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La Carpa

Seville, Spain
The ‘post-nuclear spider’ structure at the heart of La Carpa, Seville’s first self-built arts space.
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The ‘post-nuclear spider’ structure at the heart of La Carpa, Seville’s first self-built arts space.
©Woody James/Rebel Architecture

La Carpa (“the big top”) in downtown Seville was the city’s first self-built independent arts space and the home of the Varuma theatre group. It occupied an unused piece of public land and, although a popular site among city residents, it was forced to close in June 2014. The complex consisted of two second-hand circus tents, a two-storey building made from shipping containers, a skate ramp and the iconic araña – a container sitting on bent metal legs like a giant spider. All have since been taken down.

Faced with a lack of support for the arts from the city’s public administration, Cirugeda and theatre director Jorge “Bifu” Barroso created the space as “a reference for the Andalusian independent cultural world”. Barroso lived for a year on site in the Arachnid structure without electricity or water in order to secure their claim to the land. The occupation was the only way they could get preliminary approval to use the land from authorities. La Carpa subsequently mushroomed into multiple structures, most made of recycled materials. Over the four years it was open, thousands of people attended concerts, theatrical performances and workshops there.

Temporary