Architecture is a reflection of its society; its values and aesthetics are representatives of the priorities of its time. And so, as professionals, it is our responsibility to stop and think why and in which way is our discipline related to the present day and how it can make contributions.
Looking at the current relevance of such a static discipline is hard without understanding its contributions. The incursion into sustainability, the engineering feats, and the innovation in materials have characterized the industry in recent years. In spite of previous efforts to be up to date, it is necessary to stop and make inquiries on the routes and transformations needed in order to guide architecture.
Container exclusive, three architectural firms offer us a glimpse into their goals, concerns, and reflections on the matter and what they expect for the next decade.
We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us. -Winston Churchill
Architecture facing the future
Víctor Manuel Rico Espínola. (MAUD).ORU
Architecture has acquired popularity in the past years, mainly within an elite world, but this has been proportionally inverse to its disempowerment, cultural disenchantment, and inability to offer the world design alternatives with the required urgency. Our practice questions the role of the architect under the light of the most pressing matters in the 21
st century and we ask ourselves which new methods and tools could be employed to better understand the multiple and complex challenges, to communicate the new opportunities to specialize in inhabiting the Earth in a sustainable way in a more effective manner.
Traditional architecture continues to operate in short sight and to scales which can hardly fulfill challenges with the required urgency. We believe that design’s essential purpose is to show that our experience in this world can always be better. In order to achieve this to the required scale, we should leave isolation behind and be fully open to what is complex, thus architecture has to be redefined and practiced from new collaboration domains and scales, so it will not lose relevance when facing other disciplines, which are also looking for solutions. To ratify our role as “guardians of the spatial contract”, it is necessary to erase architecture’s borders with other fields of knowledge, in order to create new technologies, prototypes, and models that allow us to go over past and present and build new alternative future worlds.
Consolidating a shared alternative vision requires not only the leadership of designers with good technical skills, who are able to transmit new opportunities, but also of designers who dare to decipher the challenges of urban politics to have a higher incidence. In the same way, if we manage to synapse between our creativity, our spatial intelligence, and the huge potential behind new technologies, we could be facing the birth of new design methods that can help us recalibrate the interests of multiple actors, balance the distribution of co-responsibilities, and move forward through experimentation.
There is no silver bullet, no discipline is able to solve the most pressing challenges on its own, and no alternative world will be possible without the maturation of a designer ecosystem willing to experiment through collaboration, or without technicians and politicians determined to take risks.
Finally, we bet on “legacy projects”, understanding the term “legacy” not from a classic definition of something that will last forever, but from a position of a good project that has to be useful to the world and to humanity by representing the best of its time, starting from a brave position and a collaborative experimentation, and finally, allowing an assessment of its performance to be made in order to enable learning in others and be taken as reference of something that can be improved in the future.
The future of our professional practice
Juan Carlos Baumgartner. spAce
I am not really one to have new year resolutions, although this does not mean we do not have goals or challenges at the firm. I believe that we will see an evolution of our industry in the decade that begins particularly, as consequence of the fast changes that are taking place, mainly, as a result of exponential technologies. There are industries that have suffered the disruption of such technologies for some years now, but there are others which, for different reasons, have managed to be less affected.
In this context of exponential changes, architecture and design have been part of the sectors which have not changed much; if we leave aside formal changes and building materials, we architects still understand the profession in a way that is similar to the one our colleagues had 100 years ago.
E.O Wilson writes it clearly, “we have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and technologies as if we were gods”. We have to move within those spheres from a perspective that has not evolved much from the medieval one, understanding that we are cave men with sophisticated tools.
This might sound simple, but it poses a huge challenge for those of us who believe it is time to make a revolution within a profession. It is in this way that our firm has been involved for a few years now in the neuroscience practice, exercising what some might call neuroarchitecture, a relatively new field where we seek to have a deeper understanding of the relationship between human beings and their environment, by using the latest technology and medicine. The implications of delving inside the cognitive science world are tremendous and question even the definition of architecture itself.
This year, we have programmed to present the concept “Spaces of AWE” during the Venice Biennale, the work resulting from years of research and more recently, the collaboration with the IUAV University of Venice. It is a methodology that uses neuroscience knowledge in the built environment to create an AWE mental state in users, having as consequence what psychologists know as deconstruction of the self, allowing for better social interactions, empathy, and wellness for users.
Since the political and social orders surrounding us are totally unbalanced and absent from any positivist ideology, architecture cannot be satisfied by simply complying with what society asks from us. The architecture for the new decade has to be subversive, provocative, and questioning. In the words of German architect Heinrich Klotz, architecture is “a friendly protest against the seriousness, honesty, and solemnity of the world”. We shall work from the discipline, as cultural actors, and not become activists or TED-talkers. We shall look for our contribution from our field of action, not from its periphery.