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Whatever Happened to Sociópolis?

Building Urban Narratives.

Matilde Igual Capdevila
Research Grantee Academy of Fine Arts Vienna | Dissertation Completion Fellowship 2022

In 2003, Sociópolis was presented at the second edition of the Valencian Art Biennial. Shortly after, it went from being "a maquette and slide-show extravaganza" to becoming a master plan for a large urban development project backed politically by the regional government and funded by state owned banks. The plan envisaged the construction of 2500 housing units in the Southern suburbs of Valencia, Spain. Thirteen international architecture offices published their concepts for social housing schemes. In 2021, the site presents an unfinished urban reality.
The story of Sociópolis raises critical issues relevant to our understanding of the urban spaces’ production processes and shows how those are intertwined with complex economic systems, modes of political governance, citizen's wishes and desires, and the arts. Its -at least partial- failure prompts a reflection on the gap among model, project and reality.
The PhD thesis will present the first in-depth study of Sociópolis (covering the period from 2003 to 2018), an iconic “unfinished” social housing urban development in Valencia, Spain. The aim is to provide a comprehensive study of its planning, its political and economic condition, with a particular focus on the rupture caused by the impact of real estate speculation and crisis in 2007/2008, the built spaces it has resulted in, and how the 200 people living there inhabit and use it today. The research on the three elements, the planning, the built spaces, and the lived space, will result in building urban narratives that offer critical insights into the real estate crisis, yet challenge the commonly held notion of the “unfinished” as failure.
By reconstructing the sequence of events through archival and field research bringing methods from architecture - mappings and spatial diagrams - and from social sciences - qualitative interviews - into an architecture history and urban geography research, I intend on developing a history of Sociópolis as it is, as it was and as it would - might- be. The multi-perspective storytelling will reveal insights on the under-researched relationship between Architecture and Real Estate in the context of crisis.

Short bio

Matilde Igual Capdevila (Valencia, 1985) is an architect and researcher. She works on transdisciplinary projects dealing with landscape, urban politics and architecture. She holds a Diploma in Architecture from the Polytechnic University of Valencia (2011) and a Masters in Fine Arts from the University of Applied Arts Vienna (2016).
She is currently writing her dissertation at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, in which she deals with unfinished urban development and the potential of failed architectural projects. Her dissertation project received a DOC Fellowship from the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2019.
She has held courses at the University of Liechtenstein and at the University of Applied Arts Vienna. She is co-founder of the Institute for Linear Research, an open platform for territorial research by walking - in a straight line. As part of this project, she represented Liechtenstein at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2018.

Study program:
Dr. Phil.

Elke Krasny