On October 10th 2019 the global real estate services company Cushman & Wakefield published its annual report. The document examined global commercial real estate investment activity, ranking the most profitable markets and predicting which would be the key themes for property development in 2020. As in previous years, it showcased the predictable growth of major capitals worldwide, and it would have gone unnoticed if it hadn’t been for one anomaly: foreign real estate investment in the city of Madrid had increased 202% in one year, the highest rise ever registered in this classification, from a 19th place in 2018 to now 4th, just behind global financial capitals like New York, London and Paris.
While investors and public administrations are arguing that such exponential growth is derived from Madrid’s attractive cultural offer and financial stability, the reality is much more complex. Liberal tax incentives and property laws resulted from economic measures taken during the 2008 crisis have turned the city of Madrid into a sealed heaven for real estate speculation, uncontrollably rising market prices and skyrocketing the mortgage per capita ratio to pre-recession numbers. In a land where the belief in private ownership is an inalienable national right and property laws bolt personal gain over public interest, Madrid’s unforeseen hyperaccumulation should not be a shock. While its unprecedented scale kicked off with the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s, and the subsequent deregulated privatization of capital markets, Spain’s reliance on private property and profit goes back as far as several millennia to the establishment of Roman Civil Law. Therefore, if we follow the precept in that the origin of private property is in fact the origin of owning the means of work and production and the claiming of its profitability, could we imagine an architecture that cannot be exploited, an architecture without value, without ownership? Through the careful study of civil laws and economic models, students will develop during the first weeks of the semester prototypes that offer alternative property rights and financial structures to Madrid’s speculative derail, later to be collectively applied in the development of architectural proposals implemented across the city.
Amelia Linde & Jay Schairbaum “The Assembly”
Madrid is part of a global shift in urban property value characterized by a stratification of wealth and a loss of cultural heritage. Community identity is substituted with international influence, replacing intrinsic characteristics of place with homogenous symbols of globalizations. Gentrification has the ability to generally improve the housing stock and amenities of a neighborhood, but it is irresponsible if made at the expense of the locals. Our actions work towards community oriented gentrification efforts by (1) defending local culture, (2) promoting a positive labor market, (3) preventing irresponsible gentrification. The Assembly is a place to Occupy, Play, Produce, Protest, Unify, and Cultivate.
Action must be taken in claiming this site to be owned by the community and making the most of the physical and situational conditions. The financial model of the project is predicated on prolonged growth that engages the community to establish ownership. At each point in the project’s development the community is able to intervene to make the spaces their own – an example of how temporal occupation can make way for more permanent ownership. The central courtyard is framed by four distinct buildings, each promoting the efforts of The Assembly: (1) cooperative housing, (2) coworking offices, (3) the Foundation, (4) Assembly Hall. Cultural programming and production enable the community to feel empowered by having space to produce. By evoking activity and excitement through the use of the four buildings, the terraced courtyards and emphasized possibilities of programming shown, we hint at what narratives could be told.
Niels Hoyle Dodson + Olivia Raisanen
The Occupy Foundation promotes collective ownership through the implementation of radical, ethical legal and financial models within the context of Madrid. This foundation subverts capitalism by working within the capitalist system but exploiting existing loopholes to promote ideals of collective ownership. Rather than creating a single building, the foundation establishes a repeatable process for architectural interventions within neighborhoods that encourage collective agency of the community, promoting ideals of informal learning.
The Manifesto of the Occupy Foundation States: “We advocate for the collective ownership of the communal spaces within neighborhoods via the identification of forgotten and disused space. Through the execution of small-scale interventions, we will establish neighborhood boundaries and provide informal learning opportunities for whole communities.” This is accomplished through a legal loophole in the Spanish civil code: Articles 17 and 23 of the code jointly state that, “abandoned property belongs to the state, however, in order to claim ownership, they must occupy it.” The foundation will ally with the government of Madrid to accomplish the goals of the foundation and collectivize ownership of the city.
To support these ideals, the foundation focuses on defining boundaries, revealing power structures, reclaiming local spatialities, and promoting informal learning, to support ownership of knowledge, space, narrative, and community, within boundary. Through expansion the foundation will create an urban reconfiguration of individualized neighborhoods within the city of Madrid; A Squatters Archipelago, in which communities develop and grow dialectically, challenging modern capitals methods of urban exploitation.