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Raül Avilla-Royo

PhD Work

Community Architecture: New Protocols and Disciplinary Shifts in Barcelona

The growing involvement of community organisations in housing design is influencing how architecture understands itself as a discipline, especially in areas such as professional practice, academic education and administration. This global trend towards community-led development is driven by various agents including central government, local administration, neighbourhood associations and private developers. While each agent might have different motivations, there is a common social and political aim to build communities and their living environments. This research examines theories of community-led housing in Barcelona, Spain.

In 2011, the Occupy Movement in Spain triggered a new political and social awareness and led to a growing number of young architects organising themselves into 'collectives'. Their shared objective is to address the public housing problem through direct social actions and involvement with local communities. This has led to the emergence of new practices, protocols, methodologies, clients and procurement processes in the delivery of housing. Both architects’ collectives and administration have since demanded a redefinition of architectural practices, with the role of the architect increasingly defined as that of a social enabler or activist.

This research investigates how this new community architect is part of a strategic re-thinking of the relationship between architecture and urban development. Taking Barcelona as a research context, it will develop a new theory of urban transformation framed by social movements and protocols of participation. In parallel, the PhD by Project will analyse development policies in relationship to social policy and urban development challenges. The aim of this is to re-strategise the relationships between administration, neighbourhood associations, academia and architects in the delivery of a new public housing agenda and procurement processes.


  • PhD


    School of Architecture


    Architecture Research, 2018–

  • Raül Avilla studied architecture at the Barcelona School of Architecture (ETSAB-UPC) and the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (AAM-USI) in Switzerland, graduating in 2013. After living in South America for three years, he gained an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities) at the Architectural Association in London in 2018. He is currently a PhD candidate at the Royal College of Art, researching at the intersection between the political agency of housing, the social agendas embedded in the definition of the domestic space and the recent disciplinary shift promoted by young collectives of architects who are claiming to assume new roles regarding city transformation and housing procurement.

    Raül has run his own practice since 2013, combining it with research and personal projects. He is a member of the collective Arquitectos de Cabecera, which works from academia and in community-led design in Barcelona, and which was awarded the City of Barcelona Architecture Award in 2015, nominated for the Mies van der Rohe awards in 2017, and exhibited in the Spanish Pavilion of the of Venice Architecture Biennale in 2018.

    Raül has an interest in teaching: he was a teaching assistant in the Housing and City studio at ETSAB (2010–13), a tutor in the ETSAB Summer School (2016–17) and in the Architectural Association Visiting School (2017). He has been invited to serve as a jury panellist at the RCA, Kingston School of Art, the AA and ETSAB; given seminars at the RCA, the Huazhong University of Science & Technology (HUST) in China, MAS Housing ETHZ; and has lectured at the Fringe Architectural Festival in Glasgow.

  • Degrees

  • MPhil in Architecture and Urban Design (Projective Cities), Architectural Association School of Architecture, 2018; MSc Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio (AAM), Università della Svizzera Italiana (USI), Switzerland (first-year exchange programme); Diploma of Architecture, Escola Superior d’Arquitectura de Barcelona (ETSAB), Universitat Politécnica de Catalunya (UPC), Spain, 2013