2017 is in the past. Nevertheless, the year has left us a series of lessons, new wisdom and better tools to help us face the challenges of 2018. What surprises will this year bring us?
We asked our editors at Plataforma Arquitectura (ArchDaily’s Spanish arm) to make predictions based on what they’ve learnt in 2017, and to share with readers the topics they expect to be in the limelight in 2018.
Their answer: Women in architecture, bamboo, millennials way of living, social architecture, ru 2
ral architecture and architects going on-site. Find out everything you need to know to start 2018!
1. Understanding how millennials occupy and use space
By Piedad Rojas
We know that the millennial generation goes against the current. They are determined and aspire to experience things in a very different way compared to previous generations. According to surveys, this generation of young people are less interested in marriage, they get married and start families later, or some simply decide that they will not have children. In their hectic lives there is no time for domestic chores. Many of them share housing with friends.
There is a boom in the freelancer trend and the autonomous spirit of the Millennials. This is the generation that is projected to become their own bosses. They encourage the use of the same space for more than one activity, so having a home that can adapt to a workspace is key.
For this reason, it is no longer rare to find small, modern, multifunctional and minimalist apartments when looking for properties. The behaviour and habits of Millennials point to minimal spaces that are highly flexible. 2018 will be the year to address the needs of this growing trend and adapt them to architecture from the human-millennial perspective, where an environment can quickly morph into a new one, strategically combining innovation, flexibility and a vision of the future.
2. Architects facing the construction of their own work: the urgency of being on site
In 2017 we asked our readers if architects have adequate training in relation to materials and construction processes. The results were overwhelming and the conclusion was rather negative: universities aren’t training us enough and we face the consequences of that in our work life, where we have to learn by force.Increasing our knowledge about materials and construction -from the beginning of our education- can’t be optional or relegated to the background. We need to debate and defend the importance of a good design now.
We have seen the emergence of a series of explorations that prioritize work at a 1: 1 scale, not only at the university level, but also guided by groups of architects that present a collaborative and in situ approach, based on learning by doing. Reconnecting with the materialization of our projects is a growing trend but it should never have stopped being that way. It is crucial that this practice returns to the center of our work.
To understand architecture in its constructive complexity is to be aware that this can only be realized if we work in multidisciplinary collaboration with others. It is difficult to deliver the desired results if we maintain a strict position as ‘project managers’, without involving ourselves in the entire process. While this need is reflected lightly in the curricula of universities, at ArchDaily we are striving to enhance and multiply content related to this approach.
3. The challenge of current architecture to approach the rural context
As Rem Koolhaas said in 2016; ‘The current challenge of architecture is to understand the rural world’, an area normally ignored by architects who for decades have focused much of their energy on cities. Considering that these areas only make up 2% of the earth’s surface. Koolhaas appeals to us to change this perspective and understand that the future is in intervening in “bare, semi-abandoned, sparsely populated, sometimes badly connected spaces”, since this is where we as architects are seeing accelerated processes of change, of which we must take the lead.
Lately, a small global trend has begun that understands the need to go to these areas and get to know these communities in order to incorporate, from a contemporary perspective, their ways of living, materials, traditional techniques and vernacular forms to guide the architect to make friendlier, more respectful and harmonious decisions with the natural and social environment in which they are inserted. Firms such as Talca Group have realised this, designing projects and small interventions in situ that welcome these particularities and encourage the residents themselves to carry them out.
This trend has only just begun and is expected to last well into 2018. This year we will probably see more and more architects encouraging the development of projects in areas far from the big cities, taking inspiration from the natural landscape or traditional constructions that originate there.
4. Social architecture faces the return of the pendulum
The media that covers and discusses architecture doesn’t cover all of architecture. It’s not common for those who criticize it to also be part of so-called mainstream architecture, instead of the defenders of social architecture, a trend that has been praised and trivialized in equal parts for visualizing and valuing informal architecture, vernacular techniques and a commitment to those who have been left behind in society. Popular with new generations, this trend reached its peak with the selection of Alejandro Aravena as the Director of the XV Biennial of Architecture of Venice and winner of the Pritzker Prize in 2016. Of course, social architecture is not the universal solution nor the only valid expression of the discipline -Josep María Montaner speaks about seven other contemporary trends-, but the anecdote that heads this paragraph reveals a defensive force that can be seen even in 2018, reflecting the potential return of the pendulum.
The next edition of the Pan-American Biennial of Quito added the word “Architecture” in its title. Didn’t it mention architecture before? It did, but the organization hints in its statement that it has followed a different direction in recent editions, where design criticism (and architectural projects) were replaced by an interest in participatory processes, the story and the “emotional layer” of projects, as Fredy Massad comments.
Although social architecture blew up as a reaction to local academicism and the preferential and aesthetic attitude of the discipline, it monopolized the successes of contemporary production, progressively becoming part of the establishment. Events like the 2018BAQ can set the tone for upcoming Latin American events in which we will be able to see what paths the different branches of social architecture will take. Like all avant-gardes, we will have to face successes, failures and contradictions.
5. The post-digital era enters the graphic representation timeline in architecture
In architecture, representation techniques are constantly evolving, replacing each other by advancing technology and the ever changing preferences of society. It is undeniable that currently, digital tools have come to dominate architectural representation, placing hyperrealistic images above those of traditional representative methods.
However, through technology we are able to create increasingly realistic images of spaces that have yet to be built, with many architects advocating to preserve this intimate relationship between art and architecture in the representative stage of design that was consolidated centuries ago.
Recently there has been a strong presence on social networks, mainly Instagram, of a new language of representation that permeates the work of architects. This new trend uses historical art references and collage that were characteristic of the sixties and seventies and has been adopted at firms like Archigram and Superstudio. The fusion achieved with the new digital tools results in a more artistic dialogue about the intentions and references of some of the current architecture firms.
