We tend to look at hackers, anarchism, illegality, counterculture, and antisystemic activism as forces that want to destabilize the establishment. At first glance, Santiago Cirugeda and Recetas Urbanas seem to belong to this kind of popular resistance. But instead of a negative force that merely opposes something, what is unique about Cirugeda and Recetas Urbanas is that their attitude, albeit rebellious, always tends to make proposals. Instead of the tantrum or “kicking the table over” attitude of nonconformists, they manage to find gaps in the system, legal voids in the code. A clue may come from their profound knowledge of legal constrictions and social demands.
They understand that the approval process for a building permit is difficult and often takes longer than the urgent demands from society would require, especially when those projects are for consolidated urban areas. But they have found proxies: there is less red tape involved in getting a permit for the scaffolding needed for the renovation of a façade, and this scaffolding could well become a “thin building” where immigrants can be accommodated. The container used for accumulating debris can become a children’s playground, a skateboard half-pipe, or a micro green area. These sorts of urban operations—opportunities offered by legal voids and loopholes—represent a positive and constructive reaction to underequipped urban areas in contexts where people can not afford to wait for a policy change or for politicians to solve inequalities.
Their approach could be considered punk in the sense that it operates on the margins, but because it is carried out through architecture it ends up being proactive rather than destructive. In this sense, Cirugeda and Recetas Urbanas are able to use such forces as agents of change.