Professor in Residence, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
Once a clinical cure for COVID-19 is found, which infection prevention practices – both social and spatial – might remain, and what long-term impacts will they leave? This article examines the interrelationships between airborne diseases, social practices, and the design of physical and digital infrastructures for cities. Historically, infectious diseases have left long-term imprints on cities, from plumbing to hospitals. Spatial practices to prevent infection, such as clear physical barriers and car-free streets for socializing, must be implemented with a close examination of impacts on the mental, social wellbeing of both individuals and the broader community. Prevention practices examined include the use of transparent barriers that separate and connect people, the increased use of open windows, the adaptation of sidewalks and roads for physically distant socializing, and spatial negotiation and trust-building that occur in public spaces. As cities make design and policy changes to protect their citizens from the invisible virus, they must be mindful of the imprints the physical, social, and policy changes have on comprehensive wellness and equity for all people.
City dwellers have historically fled to the countryside to escape disease but returned when it was safe. US cities have experienced growth for decades, but that trend is slowing and, in some cases, reversing. Increasingly, millennials are leaving cities for the suburbs to combat escalating housing costs and lack of family-friendly amenities, and the current pandemic has sped up that rate of exodus. Urban dwelling is a very sustainable lifestyle, so how can we provide healthier and more sustainable qualities of suburban living in the city to entice people to return and/or stay? This research/design project, proposed to fill large vacant blocks in cities, produced a (sub)Urban hybrid housing model that combines qualities of suburban housing with the benefits of urban dwelling. The resulting design, based on the Charleston house typology arranged in a checkerboard pattern, provides a south-facing side yard with access from most rooms to sunlight, fresh air, shade, photovoltaic panels and a private, green, social distancing space not found in the common urban row home typology.
This article presents a project vision whose aim is to underline the necessity to completely change the current world narrative and start a new one, fully compatible with the protection of the planet and all its inhabitants. The authors started from the meaning of “device” and its role in this new narrative: a new salvific “ark,” an ecological living machine able to restore the balance between the forms of anthropization and the planet. The New Arks replace the current crystallized devices, unable to efficiently answer to the needed shift, in order to preserve the human systems, attacked by new social, ecological, and health diseases. In this vision, within the New Arks human beings regain the “lost paradise” through changes such as the implementation of green areas and biodiversity, less housing density, eco-friendly mobility, energy supply and technologies, and sustainable agricultural production. The outcome of this vision suggests the birth of a “Neoland,” a transformed world system in which the union between the natural accident and the anthropic genesis leads to the start of a new ethical and ecological narrative.
Since the eighteenth century, the healing arts have included open-air treatments, with the field hospital at the Royal Sea Bathing Infirmary near London being one of the earliest medical care facilities on record to successfully treat patients in this manner. Florence Nightingale began applying the principles of open-air treatment to architecture when she proposed an open-ward hospital design as a means to provide pure air to the sick. Her perspective would directly influence nineteenth- and early twentieth-century hospital design, which increasingly had to address the rising incidence of infectious diseases in cities. However, hospital design in the twentieth century began to rely on mechanically conditioned air rather than open-air spaces to provide filtered ventilation and reduce particulate contamination. In the twenty-first century, even as the world faces the public health crisis of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the Open-Air-Space Project conceptually revisits the open-air spaces of hospitals. The project basis is the “open plan,” whose structural origin is in part the Maison Dom-Ino system by Le Corbusier.
Inequity is the underlying cause of today’s major societal health dilemmas. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines social health as “the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age.” The success of this sequence depends on the distribution of money, power, and resources. Food is central in everyone’s life: an extended commitment for an equitable access to healthy food is necessary--even more during times of isolation due to the COVID19 pandemic. Focus group studies with community residents are important in increasing public understanding and community engagement around food accessibility, prevention of “food deserts,” and associated health issues. Urban United Roots, an organization discussed in this paper, offers an overview on how Baltimore, Maryland is assisting access to healthy food both spatially (elimination of food desert) and socially (achievement of food equity). This Baltimore-group addresses healthy food options that impact every aspect of the quality of life through the Honey Badger Promenade project in Harlem Park.