By merging the available digital tools with the representative intention of collage, some contemporary architecture firms have chosen to move away from the dominant hyperrealism, instead creating a new trend: post-digital representation. Undoubtedly, this is just the beginning of a new stage of negotiation between the cold precision of technology and the expressive quality inherent in architecture.
6. Political Architecture: creativity faces the regulations and the future of cities
How many creative experiences in Latin American architecture are being developed outside the rules? The evidence overwhelmingly shows that in the most heterogeneous of urban contexts, creativity and innovation were the only determining factors to do justice to the inherent needs of adopted socioeconomic models. Regulated urban utopias were not always sustained because they were subject to the actions of others, which are in turn subject to political and economic ups and downs. How can creative Latin American experiences – putting aside the rules – come to par with the regulations, and thus the future of the cities? The answer abounds historically in the demonstration of the architect’s social and political role.
As the Spanish architect Andrés Jaque mentioned in the XX Biennial of Architecture and Urbanism of Chile 2017, by default “all architects are politicians” and the real question is what forms of policy each one of us is willing to defend. In this regard, political action is a tool to enhance, incorporate or transform creativity.
What do architects become? An architect involved in politics is a creative activist working on regulatory issues who pushes the limits in order to serve a social impact. Enhancing the proactive and political role that the architectural discipline identifies with is a trend that will change the future of our cities. There is a tendency to circumscribe creativity around the regulations, and this process will influence the future of cities.
In a final example, Mexico City will make regulatory changes to its creative outputs and shift to focus on resilience in light of the last natural disaster. In Buenos Aires, the new urban code will change its creativity in line with the homogeneity of its urban fabric. There will be more to come.
7. The revenge of women in architecture
“An ideology that advocates that women should have the same rights as men”. This is the definition of feminism from the Royal Spanish Academy. Starting with this principle, a large number of movements have emerged in recent years that demand better working conditions for women and the end of inequality between men and women.
In 2018 some movements took over public spaces in the form of marches in different cities around the world and several campaigns spread on social networks using hashtags such as: “#NiUnaMenos”, “#HeForShe” and “#MeToo”. If it still wasn´t clear to everyone, 2017 made it explicit that women do not earn the same as men, that they suffer discrimination and harassment at work, that they work longer hours and that they are more susceptible to being fired for being mothers.
No job is excluded from this. That is why this year, coming from the discipline of architecture, a series of columns and events emerged that proposed talking about the issue as well as empowering women in the world of architecture. This new writing encouraged them to take up the space lost in the public debate.
In 2018 the subject will continue to be in vogue, but this time not only through statements and speeches, but through concrete actions. This year, the Venice Biennial of Architecture will be directed by two women architects; Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, and the list of curators in charge of the national pavilions already has a much higher female participation than in previous years. Some examples of such countries are: Chile, Spain, Peru, Israel and Brazil. Who knows… Maybe this year the Pritzker will surprise us by adding a female architect to the small list of female winners.
8. Learning from Bamboo to reinforce our sensitivity and efficiency
Bamboo has always been present. It has been worked with and used for generations in the warmest parts of the planet, extending its use along the equator and many kilometers beyond to Africa, Asia, America and Oceania. Although some call it the ‘green gold of the poor man’, this multifaceted material, with more than 1,500 documented uses, has slowly ceased to be associated with poverty. In the field of construction, its current use is related to resistance, versatility and efficiency, and is linked to the beauty of the organic and innate respect for the environment.
Thanks to its strong reputation and its enormous potential, bamboo is a trend in 2018 because it is an essential material. In a world suffocated by pollution and waste generated by the construction industry, it is even more important to learn from the artisans who have used bamboo for years. They do so with an instinctiveness and fluidity that contrasts the complex construction processes of other materials.
We should also investigate other materials and techniques with which bamboo can be used. It is not about forcing the use of bamboo when it is not necessary or warranted. It is simply a call to fascinate ourselves with its harmony, and to be better architects through its use, since using bamboo requires a change of mentality. It is a material that makes sense and produces architecture in agreement with humans and the environment, and this may be its most valuable teaching: it seems to have been made to be used by us.
The first step is to open ourselves up to realize this, and then you can start immediately.
9. A glimpse of the direction of post-earthquake architecture
Throughout history, architecture has played an important role in response to the reconstruction needs after different types of natural disasters. The challenges and limitations presented in states of emergency have forced the architectural community again and again to produce unconventional proposals that improve the quality of life of devastated communities. In recent years, various post-disaster reconstruction initiatives have received deserved recognition for their altruistic work and ability to solve problems through design.
In 2014, the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban received the Pritzker Prize for his project that “exudes optimism where others perceive challenges almost impossible to overcome.” Ban has gained international recognition for his experimental and innovative use of materials such as paper and cardboard in buildings, and for his efforts to help homeless people after natural disasters or in refugee situations.
Last year, the Post-Earthquake Reconstruction Project in Guangming from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Kunming University of Science and Technology was named the ‘2017 Building of the Year’ at the closing gala of the World Architecture Festival (WAF) in Berlin. The team’s architects developed a new and economical compacted earth construction technique that will be more resistant to seismic activity, and which the judges considered could be applied in any part of the world affected by seismic problems and poverty levels.
In Mexico, after two devastating earthquakes that occurred in the center of the country in September 2017, reconstruction initiatives have emerged, led by the country’s architectural association. In a series of round-table discussions and workshops, topics such as the seismic resistance of different local materials and self-construction were discussed.
Although the word ‘trend’ tends to refer to something fleeting and superficial, we consider that there is a new and growing wave of consciousness in architecture, which seeks to focus its efforts on the places where it is needed most.