Husos is a collaborative ‘socio-bioclimatic’ architecture practice formed by Diego Barajas and Camilo Garcia, who studied architecture together in Bogota, in their native Columbia, and then in Rotterdam, before setting up in Madrid.
Their work is characterised by consideration for the entire social and environmental context, whether creating a ‘bioclimatic’ garden building where both plants and people can thrive in Columbia’s most ecologically diverse landscape, or trying to counteract the poor lighting, energy efficiency and underused courtyards in Madrid’s typical older apartment blocks.
Bathyard House emerged from working with a client who, after a divorce, was moving back into a 1900s city-centre apartment block, leaving the leafy suburbs but not wanting to lose her connection with nature. Husos saw that a spacious but dark, north-facing, fourth-floor apartment could be transformed through integrating its internal courtyard.
As the client – with older teens at home – felt that the bathroom was both the most social space but also one in which she would spend valuable downtime after her kids left home, Husos moved the bathroom beside this patio and used a sliding, sustainable pine-framed glazed door to fill the room with daylight, while allowing year-round views on to plants, thereby creating a ‘bathyard’.
Between the bathtub and a smaller, more private room with shower and toilet, there is a small greenhouse with a drip irrigation system which keeps the plants watered year round.
Keeping their other interventions to a minimum – it describes its actions as ‘acupuncture’ – it also punched a hole (or ‘oculus’) into one of the load-bearing walls to bring air north to south, and offer views into the bathyard; and it reorganised doors and pathways to open connections between rooms so that light, air and warmth – from the few hours of sunlight captured by the patio – would fill the home. The house’s internal temperature remains remarkably even, year round.
Cultura Inquieta is a thoroughly modern, global cultural entity, born of the power of social media and a desire to celebrate the good things in life – music, art, culture, community – when all around (economically and politically) seems in chaos. It began life as a blues, soul and jazz festival, launched in Madrid eight years ago by impresario and Madrid music venue owner Juan Yuste. Buoyed by its enthusiastic reception, and a desire to keep that shared sense of community going, Yuste started posting links to artists, photographers, exhibitions, musicians and events that interested him online, which in turn built such a following that it grew into a Spanish language webzine of the same name, with the same sensibility and coverage.
Launched in 2010, Cultural Inquieta (CI) now has a team of 11 people, from all kinds of backgrounds, who work out of a small office in Madrid. The webzine has a daily readership of 200,000 that checks in for its multiple postings of all things visually and verbally interesting, while its companion feeds on Instagram,
Twitter and Facebook boast a following of two million. Though its events diary is mainly Spanish oriented, Mexico is its second biggest audience, after Spain, with Chile and Argentina close behind.
The tone of voice is enthusiastic and discerning, but determinedly accessible. This is all about engagement, encouraging people to get involved, to contribute. Its popular Instagram feed often consists of re-posts from the best of its own followers’ art and imagery.
The webzine has now become a major influencer, with brands and cultural producers increasingly pitching projects for CI’s support – but CI’s seal of approval isn’t lightly given. Says Silvia Garcia, its curator and editor: ‘We don’t write about anything we don’t believe in. If the values are not good, we don’t cover it.’ The festival, she says, ‘is our passion, but the magazine supports the festival.’ Revenues are, respectively 30 per cent and 70 per cent from festival and digital business.
At a time when global brands are all about engagement in real time, as well as online, it’s not surprising that brands like Playstation want to be seen supporting this lively Spanish entity, sponsoring a street-art event at the 2017 festival, starring Madrid’s biggest street art star Okuda.
Through its vast social networks and its links with creative and cultural providers, the remit for Cultura Inquieta seems to be expanding and enriching exponentially.
Ink and Movement
Street Art is an unavoidable element in Madrid’s built environment. Madrid’s answer to London’s Banksy has to be Okuda (San Miguel), whose work has covered the entire interior of churches. His schedule of global engagements reads more like the tour itinerary of a major rock band than an artist.
If Okuda’s trademark rainbow hues and spiky figures are now plastered all over walls and plazas from Holland to Miami – not to mention on skater hoodies, shoes and skateboards, thanks to lucrative tie-ups with ‘street’ brands – it’s partly thanks to his team at Ink and Movement agency. This collaborative team of 12 art-world and musicindustry professionals evolved through their desire to support this burgeoning scene, providing marketing, administration, logistical and every other kind of support so that the artists can focus on creating the pieces, some of which can sell for several thousand euros (certainly Okuda’s do). This support has recently translated into a spacious new studio and office building – the entire ground floor of a former call centre – in a sleepy suburb of south Madrid, Arganzuela.
There is a large studio area where up to four of their artists can work uninterrupted, with spray cans at the ready, and where work that is about to be shipped to collectors or clients around the world can be bubble wrapped. Meanwhile, the top-lit office is adorned with their artists’ colourful paintings, light boxes and sculptures. Not only does Ink and Movement support and facilitate its artists’ evolution and practice, but it also curates and collaborates on other art-related events.
Alejandra Kreisler, whose background is in fine art, and who takes care of artist representation, says: ‘We also develop cultural projects, with local governments or anyone who wants to collaborate with our kind of artists or our style of event.’ Communications and social media manager Zigor Cavero says of its background: ‘We kind of bring the experience from music, managing DJs and bands to these artists, which somehow are similar to DJs these days. They have a huge popular following, they use the internet, they are flying around the world continually. We just make their lives, their business life, easier.’
The team has recently embarked on a new strand of street art – ‘truck art’: mobile art works painted on the side of container lorries.
