Friday, September 22

Public architecture in Madrid: a feast for the great real estate predators

Madrid lives a dark time for architecture. The administrations of Madrid abandon their responsibility in promoting the public architecture of housing and facilities.

The miracle of the “public-private partnership” model leaves the construction and operation of public housing or facilities such as the Campus of Justice.

In this way, public architecture becomes a business with purely economic criteria in which architects become mere instruments and lackeys at the service of market profitability. And they lose their condition of independence of thought and of collaborating in the future of our cities.

Administrations have always been a vector of innovation and the policy of public competitions has always been a way of investigating new ways of life in contemporary architecture and of imagining the future of an urban landscape for the 21st century.

Unfortunately, the current policy of “public-private collaboration” is the mantra of the administrations governed by the PP.

In the case of the Justice Campus, the original planning competition (won by the architects Frechilla & Peláez) and the architectural competitions for the construction of various buildings on the Campus (some of them commissioned “digitally” by Esperanza Aguirre) were buried. to “star” architects such as Norman Foster or Zaha Hadid).

In this way, the administration does not invest in construction, but rather it is the funds that build and manage… in exchange for “the payment of a canon that will be around 50 million euros for 35 years.” In other words, they will receive some 1,750 million euros from the public coffers, in addition to the exploitation rights of all the commercial premises that are built. In exchange, the successful bidder will have to pay the costs of the work, valued at around 500 million euros.

Goodbye to public architecture, to quality, to innovation, to the possibility that architects can fulfill their mission with guarantees, which is none other than to carry out quality projects that defend the public interest as figures independent of the successful bidders and not as mere instruments at the service of private capital.

Now we find ourselves with a new surprise, which is none other than the competition for real estate funds for the construction and exploitation of surface rights for 45 years of 2,000 affordable rental homes on 25 municipal plots. In total 150,000 m2 distributed in 11 districts of the city with free residential use qualification.

In the specifications of the competition it is required that they be used for rent with incomes up to 25% below the “average price” of the area and as payment does not involve more than 25% of the monthly income of the family nucleus.

How will this be controlled in the hands of investment funds? Nobody knows, but with the past story about the little control carried out on the rents of public housing, sold by the CAM and the City Council (and which are still in court, which have forced their return to public property) nothing good It can happen.

A twin plan of the Plan Vive of the Community of Madrid that put 5,000 homes out to tender and were awarded to CULMIA and AEDAS, controlled by the OAKTREE and ARES funds, respectively. In this call, 1,447 homes were deserted, to which no promoter wanted to go.

That is to say, the responsibility of the administrations in influencing the exorbitant rental prices is abandoned, through a public rental park, and the good intentions of the large real estate funds are trusted, which are the only ones that present themselves to this type of contests. (Spain has 2.5% public housing, compared to 18% in France or 30% in Denmark).

And the missing architects, ignored, integrated into the developers’ teams, and without the possibility of carrying out innovative projects independently, another of the, let’s not forget, missions of public architecture.

And in the face of this abandonment of responsibility, in the face of the deterioration of public architecture, in the face of the ignoring of the figure of the architect, the Official College of Architects of Madrid assists as a clapper of the “public-private collaborations” that the Popular Party preaches as the mantra to solve the future of our city and our problems as citizens. Citizens turned into “clients”.

The last architect who can work with freedom and dignity in a public competition that closes the door.