La Col – Social Architects with an Environmental Conscience
LaCol is a cooperative of young architects founded in 2009. They operate mainly in Barcelona, particularly in the neighborhood where they are located, Sants, a working-class neighborhood with a strong cooperativism tradition. The architects provide technical services in the field of architecture and urbanism and they also organize participatory processes to integrate citizens in the projects. One of LaCol´s most significant projects so far has been the restoration of one unit of an old textile factory located in Sants, Can Batlló. In 2011, the building was handed over by the City Council to a group of neighbors, following months of struggles to get the rights to use the building for social purposes. Today Can Batlló is a self-organized social center, with a library, a café, an auditorium and plenty of meeting space. Many of the materials found in the old factory were recycled or reused.
LaCol is currently undertaking a study for Barcelona’s City Council, which evaluates the future restoration of another building in the same old factory premises. The building would host Coopolis, a public office giving support to social economy initiatives.
Aims and visions
LaCol believes in the use of architecture for social transformation, using it as a tool for developing critical interventions in the local environment. Also:
– this transformation starts in a flat management structure for the organization
– the right path for city transformation is through active participation of citizens
– they should work “for the wellbeing of all the people they share the city with”
As a result, LaCol encourages debate over the use of public spaces and city models.
LaCol is one of the UAB supportive initiatives in Barcelona for TESS. Between January and May 2015, the UAB team held meetings with members of LaCol to complete a semi-quantitative survey in order to estimate the social, political, economic and environmental impacts of community-based initiatives like LaCol. It’s also calculated the carbon emissions reduction of LaCol’s activities, focusing on the recycling and reuse of materials for the reconstruction of the former industrial textile complex of Can Batlló into new housing, equipment, and public space.
LaCol members working on the restoration of the inner part of building
Participatory process at Can Batlló with LaCol members and the local community