Yes, there are a lot of us
In Spain alone there are 47, 098 architects (on census). To this we must add all of those who studied here and are now exploring unknown lands. Working with rough figures, we can reckon that there are more than 50,000 Spanish architects. Seen from a positive standpoint, the figure does not seem alarming and it has different, even revolutionary readings.
Two salient issues arise when the numbers in a profession reach these marks. The profession has to be well organised and its decisions are its own. Are architects well organised in Spain? And, turning beyond our borders, is there any effective, practical official international organisation?
Let’s turn back to our starting point, the figures. We always talk about architects, those practicing and those that are not, and also those that will (students). The latter are looked upon as an afterthough: “they will be architects in the future”. But we are actually architects from the time we set foot into our Schools of Architecture. We are architects without all of the knowledge, abilities and skills to practice. But we are just as creative, active, and proposal-generating. In fact, we take up all of that space between the cracks left by our lack of “an accrediting degree”.
I am a student. I’m in gear. I produce. Do you know how many of us there are in Spain? Let’s calculate. There are 33 schools (19 of them public and 14 private). The Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Valencia Schools of Architecture alone account for one third of the total number of architects on census. In generic numbers, the figures for students and professors are surprisingly similar. I’m not interested in the statistics. We’ve already learned the concept of relativity. I’m interested in the potential. In getting to know the possibilities that tens of thousands of restless, energetic souls that give their all to their architecture studies. In everything they can do if they set their minds to it, even before earning their degrees.
Architects are organised in associations that cover geographical areas, and are represented by the CSCAE (High Council of Spanish Architects’ Associations). But what about the students? How are they organised? Is human potential lost because of this lack of organisation?
It is common to find associations linked to the university that promote minor activities and that fight for students’ rights (locally). Fortunately, we also have the CREARQ, a national association to defend the interests of students of architecture, including their coordination and their representation before the national general public administration.
But we are playing defence more than the front line. How can we take further steps? What projects can we undertake together? And, looking beyond our borders … can we effectively, practically and officially coordinate internationally? Can we, here and now, generate a substantial international body? The answer is yes, and in fact this has been done elsewhere.
In Latin America. As in Spain, in various Latin American countries we can fin associations established to protect the group’s interests. But they take things a step further. They have the CLEA. CLEA is the Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Estudiantes de Arquitectura (the Latin American Coordinating Umbrella Group for Students of Architecture), a non-profit organisation present in 16 countries. It emerged 30 years ago when the “future architects” decided to group together to “channel ideas about Latin American cities and architecture and establish communication and exchanges among and between themselves”. Channelling ideas, not merely concerns. That is the key.
Every year, CLEA organises an ELEA meeting and the TSL social workshop, always through country coordinators. These national groups represent their countries before the international body, hold in person meetings once every six months to plan events, and make up and ever-revisited ‘architects’ student culture’. There are a lot of us, but that does not necessarily have to be a bad thing. There being a lot of us means we have the capacity to generate other different worlds. And for that we don’t need to wait to have a signed degree in our hands. There being a lot of us means we have the tools for what we want to undertake. But that requires effort and order. We have examples to learn from and a lot of work ahead of us. There are a lot of us. Shall we organise?
Text translated by Beth Gelb