ESCAPING THE STATUS QUO: ARCHITECTURE FOR A CHANGE

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by Réka Pásztor Turák 

Times are changing so as paradigms are shifting. From fast to slow, from private to shared, from exclusive to inclusive. This kind of alteration will probably be taken to a bigger crowd in terms of architecture, as the 15th International Architecture Exhibition’s director has been appointed in the person of Alejandro Aravena.

Aravena is the executive director of the firm ELEMENTAL S.A. His name is associated with projects like the Quinta Monroy social housing project, through which he developed the “half-finished home” typology for governments to provide quality homes at incredibly low-prices; his “inside-out” design for the Pontifical Catholic University’s Innovation Center UC with Anacelto Angelini, which reduced energy costs by two-thirds; or his master plan for rebuilding a resilient coastline in Constitución Chile after the city was hit by the earthquake back in 2010.

The pattern behind each project is the initiative that city design shall solve social and political conflicts.

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So we may wonder whether this means a wind of change when it comes to the future of architecture. The exhibition titled “Reporting from the Front” will be definitely about bringing the topic of socially conscious architecture to a broader audience. What is it like to improve the quality of life while working on the margins, under tough circumstances; facing pressing challenges will be amongst the primary issues. Or what does it take to be on the cutting edge trying to conquer new fields.

Aravena is proposing his concern of what he perceives as the social reality of contemporary architects, the power of design in mobilising people to act,

and “how architecture can introduce a broader notion of gain” in the face of ever greedier and evermore powerful development companies. The theme capitalizes on the growing trend (or rather call it movement) of socially conscious architecture in the first place that has been brewing for some years now.

“The 15th International Architecture Exhibition will be about focusing and learning from architectures that through intelligence, intuition or both of them at the same time, are able to escape the status quo. We would like to present cases that, despite the difficulties, instead of resignation or bitterness, propose and do something. We would like to show that in the permanent debate about the quality of the built environment, there is not only need but also room for action.” – said Aravena.

In the past, the scale of the designs grew large, but how many people were architects really engaging with? The level of participation is the question here.

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„This Biennale intends to react once again to the gap between architecture and civil society, which in recent decades has transformed architecture into spectacle on the one hand, yet made it dispensable on the other. Among architects of the new generation, Alejandro Aravena is, in our opinion, the one who can best describe this reality and highlight its vitality” – added Paolo Baratta, the Chairman of Venice Biennale.

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The 15th International Architecture Exhibition will take place from May 28th to November 27th 2016 (Preview May 26th and 27th) in the Giardini and the Arsenale and in various other venues in Venice, titled “Reporting from the Front”.