News Column

Raise the roof Artists reclaim concrete wastelands

September 2, 2014

Ashifa Kassam Madrid

Apart from the occasional swanky terrace, Spanish rooftops are mundane affairs, reserved for air conditioners, satellite dishes and wet laundry.

But a new movement is challenging all that, reclaiming lofty surfaces and turning them from concrete wastelands into vibrant community spaces.

In Seville, the nonprofit group Redetejas is busy revitalising rooftops, turning them into a backdrop for concerts, theatre performances and circus acts.

"They're spaces in the city and are somewhat public, but vastly underused," said member Jaime Fernandez. "Historically, they were used as collaborative spaces between neighbours but today they've lost their social role."

His group set out to "reclaim and reconquer" rooftops for cultural use. "When we started the project, we didn't even know if what we were suggesting was legal or not," said Fernandez. They established that it was, and aimed to create a generic model that could be replicated anywhere in the world.

Organisers pitch events and hosts give their rooftop for the night. Events can be anything cultural - from a lecture on constellations and astronomy to yoga demonstrations - and are often small, with a maximum of about 100 people. Hosts are encouraged to inform neighbours about the event. They are bare bones and nonprofit, doing away with the need for licences, and a small fee is usually charged at the door to cover the artists' fees. The project was launched in 2012 and has been growing steadily, with events held in cities across Andalusia and as far as Resistencia in Argentina. The group is also talking to organisers in Madrid and Barcelona.

It is not the only group eyeing rooftops in Spain. Encajes Urbanos, a network of architects and landscape artists based in Barcelona and Valencia, has launched its own campaign to reclaim rooftops, inviting neighbourhood groups to work with them to design collective uses for their rooftops. So far about 10 groups have signed up and plans are under way to start working with them in the autumn.

Photograph: Alberto Perez

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Guardian (UK)

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