At the AIA’s National Convention in Denver, held from June 19–22, AN’s Emily Hooper sat down with Spanish architect Francisco Mangado, who was in attendance to receive an honorary fellowship. Mangado discussed foreboding amendments to Spain’s law of professional services that would allow engineers, or anyone deemed “competent” in construction, to design and erect buildings across the nation. The law was introduced at a council meeting of Government Ministers in April of 2013, and a final pass-or-fail decision will be reached by the end of this year.
Mangado: At the moment, we are very concerned about this. There are important demonstrations in Spain against this amendment because the government wants to change the law and allow engineers to do buildings. Right now, only the architect has the capacity to design and build buildings. But now the government, in a very very wrong way I think, [has proposed this and] there is no correspondence with the kind of training of architects and engineers receive in school, to extend the possibility to design and make architecture. Of course we are complaining, not only for a professional questioning, but for cultural and conceptual consideration. Architecture is not only construction. It has to do with the city, with the values of the citizen, with the public space, with beauty, with historical and symbolic concepts, but engineers don’t manage these. In the same way that I’m not prepared to make a bridge, I think the government has to realize engineers aren’t prepared to design buildings.
Right now we are organizing a lot of complaints. After the summer I think the country’s students of architecture will go out to the streets to demonstrate and defend the profession, even with very violent demonstrations because it’s the only way our government will understand these things. We have a government that’s a disaster. The crisis is terrible but this government is increasing that crisis. So the problem of Spain is not only this government; the former government—of socialism—was another disaster. And the conservatives are just another. So the problem of Spain is our politicians. We have a very intelligent country of people who are well prepared with the capacity to work but we have a cancer—which is called politicians. They don’t accept anything. They don’t understand anything. I studied economic science before studying architecture; I know what it means to make an economy. An economy is a very important political component. Economy doesn’t mean you manage a society as if we were just a number in a computer. It’s much more. What is happening with architecture is just another sign of how wrong they are. But we have confidence in the citizens that we will defend our position.
My family created an architecture and society foundation that at the moment is considered the most important architecture institution in Spain. Because the social architectural association went bankrupt from the crisis, our association has assumed the role of organizing conferences, lectures, and defending architecture in this sense against the government. If it’s necessary to be in the street, with protest, with violence, we will be there defending architecture.
AN: So, this law is an economic measure.
Mangado: Exactly. They are making this because they think they are going to reevaluate the cost for doing architecture. The reasoning is the more people they have doing architecture, the less the fees. But it’s completely wrong. At the moment in Spain, there are 40,000 architects and another 40,000 students of architecture, waiting to become architects. With this enormous amount of architects they already have competition.
Architecture is a relationship with society. We are making buildings to serve a society, so architects have to be keen on these kinds of questions.
What also happened is the government has made the most of the academic schedule in order to prepare this law because they know that 40,000 students are on vacation and they know if these students were at university now, tomorrow they’d have 40,000 young people on the streets.