29 Apr 2019 • Spain
Now, 90s nostalgia has reached housing – but in Spain, it’s actually bittersweet
The 90s were the golden age of the construction business in Spain, as the massive hunger for investment even created new pockets of suburban development – for example, Cardedeu, a village some 50 kilometres outside of Barcelona. When the bubble burst in 2008, the country’s architectural practice had to shift gears, leaving behind the boom aesthetic.
‘But how are [we] supposed to preserve the architectures resulting from this historical period of frenzied economic growth?’ asked Lluís Alexandre Casanovas, a Princeton University PhD candidate in architectural history and theory.
His proposal comes in the shape of a Cardedeu dwelling – aptly called the Real Estate Boom House – that he sees as paradigmatic of this bittersweet 90s aesthetic. His reasoning? ‘First, the house’s original design, material and construction details reveal the imaginaries of opulence that drove part of the real-estate-boom design in Spain,’ he explained. ‘Second, the privileged views over the old town from the house’s back façade, at the edge of a suburban area and cow fields, are under continuous threat of urbanization. And third, the house’s domestic interior attests to the radically different generational sensitivities that have constituted the boom.’
[This] reveals the imaginaries of opulence that drove part of the real-estate-boom design in Spain
So Casanovas took to the dwelling and treated it ‘as if it were ruins,’ restoring it through traditional Castilian crafting techniques. And as the views of the field are bound to disappear soon, he filled the house with plants to make up for the loss of landscape. This curatorial project is, in a way, another form of architectural archiving.
But why preserve a residential snapshot of such a painful period? The Spanish economy has been showing strong signs of recovery for several years. As architects and real estate developers find themselves analyzing their current roles compared to their previous alliance, Casanovas’ project serves as a reminder of the cost of dire decisions. ‘That’s why the Real Estate Boom House seeks to intervene in – rather than erase, ignore or hide – the legacy of this alliance,’ he reasoned.