Arquitectos de Cabecera (AC) is an approach to the city born out of an assembly movement formed by students and professors in Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB) in 2013. Working on the city and focusing on the collective, the methodology aims to bring the figure of the architect closer to the citizen and claims for a more committed role of the architect towards the city’s social structure. Its legal shape is the one of an academic group and an association. We work along collectives, associations, municipalities and universities.
AC emerged from academia as a response to three crisis: pedagogic, social and disciplinary. In academia, there is an overall lack of contact with reality and its problems. At a social level, there is a housing emergency that began with the burst of the real estate bubble in 2008. Regarding practice, we feel disciplinary traditional tools and methods have not proved sufficient to respond to the new set of challenges emerged in the last decade.
AC questions the traditional education and practice of architects by giving the social fabric the same importance than the urban structure. We aim to empower students and to act on the existing city, both morphological and social, as a field of work. We aim to work with the existing city, its problems and contradictions. Our current research topics are focused on the intersection of social movements and architecture, the role of architect in urban transformation, new forms of architecture pedagogies and the new forms of housing within open metropolitan areas.
AC is formed by a group of people coming from different backgrounds and expertise: academia and research, municipal government and policy making, professional practice, and social movements. We share the need to endorse social movements from the discipline of architecture, the architect seen as a mediator supporting community-led processes of city transformation.
AC focuses on the subject (the inhabitant) rather than in the object (the house). It acts on the domestic in order to transform the city from the inside out, understanding that public space starts in the domestic. If the city is formed in its vast majority by housing, a qualitative improvement of the city necessary needs to consider the domestic. Thus, everything is housing.
AC understands that architects are not the only, nor first, actors in city transformation, and therefore is crucial to work with the ones that are already working in place. We understand our position from a double condition: architects are essential in city transformation processes, but they cannot do it by themselves. Architecture is not a self-standing discipline; nothing is: human being are ecodependents and interdependents. Therefore we aim to generate synergies between universities, social collectives and administration in a multidisciplinary and long-term approach. AC method aims to be shareable with other universities and administrations as an open source tool that works in a network-base approach.
AC method is adapted to every situation differently: knowing the inhabitant is essential to understand the reality of the urban fabric. As a result, there is a starting point – the inhabitant in its domestic space – but there is not certainty of the following steps, which vary in each situation. Thus, we work with a set of flexible tools open to different scenarios. Since the city is an open city in constant transformation we understand that problems never get to be solved, but only reformulated in a new conditions that must embed an improvement of the original conditions. The key question is “for whom”.
AC thinks the city as a collective project. We have collaborated broadly with several institutions and associations in Spain, Colombia, Italy and Mexico. AC contribution to architecture has been recognized locally and internationally. AC received the 2015 City of Barcelona Architecture Award and has been nominated to the 2017 Mies van der Rohe award. AC has been exhibited in the 2015 Piso Piloto Exhibition in Barcelona and Medellín, in 2017 Fringe Festival in Glasgow and in the 2018 Biennale of Venice. We are invited to lecture regularly national and internationally.