The essay critically addresses several solutions and strategies for tackling urban inequalities to uphold the recent “right to the ‘healthy’ city” spatial paradigm based on early social science works by Emily Skinner and Jeffrey R. Masuda (2013) and then developed as a urban planning component by the interdisciplinary research group Barcelona Lab for Urban Environmental Justice and Sustainability (2019). The authors propose a transdisciplinary approach in dealing with city renewal-regeneration and the safer use of its spaces. The interrelation between urbanism and architecture, including environmental design, mobility, and social relations, among others, would merge to imagine a more ecologically and socially balanced urban milieu. The paper analyses four specific case studies assumed as proper approaches in dealing with the pandemic, critically reflecting on the application of “Superblocks,” “Tactical Urbanism,” and “15-minute City” concepts by illustrating and comparing their application in three global cities (respectively Barcelona, Beijing, and Milan). In a nutshell, the authors demonstrate that these policies have their crucial feature in being effective applications formulated for different contexts, proposing successful strategies to overcome health, environment, and mobility issues in all the contemporary global cities.
Space is relational. How many relationships can occupy a space? How do they work? These are both interesting questions that we would like to answer. We know that we interact with space and that its configuration affects us: we can be aggregative while experiencing it, rather than competitive. Space has considerable power in influencing our brain. Essentially, our actions are somehow manipulated by what we see and what we touch. How does our space (peripersonal space) interfere with another’s? The idea of interaction within space (or social space) and space of selfhood thus becomes an essential subject for architecture and cannot be simply parameterized in a geometric manner. Physical space must, therefore, allow solitary or cooperative movement without alienating the individual. We base our judgments on movement, culture, personal psychical characteristics, memory, and personal experience. Taking these elements as our base, we gave a new perspective for designers to draw from the semantic, which can be rhetorical and disconnected by the function.
The increasing production of robust, information-laden, parametric architectural and urban models has outpaced a critical evaluation of the ethics of contemporary modeling and visualization practices which, rather than reflecting reality, are transforming it. This essay exposes the logics of the expropriation of architectural and urban models in a decade-old RAND Corporation endeavor to envision a comprehensive digital counterinsurgency strategy. To encourage professional and cultural agents, as well as unwitting civilian agents, to populate databases with urban and environmental data, RAND proposed weaponizing open-source, big-data urban models and participatory platforms to create multicultural, user-friendly interfaces. Conceived to appear like an exercise in open-source digital democracy and participatory knowledge-sharing that would spark emotive responses such as pride and fear, RAND focused on the cognitive and affective side of digital participation and information sharing to wage a counterinsurgency in the minds of civilians and insurgents. When the models that architects build can be weaponized to ends other than realizing buildings and cities, when they become instruments for influencing behavior and facilitating warfare, there is an urgent need for an ethics of visualization.
This paper argues that the rise of architecture as a unique discipline and the conquest of the American continent are not just chronological coincidences but interdependent variables of the same process of modernization. Traditional scholarship in architecture has not entertained those parallel developments at all. The field of architectural history and theory still treats the spatial occupation of the Americas as a consequence of the Renaissance and European modernization, despite a few decades of scholarly literature in related disciplines questioning such assumptions. (Fanon 1961; Said 1978; Dussel 1980; Bhabha 1987; Escobar 1994). Such scholarship demonstrates that the encounter of 1492 and the territorial occupation that followed played a central role in the development of Western culture in general, allowing the extrapolation of the same logic to the architectural discipline in particular.
Much historiographical research has been produced on the post-war CIAMs, demonstrating the importance of the CIAM Grid, proposed as a “thinking tool” for representing the town planning projects at the CIAM 7 in Bergamo (1949). This essay proposes a new critical and epistemological examination of the CIAM Grid based on new archival documents and on a rereading of the exact words used by Le Corbusier, who proposed to consider the Grid as an “interlocutor.” Seventy years later, we propose to go beyond the failure of CIAM 7 and to elaborate a “new Grid,” with the name of “Second Life Grid,” as a critical tool for discussing exclusively projects related to the new paradigm of recycling and reusing buildings and urban spaces. Beginning with the question of the critical legacy of the CIAM Grid, our intention was to think of a Grid conceived no longer as an instrument of dogmatic and normative thought, but as an instrument of dialogical criticism which has been tested through an open call for projects and an international conference held in Bergamo in October, 2019.