Thanks to the power of social media, (Okuda has 200,000 followers on Instagram), the IAM team feels street art is only going to become more visible and more powerful. But it’s not just about the art – for it it’s also about the power of collaboration.
Says Kreisler: ‘It makes sense because if we all work together we have more power. You have to break the barriers sometimes with the art world.’
Espacio Espositivo is a ‘platform to boost cultural innovation’ in Madrid. It was born in 2015 out of a frustration with the inadequacies of the institutional art school and with a view to galvanising young and emerging artists, to generate exhibitions and events and find new ways of working and teaching. There is an art school, Espositivo Academy, which offers a number of traditional courses in fine art painting, and sculpture, as well as a number of quarterly, weekly and weekend classes. There is also an international programme of artist residencies. Every three months an open competition is held, from which nine national and international artists are selected to study and work for free in a number of studio spaces, while living in a well-appointed residency apartment, for 25 days (the artists are spaced out, three at a time, over the three months).
There is a permanent gallery space where Espositivo can hold a number of different events, from talks to exhibitions. In addition to the academy, a multidisciplinary lab has been launched, called Landa (which translates as moor – a space in nature where plants grow wild). Still in its early days, the aim is to have up to 30 students over the course of a year, each of which has a relevant tutor to develop specific projects with them, helping them to find their identity as artists. It is definitively not an MA, as there is no accreditation. But through individual and collaborative projects, they can explore different aspects of creation and production.
The Espositivo approach is to avoid any sense of hierarchies: a curator is just as likely to get their hands dirty painting or decorating the gallery space as the artists themselves. One of the three directors, Cintia Ramirez says: ‘This is something that I love about Espositivo. It’s not a collective, it’s a proper dissolve of the [idea of] the author. We work together, it doesn’t matter who makes the pieces, who manages the sales, it’s about all working together to make something possible.’
La Tabacalera is one of Madrid’s most interesting experimental creative and social spaces. A sprawling, late 18th-century tobacco storage and manufacturing complex, this fine, four-storey heritage building was a major source of employment but its tobacco processing life ended in 2000 and it lay empty and increasingly derelict. After a number of costly proposals were approved and then abandoned (including a €30m scheme by high-profile Spanish practice Nieto Sobejano) the local community finally won its campaign to turn the space into a vital social and educational resource, in an area devoid of programmable public space, claiming 9,200 sq m of the available 30,000 sq m of space – mainly the ground floor and basements. LTBC Tabacalera has been running as ‘a self-managed social centre’, since around 2012, promoting ‘the direct participation of citizenship in managing the public domain.’ It offers vital artist studio and start-up spaces for free, as long as the artists offer up a day a month in lieu, for education, in one of the many meeting rooms and workshops.
Community groups receive the same privilege – free space in return for a day of skills or labour or ‘benefits in kind’. A system has evolved for canvassing the community in order to program the desired activities. A snapshot of activities in September last year included: a Hammer Horror film night, African percussion group, lessons in tango, woodwork, table-making, film-making, photography, and relaxation therapies. Concerts and plays are also staged regularly. The sole income for the centre comes from its bar and restaurant facilities, the proceeds of which mostly go towards maintenance. The occupants make good use of these blank, industrial walls to test out art and ideas. In a more strippedback, minimalist wing of the building, a light restoration has given the city’s Department of Culture a suitably atmospheric gallery for exhibitions, with the gloomy corridors and cellular layout offering the perfect setting for film and video art.
Only a few decades ago, it was a vast slaughterhouse, keeping Madrid supplied with fresh meat. Now this grand 19th-century redbrick complex has been stripped out, scrubbed down and reborn as Matadero, a local government-run exhibition and event space, and home to some of Madrid’s most interesting creative and design professionals. For the past three years, Factoria Cultural (the Culture Factory) has occupied one small end of the Matadero, but it is probably the most densely packed.
There is desk space for 120 individuals in this award-winning, multifunctional interior constructed from cheap wood and plastic by Madrid-based architect Angel Borrego. Here, the Factoria Cultural (FC) team runs an incubator space and school to encourage design enterprise, within Borrego’s ‘reversible architecture’ layout of easily built (and dismantable), open-plan desk spaces, mezzanine education space, stairs/amphitheatre and bookable, plastic-fringed meeting rooms.
Founded by Sandra Stuyck, Lucia Ybarra, Rosina Gómez-Baeza and Antonio Bazán, the idea was to create a space for entrepreneurs aged 20-50 to kick-start their personal projects. There are two open calls a year, whose sectors and numbers are dictated by funding, from a mix of public and private sponsors. Autumn 2017’s intake was for 60 individuals or practices, working across design, fashion, cultural tourism, architecture and new media. They are given desk space at the Factoria, and six months worth of training and mentoring.
The first three months entail attending classes such as storytelling (to develop a pitch) and marketing through social media, supplemented with one-to-one mentoring from figures within the relevant sector. A project is set and then completed by the end of the following three months, culminating in a pitch to professionals from the same sector, at an event which is open to all within the design community, not just the incubatees – called ‘Viveristas’.
There are additional sectoral initiatives. Playstation, for example, sponsors a game design program, through its ‘Playstation talent’ competition. The five chosen design studios spend a year at the FC, at the end of which their program launches on PS4.
To fund the incubator programme, a Factoria Escuola (school) runs all year round, with a faculty of 15 teachers (specialists in their field) offering basics such as online promotion, search-engine optimisation and software design, but also more exotic items like how to program conversation ‘bots’.
Now in its third year, it has been so successful that the FC team has opened another outpost in the Spanish Murcia region in the south-east, but hopes to seed many more around the country.