSCAE)
Madeline Carey (W-A): As president of the Council, how do you see the role of the architect today? Cities, and therefore municipal policy and urban planning, are of ever-growing importance to the debate about how to confront global challenges, such as climate change or the migration crisis. Is the Council pursuing any tangible ways of integrating architects into key policy debates on the municipal, Spanish, and European level?

Lluis Comerón (CSCAE): In a world and a society undergoing truly disruptive change, the role of the architect, rooted in planning and improving upon our built environment, must diversify in order to confront new challenges. We must diversify and confront challenges using our two foundational strengths:
  • Planning and Development Projects: our capacity to analyze problems and situations, proposing answers/solutions, being able to present the necessary elements and construct a coherent explanation to the entire process. All of this is necessary in a complex society in which a comprehensive, holistic vision is an emerging necessity.
  • Improving our Built Environment: along with the ability to define useful, beautiful and high-quality spaces, the technical knowledge necessary to make them a reality is also key considering that the response to global challenges (climate change; access to housing and healthcare; migration; new lifestyle and labor trends; and positive incorporation of new technologies) will require an overhaul of our homes, buildings, public spaces, and urban areas.
The Council is fully aware of the importance of participating in, and leading, the debate about these global challenges as well as the need to demonstrate architects’ commitment to, and capacity for, solving such problems. Therefore the Council works closely and proactively with the High Commissioner for Agenda 2030 in Spain, with the Ministry of Public Works on the development of the Spanish Urban Agenda, with the Ministry of Energy Transition in order to implement climate change legislation, and with Acción Cultural Española (AC/E) in order to bolster the Davos Declaration in Europe.  
 
The various associations of architects also perform an important task in this sense, through their public programs, debates, exhibitions and educational activities, both for public dissemination and promotion at the local level. They also provide the architects themselves with ongoing training and continuing educational opportunities.
Waste Treatment Facility in Vacarisses, Barcelona, by Batlle | Roig Architects (Photo: Francisco Urrutia)
MC: Construction companies and manufacturers of materials have become key players in the building sector. What is your view of the evolution that has taken place in terms of building processes and materials? How are new technologies and scientific advances influencing the day-to-day of Spanish architects?  

LC: All the agents involved in the architectural process, from the initial conception to the production of specific materials, face the challenge of the modernization of the sector. We face the challenge of modernizing the sector based on innovation and the incorporation of new solutions and materials daily.

I am convinced, however, that the comprehensive vision provided by architecture is necessary in order to maximize the benefits of such modernization. In this sense we must avoid the pitfalls of modernization and always take into account that our work must remain in good condition for many years, in order to provide good service to several generations.
"Perdido (Lost) -P.R.U.S. of Madrid" by Julio Gotor Valcárcel, Madrid School of Architecture - Polytechnic University of Madrid, one of four winners of the 2018 Young Talent Architecture Award (YTAA).
MC: You have quite a lot of teaching experience. Can you point out the strongest or perhaps unique features of Spanish architecture schools and a few of the weaknesses? How does the academic preparation of architects in Spain compare to that of other European countries?

LC: As I said before, our capacity to plan and improve our built environment are our great strengths. In Spanish architecture schools, there is also a strong tradition of and commitment to complementing the comprehensive and holistic vision with the technical knowledge necessary to make them a reality, which gives graduates great fundamentals.

MC: How do you envision the future for architects? What sort of professional life awaits the architect just leaving school? How is the Council working to help guide emerging professionals?
 
LC: If the global commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030 is maintained, the response to these global challenges will require general renovations and a massive upgrade to much of our built environment. This upgrade will redefine the mission of architects and other construction professionals and represents a magnificent opportunity.
 
With this vision in mind, the Council and the associations work both to facilitate the placement of architects in these areas and to defend and promote good practices and adequate conditions for the development of efficient and competitive professional practice.
Spanish architect Carme Pinós designed this year's MPavilion, which opened recently in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo: John Gollings)
MC: What possibilities of collaboration between public administrations and the private sector do you envisage? How can this collaboration help to expand the promotion of Spanish architecture? Today an agreement was signed between the Council and the international platform World-Architects.com. Is internationalization a pending challenge for Spanish architects? Can an agreement like this be useful for the promoting the profession abroad?
 
LC: This collaboration is essential. The diversification of media and communication channels, the segmentation of thematic areas and the dispersion and precariousness of traditional models generate a very complex environment for the promotion of architecture and its internationalization. We can only satisfactorily address this situation with a unified strategy of cooperation amongst public administrations, institutions, NGO’s, and the private sector, such as the agreement we signed today between the Council and World-Architects.com.
Renato Turri of World-Architects and Lluís Comerón signing a Memorandum of Understanding between the CSCAE and World-Architects.com (Poto © /nfoca)
Lluís Comerón Graupera started his three-year tenure as president of the CSCAE in January 2018. Comerón has a degree in architecture from the Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB) and still works out of his own studio. He has completed projects for public administrations and the private sector such as schools, healthcare facilities, prisons and cultural centers. He has also worked on urban planning projects and residential buildings. He has vast experience in both new construction and renovations.

Comerón, while working as a professional architect, has taught for many years at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia and the Architecture School of Vallés (ETSAV). Since 2006, he has held various positions in different architectural associations throughout Spain. He was a representative and then president of the Barcelona section of the Architects’ Association of Catalonia where he later served as chairman until becoming the president of the Council of Spanish Architects in 2018.

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