The rejection of “boredom” fueled the midcentury reaction against modernism, but little is known about the complicated presence of this mood in the architectural discourse. Far from being a mere rhetorical tool, the quip “Less is a bore” is part of Robert Venturi’s larger interest in boredom and was influenced by his reading of a book referenced repeatedly in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966): August Heckscher’s The Public Happiness (1962). A liberal writer and political activist, Heckscher situated boredom at the core of modern humanity’s alienation. While the concern with boredom was explicitly addressed in the humanities, I suggest that it was taking shape in midcentury architectural polemics under the influence of writings from other disciplines, as well as the emerging artistic practices that were deliberately embracing the “aesthetics of boredom.” Specifically, I will examine Venturi’s reading of Heckscher through two of his (unbuilt) civic projects that directly engage the issue of boredom: Three Buildings for a Town in Ohio (1965) and the entry for the Copley Square Competition (1966).
Sorbolo is a beautiful town located halfway between the ancient ducal city of Parma and the Po River, within a countryside that developed from marshes, rows of poplars, embankments, vineyards. In 2016, after an initial planning process, the municipality of Sorbolo submitted to the MIUR (Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università, e della Ricerca) a plan for the development of a school campus. The facility was meant to be open to the local territory and community, parents, and citizens wishing to have a stake in the decision-making processes that apply to the education and training of young people.
The first step was the construction of a new building complex destined to a 24 hour school system, accomodating approximately 450 students, ten to fourteen years old, supported by a cross-disciplinary approach: “a school for everyone, motivational, open, innovative.” The firm UFFICIO PROGETTI Architetti Associati Bertani & Vezzali, with the Sorbolo project, was the second winner of the MIUR international contest for the creation of 52 innovative schools over the entire Italian territory.
Irrigation remains the primary means of sustaining urbanization and stabilizing agricultural productivity in arid America. In the contest for the West, water is both wealth and power. Today’s struggle to overturn water scarcity is traceable through a long history of legislation overseeing land regulation, property speculation, societal development, and cultural attitudes, real and perceived, inscribed within the America’s aridlands. In reality, there is no magic wand - no miraculous technology - that alone will fulfill the needs of all who have been promised abundance in the aridlands. This paper proposes that revisiting John Wesley Powell’s 1893 proposal for aridland development in the context of today’s ecological conditions catalyzes an alternative response to today’s predictions of changing climates, and can provide the basis of an approach to the aridlands which builds from the enmeshed relationship between social and environmental systems.
Research-based design has been foundational for landscape architecture. Analytical layering in geographically-based mappings has become a universally applied, formulaic approach. For waste landscapes, this has generated similar redevelopment strategies for drastically differing waste landscape conditions. This site typology, however, requires more nuanced approaches. As a design-research framework, “landscape lifecycles” aims to tackle waste landscapes with integrative strategies and techniques that reactivate waste as a legible and dynamic contributor to local and regional contexts; a method for integrating multiple diverse programs rooted in economic, environmental, and social performance to form hybrid assemblages in the transformation of perceived material and spatial waste. This article highlights design-research and generative representational methods developed through projects and coursework that embrace speculation as a means of engaging with waste conditions at multiple scales — from the material to the region. These methods range from speculative geographic, process, and abstract mapping to scenario testing to time-based, projective design that document, explore, and test an argumentative hypothesis and the multi-scalar design implications of research on the imaginative potentials of waste transformation.
This paper examines rubble management as an important but often neglected component of disaster response and a powerful example of the frequent disconnect between national plans and local action. It focuses on five marginalized municipalities in Oaxaca, Mexico: Ciudad Ixtepec, Asuncion Ixtaltepec, El Espinal, Juchitan de Zaragoza, and Santa Maria Xadani. These constitute the region most affected by the Mexican earthquakes of September 2017, with roughly 58% of inhabitants suffering either partial or total loss of their houses. The paper builds on the results of fifty-one interviews, a cross-sectional survey with 384 residents, and a mapping analysis to reveal the challenges of post-disaster planning across scales. The results show that local perspectives were given little consideration in nationally-led rubble management plans, and that these documents were likely shaped by concerns over what constituted institutional legitimacy, rather than attention to local context. The paper concludes with a discussion of the findings through the lens of institutional isomorphism and offers recommendations for more effective post-disaster rubble management, particularly centered on increasing the involvement and capacity of residents, municipal governments, and other key institutions.
