after the property boom lean times for spanish architects
Last Updated : GMT 02:57:08
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After the property boom, lean times for Spanish architects

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Arab Today, arab today After the property boom, lean times for Spanish architects

Madrid - AFP

Architects who reigned supreme during Spain\'s housing boom, presiding over fast-changing skylines, are picking up the pieces from the country\'s property crash. No longer tracing the lines of new towns and gleaming new towers, many look back on the housing frenzy with regret, and some are fleeing the country to find work. Housing activity in the recession-struck country has declined by about 90 percent since the bubble burst in 2008, said Alexia Maniega, secretary general of the Spanish Architects\' Union. Unemployment in the sector is close to 27 percent, she said, topping even the nation\'s overall jobless rate of 25 percent, which is the highest in modern Spanish history. The slump is all the more difficult because of the heights that architects once reached. The anonymous brick-coloured housing developments that mushroomed around Spain\'s cities for more than a decade were among the most striking symbols of the bubble. Architects were able to give full rein to their creativity with each town vying to put up its own emblematic building. \"You would send your CV to studios you wanted to work with, but the others would call you and make you an offer,\" remembers 35-year-old architect Laura Gonzalez. At the time, spending at least seven years in university to become an architect seemed like a good investment.No longer. Now, some are simply leaving. Carmen Paz, 35, who set up her own architect\'s studio at the start of the housing crisis, banking on winning contracts for public works, is among those who has quit the country. \"All at once, there were no more requests for bids to improve public spaces because there was no more state money,\" she said as she prepared to vacate the clean-lined apartment she redesigned in Madrid. Paz has already been living in Stuttgart, Germany, for the past four months. \"There is a lot of work over there,\" she explained. \"Like here a few years ago.\" The property frenzy did a lot of harm to Spain\'s image and dragged the entire country into an economic crisis, lamented Victoria Garriga, founder of AV62, a studio in Barcelona that has won several international competitions. AV62 never worked on massive housing projects, she stressed, preferring to take a different direction. It won a contest to design the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul, for example, and others to develop districts in Baghdad. \"Places like Iraq, with reconstruction needs, give a new sense to our profession,\" Garriga said. Work outside of Spain is also key to the strategy of Joaquin Torres of the A-Cero studio, responsible notably for the home of Amancio Ortega, founder of the Inditex textile giant and the fifth richest man in the world. \"Being in the very high end of the market means we are less susceptible to the crisis,\" he said in the glass meeting room of his Madrid studio, where the walls are painted black. Nevertheless, he has had to adapt, too, accepting some more modest projects and relying much more on foreign work: after launching into Gulf countries the studio is now targeting Latin America. \"We have the same roots, the same history,\" he said. A-Cero even has a presence in Miami so that it can tap both the Latin American and US markets. Others have survived the crisis by switching career. After nine years in architect\'s studios, discouraged by waves of layoffs from which she was spared, Laura Gonzalez decided in July to launch full time into her other passion, jewellery. The gamble paid off: thanks to courses she gives in her workshop at a fashionable Madrid address, she earns about 2,000 euros ($2,600) a month, as much she did as an architect. \"It is like making small buildings in miniature,\" she said. \"Some people say the crisis can also be an opportunity. It\'s true.\"

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