‘After the Housing Nightmare’ by Josep Maria Montaner and Zaida Muxí

Today, we reproduce the critic article “After the Housing Nightmare: New players, new organizations, new forms” written by Zaida Muxí and Josep Maria Montaner that concludes the catalogue “Import Zurich. Cooperative Housing: New Ways of Inhabiting” of the current Cities Connection Project event. Montaner is architect and Councillor for Housing at the Barcelona City Council; Muxí is architect and Director of Urbanism at Santa Coloma de Gramenet Town Council.
zaida y montaner

“At the end of 2015 two premises are being confirmed. One, that traditional homogeneous housing policies no longer make sense and are no longer useful in a context that is entirely different in urban, social, technical, political and economic terms. And two, that this need for a change of model is made all the more acute by the great damage caused by the abandoning of the developmentalist model, starting in 2008, as a consequence of the collapse of financial models in America and Europe, and worsened by neoliberal policies of public spending cuts, especially in the south of Europe.

The result is that foreclosures and forcible evictions have left thousands of homes empty and in the hands of financial institutions, while at the same time many thousands of people are denied access to housing by the requirements of the systems of access previously in force, such as that they constitute a stable family, couple or household with an income guaranteed by a permanent employment contract.

In light of the above, housing policies need to be rethought in response to the new conditions, and not only in terms of architectural design but also in terms of programmes, of the people and agencies involved, of systems of tenancy and economic models, and of the structure of the city.

All of this means that housing policies today need to be highly diversified and complementary, pivoting on a series of priority axes:

  • The incorporation of empty homes for social use on a rental basis;
  • The construction of homes with new models of management, tenancy and morphology-typology;
  • Small-scale interventions attuned to the logic of the renovation and rehabilitation of neighbourhoods and actively embracing the different capacities and capabilities of the future residents, not only their ability to pay rent but also their potential for generating work.

In this respect, grassroots citizen’s movements have taken the lead in coming up with workable alternatives. The first of these, in legislative terms, is acceptance of the option of handing back the keys in termination of the mortgage in order to protect people against the situation of total and permanent exclusion, in time and space, in which households unable to meet the repayments find themselves; the guarantee of rehousing; and the fight against exclusion in the form of energy poverty.

Another crucial contribution is being made by experiments with new forms of cooperative organization, which involve active grassroots participation and will result in alternative architectural typologies and construction systems, given that they must adapt from the outset to a real diversity of lifestyles and economic and technical capacities. In this new context of a self-managed cooperative economy, if these homes are not flexible and sustainable then they are not possible. Among the characteristics that are beginning to reveal themselves in the new housing resulting from cooperative and participatory processes is a focus on austerity and efficiency in the space-durability-technology-beauty correlation, in so far as housing is clearly a utility that has no need of the superfluous and the merely cosmetic, the formal qualities of which derive from its essence and its process.

Social rent, directly related to people’s actual economic capacity, is the fairest legal way to implementing the right to adequate housing, in a society which ever fewer people have a permanent work contract, a condition of stability that was the basis for access to housing prior to the collapse of the former model.

This change in policy is essential to address the critical situation created by the system of social precarity that has been imposed by neoliberalism and poses a grave threat to people’s human and social rights”.

20 Catalan works will be exhibited in Switzerland


On 5th and 6th February, twenty Catalan studios will travel to Geneva (Switzerland), representing a broad cross section of the social housing models that have been built in Barcelona over the last ten years. Twenty selected works will be exhibited in the Geneva Pavillon SICLI under the title _Export BARCELONA ‘Social Housing in Urban Context’ until 22nd of the same month, thanks to the collaboration between the Cities Connection Project and the Maison de l’Architecture.


The event _Export BARCELONA ‘Social Housing in Urban Context’ includes the publication of a catalogue, published by dpr-barcelona, with information about the twenty selected works, incorporating Augmented Reality and contextualizing the selected projects in a historical timeline of reference works. The catalogue is also intended to be the most up to date compendium of recent and prominent Catalan social architecture.The catalogue includes texts by Ferran Mascarell, Conseller de Cultura de la Generalitat de Catalunya, Antonio Hodgers, Conseiller d’État de Genève, Vicente Guallart, chief architect of the Barcelona City Council and Xavier Bustos and Nicola Regusci, the project curators.

The exhibition will start on February 5th with an inaugural conference presented by Vicente Guallart, Chief Architect of the City of Barcelona, and will be attended by Antonio Hodgers, Conseiller d’État de Genève, and Francesco Della Casa, Architecte cantonal, representing Swiss institutions, and by Jordi Sellas,Director General for Creation and Cultural Industries. The event on 5th and 6th February will also include interviews, discussion meetings between professionals and institutions from Barcelona and Switzerland, with visits to emblematic buildings of Geneva’s collective housing history. The exhibition will run until 22nd March at the Geneva Pavillon SICLI (Route des Acacias, 45).

The event _Export BARCELONA ‘Social Housing in Urban Context’ is part of the Cities Connection Project, which regularly connects outstanding architecture from two European regions via a “back and forth” event that on this occasion has selected Geneva and Barcelona. The first phase of the exchange, _Import GENEVA ‘Building Geneva: projects versus challenges’, took place in Barcelona from 13th to 24th November 2014 at the Arts Santa Mònica Centre de la Creativitat. The Cities Connection Project (CCP) aspires to annually connect European architecture that is committed to the current social reality, while breaking away from mass media.

For future editions, the Cities Connection Project will link cities like Marseille, Zurich, Berlin and Brussels. The aim of the Cities Connection Project is for each event to be the catalyst for an ongoing dialogue between architects from the selected cities.




Una sera di maggio 2013 venti architetti ticinesi under 50 si incontrano piacevolmente tra le mura della gradevole e ospitale dimora di Madame e Monsieur Décosterd, Console Generale della Svizzera a Barcellona. Poco prima, nel tardo pomeriggio, gli stessi si potevano incontrare nella sala al piano superiore della prestigiosa sede del Col.legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya di Plaça Nova a Barcellona, perché proprio lì tra quelle mura, ricche dei graffiti ideati da Pablo Picasso nel ’55, esponevano i loro progetti di architecture and territory. A memoria un caso raro vedere assieme tutti quei bravi giovani progettisti del Canton Ticino che si intrattenevano piacevolmente.

A distanza di qualche mese, il 15 ottobre, venti architetti under 50 di Barcellona si incontrano nel cam- pus dell’Accademia di architettura di Mendrisio, sempre verso sera, dove affrontano pubblico e studenti con i loro progetti di social housing in urban context. Altro caso interessante.

Merito di Connection_Import Ticino-Export Barcelona: il format ideato, promosso e prodotto dalla gio- vane organizzazione AAAB, Agencia de Apojo a la Arquitectura de Barcelona.

L’architetto Esteve Bonell, per 14 anni professore di atelier all’Accademia, ha seguito gli eventi con la generosità che ci è nota, segno che ci sembra essere di buon auspicio. In questo modo si pongono le basi per rinnovare lo scambio in termini di pensiero e di possibile didattica tra esponenti della cultura architettonica della capitale catalana e la scuola di Mendrisio, fatto che già si era realizzato in passato grazie alla presenza in Accademia di Aurelio Galfetti, Ignasi de Solà Morales e altri ancora.

15 ottobre 2013, ore 19.00
Foyer, Palazzo Canavée, Accademia di architettura, Mendrisio
All’inaugurazione interverranno Marc Collomb (direttore, Accademia di architettura, Mendrisio) & Esteve Bonell (architetto, Barcelona)


Download brochure PDF