Aldo Rossi and the Spirit of Architecture
By Diane Y. F. Ghirardo
London: Yale University Press
254 mm x 203 mm
135 color + 5 b/w illustrations
US$65 / £50.00 GBP (hardback)
Women [Re]Build: Stories, Polemics, Futures
By Franca Trubiano, Ramona Adlakha, and Ramune Bartuskaite (eds.)
Novato CA, USA: Applied Research and Design / Oro Editions, 2019, 2018
241 mm x 165 mm
US$ 29.95 (paperback)
This article wants to offer a brief overview of my experience as an architectural photographer and of “The Mies Project” in particular, on which I have been working on for the past few years. My approach to photography, based on the latest digital technology but also on the Leica M-System, is briefly outlined. In the past, the question was how to obtain information. Nowadays, the proper structuring of information is what really matters. Architectural Portraits, a small selection of which from “The Mies Project” are here presented, are “intimate gazes,” prioritizing the relationship of the detail of a building with its surrounding, the interaction between construction details, lighting and weather conditions. In this sense, Mies’ works not only have sparked my interest in architectural photography, but have been also the perfect poetic partner for my research.
While the practice of architecture has traditionally been a male-dominated field in India, gender discourse in architecture has been slowly shifting the gender balance towards an increased participation of women in architectural practice and academics, as both leaders and team members. This paper explores the nuances of feminist spatial practices locating itself in the state of Kerala, India, that has historically unique gender politics. The paper draws on an ethnographically informed study of twelve women architects, using “Master Bedrooms” as a discursive tool to capture their engagement in professional practice. The study revealed that the critical feminist spatial practice is not watertight nor a conscious way of practice. It does not even require conformity to any one idea of feminism. These women practitioners deploy multiple modes of engaging with and challenging the dominant norms of professional practice. These range from conscious acts of individual subversion to organizational structuring, from overt challenges to quiet resistance. This paper offers to problematise contemporary discourse on critical feminist spatial practices in the context of India and thereby, contribute to critical spatial pedagogies.
Characterized by continuity, inventiveness, and a fervent exploration of the relationship between architecture and the environment at large, the work of Lisbeth Sachs was included in the 1979 issue of the Aktuelles Bauen magazine on women and architecture. This contribution proposes an in-depth review of Sachs’ underexplored work, suggesting a better understanding of her role as a practicing woman architect at a time when this task was not a matter of course. It places an emphasis on the dialogue Sachs established with her contemporaries, on the dense network of experiences that shaped her design approach, and on the ways it intersected with the late twentieth-century discourse on the relationship between architecture, ecology, and nature. It is not coincidental that the work of Frei Otto would have a long-lasting influence on Sachs’ design experimentation, informing her theoretical and applied design projects. Her design exploration, too, was influenced by the technological advances, the societal changes and the shifts in the cultural agency of architecture, proposing each time a solution that addressed, rather than excluded, its surrounding context, cultural, physical, or environmental.
In Portugal, the participation of female architects in the development of the profession – in the broad sense of the word: project, research, education, criticism, and policy – is far from having been identified, problematized, and disseminated. The research project W@ARCH.PT (Women Architects in Portugal: Building Visibility, 1942-1986) strives to give visibility to female architects – revealing “who?”, “when?”, and “how?” – and contribute to expanding the history of Portuguese architecture, as well as developing feminist studies and ideas within the discipline. The strategies chosen to carry out this ongoing research intersect with feminist theories and epistemologies, outside and inside architecture. The issues raised require a critical understanding of the processes that sustain the silencing of female architects’ voices, imposing limitations on how we understand the profession in its many facets. The feminist historical reflection that we propose is based on the idea that combining the production of knowledge and professional practices is crucial to change gender biases and women’s oppression in both fields.