Not so long ago Madrid started to realize that when projects that involved bringing people together came to life good things also came in return. Collaborative projects, urban gardens, co-working spaces, art galleries… Places, where people could experiment with their ideas, were always a risky step when trying to begin a stable business. The very idea that projects like these could make a whole neighborhood vibrate made La Casa Encendida come to life. (The Enlighted House)
The heroes behind this project are many; a group of enthusiasts that has been evolving and incorporating new, young members that filled the house with a new energy. We talked to one of them, Lucía Casani, communications director of La Casa Encendida, who took us through what this enlightening is all about.
Thank you for having us Lucía. We would like you to tell us what La Casa Encendida is about. But first, how did you get into the house? How did all this start for you at such a young age?
Well, I started when I finished my studies, running the cinema department with a team in which we were all bellow 30 years old. It was really exciting to start a project that was only a sketch when I took it on.
How has La Casa been changing with time?
La Casa Encendida became part of the Montemadrid Foundation, that works with several projects (schools, social work, etc), now on a smaller scale because we used to get a percentage of our funding from some social work and CSR actions from banks, but we don’t count on that anymore.
We are now going through an interesting phase since we are a private foundation with a public vocation. That means we can win in both senses. Regarding the public aspect, you have to listen to more people that are involved; and the private side helps us take more risks to bet on more ideas. The aim has always been to get different audiences, and it’s something that despite the changes La Casa keeps on pursuing.
How does this diversification in projects take form?
We work mainly in four different areas: culture, solidarity, environment, and education. We work in a transversal way at the same time with the four of them. That’s the way we manage to reach different audiences that would never have discovered La Casa if we would have put the focus on one topic only. We are a mix between what a regular cultural institution is, such as a modern art museum, or an international organization, and a common cultural neighborhood center.
You define yourself as a resources center. What do you mean by that?
Well, an example could be a simple fact that we have free WiFi. This can sound normal but by providing things like this a lot of people come in to gather and mingle. Just to study or to work, but by coming they discover a new art exhibition or meet somebody interesting. This build connections and networks. This is exactly what we aim for: to be a meeting point, to provide people with spaces to make them come together.
Regarding education, what is your role exactly? How do you work on this?
We are a non-regulated formation center. This means that we provide young people with knowledge, with courses that can be useful for their future or their studies, but we are not a certified university, so we are not considered official. This idea of providing knowledge comes with developing different projects for young people, such as short and practical courses, to generate that meeting point and for example give them the opportunity to meet professionals within the sector they want to develop their lives in.
The cultural world can be a hard land when it comes to success. How do you manage to keep creating new ideas with such a wide range of different projects?
Well, it was a mix of different factors. For instance, we were all a young group of members eager to develop something new, with a lot of energy and passion. And on the other hand, we were in charge of a newly born project that was unique in Madrid. There wasn’t a project by then that unified all these four areas. Now the scene has changed a lot but back then we had the opportunity to create a project that didn’t exist.
So do you think La Casa Encendida was an inflection point for the city to welcome more ideas like this?
Well, maybe not the precursors, but we definitely were pretty much innovators by putting together what a museum like Reina Sofia could be making and mixing it with activities typical from a simple neighborhood center. It's now when people talk about collaborative and participation centers.
How would you define the people from Madrid? How are La Casa Encendida’s visitors?
Well, our public is really diverse, we have different profiles visiting us, but I would define them as curious. I think we are curious here in Madrid and I think it is the most important thing. If you are capable of generating curiosity among people that’s already the biggest success.
Thank you Lucía for your time and sharing your point of view about La Casa Encendida, we wish you good luck!
Words by city captain Marta
Photography by La Casa Encendida