News & Office Updates


Looking out | Looking in - Designing Better Futures: Insights from Barcelona


Looking out | Looking in - Designing Better Futures: Insights from Barcelona

La Borda photo by Lluc Miralles

Introducing Lacol: A Like-Minded Practice in Social Housing

Barcelona-based Cooperativa Lacol exemplifies the new wave of European firms excelling in cooperative housing. Lacol combines a strong social commitment with sustainable design and affordability, offering a perfect synergy for Six Degrees.

In March, Lacol founding member Carles Baiges invited us to Barcelona to see their work firsthand. Six Degrees' Horaci Sanchez, a native Catalan himself, had recently introduced him to our Ferrars & York project while Carles was in Melbourne, presenting at the Living Cities Forum. Horaci gained valuable insights into how Lacol integrates community-oriented values with architectural excellence.

The current housing crisis in Australia demands that architectural practices show a strong social commitment. Places like Europe or Uruguay provide excellent examples with a rich tradition of cooperative housing models that prioritise community, affordability, and sustainability.

Learning from Barcelona's Housing Evolution

Over the last 10 years, Barcelona has been rapidly increasing its social housing under the leadership of figures like former mayor, Ada Colau, who focused on prioritising housing as a basic right, rather than an investment. Colau's efforts have led to innovative measures, such as converting private residential blocks into council homes and providing protection for people threatened by eviction. The changes required developers to allocate 30% of new developments for social housing.

After the 2008 recession, a crop of young architecture offices started exploring the non-for-profit cooperative housing space in Barcelona, and Lacol has been at the forefront of this movement, developing projects like La Borda and La Balma.

In coordination with partner organisations, Lacol oversees the entire process—from securing long-term leases of publicly owned land to setting up tenant cooperatives and designing the buildings.

Projects built under this system are kept off-market, ensuring that when a unit becomes available, it reverts to the cooperative, maintaining its accessibility and affordability. Architecturally, these projects exemplify high-quality design that is both community-focused and sustainable. They dedicate generous areas to communal use and incorporate a range of passive design features and sustainable materials.

The Way Forward

Lacol’s work in Barcelona demonstrates that high-quality, socially responsible, and sustainable housing is both possible and necessary. Similar to Australia, Spain has a high percentage of housing ownership. The recent wave of non-profit cooperatives in Spain provides a valuable reference as we work to address Australia’s housing access and affordability crisis.

Let's work together to build a future where everyone has access to quality, affordable, and sustainable homes.

Photos by Horaci Sanchez, Barcelona, March 2024