Words by Smiley Team
The tallest wooden building in Spain just won a Mies van der Rohe architectural award. But it’s not its height that caught the judges’ attention. Instead, it was the cooperative model on which the property is run, along with the impacts it has on the local people and environment.
La Borda, at the heart of Barcelona, is entirely owned and run cooperatively. This means that members of the cooperative all have a say in how the building operates, including legally, financially and practically.
Ensuring that no one occupant is an owner prevents property developers from buying the building in order to make a profit that would push up prices in the area.
After selecting La Borda the Mies van der Rohe awards body said: “The model goes beyond the specific project of cooperative housing: the studio is also run as a cooperative where fourteen professionals with different expertise offer a role model and an active tool for promoting political and urban change from within the system, based on social, ecological and economic sustainability.”
It was thanks to this collective spirit shaping the building’s use that the design from architectural cooperative LaCol won a prestigious European architectural award.
The cooperative emerged from a residents’ group that occupied the land in 2012. A group of 15 campaigners from the movement were keen to set up a cooperative in order to tackle the housing crisis.
Together they researched the thriving housing cooperative movements in places such as Catalonia, Denmark and Uruguay. Drawing on their findings they made a deal with the council to buy a plot of land that would otherwise go to private property developers and started to establish their own cooperative.
After purchasing the land, the cooperative forgo car parking spaces “as a statement of intent”, in favour of extensive bicycle storage.
The building has an A rating for energy efficiency, is well insulated and runs entirely on green energy. Part of its electricity and gas comes from solar panels on the roof, and the rest is provided by a green energy company, SomEnergia.
To top it all, the residents aim to support others in the community around the area, through social, environmental and ecological initiatives.
VOLUNTEER: If you’re interested in helping to build renewable energy for communities in London, volunteer for renewable energy charity Repowering.
GO GREEN: To install solar panels yourself in the UK, find out how you might be able to do so with the help of non-profit Solarsense.