CONTEMPORARY V E R N A C U L A R A R C H I T E C T U R E
M A N I F E S T CONTEMPORARY V E R N A C U L A R A R C H I T E C T U R E
M A N I F E S T
THE SO ECOLO PROB A CONTEMPORARY VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE PERSPECTIVE
CONTEMPO NACULAR A TURE AS A
OCIAL & OGICAL BLEM
ORARY VERARCHITECN ANSWER.
MY GOALS MY VISION
& A PROJECT AS AN EXAMPLE
Architecture WITHOUT A SOCIAL MEANING can
NO longer be considered as ARCHITECTURE
Talking about the need of social justification is not the same as pleading that architects only build social housing from now on. Architects can still build museums and office buildings. But the way they look at the problem should change. Architecture is not about the biggest, the loudest, the shiniest. That’s just show. If we want to go further than only a show, we need to realise that our work has an impact in this world. With intelligence, intuition, or preferably both at the same time, we can escape the status quo in architecture.
THERE’S NOT ONLY NEED BUT ALSO ROOM FOR ACTION. Architecture has a great impact. If we make mistakes in the estimation of that impact, we screw up for multiple generations and there’s little to learn out of it. The first step for not making mistakes is maybe the most important one: In every project we need to identify what the right question is. Without the right question, no right solution. The most complicated questions often ask for the easiest solutions.
WITH A SOCIAL MEANING only REAL ARCHITECTURE
Architecture is the
There is nothing worse than answering well the wrong question. - Alejandro Aravena
starÂŚchi|tect noun // informal, chiefly , derogatory // A famous or high-profile architect // Used in a sentence: a welcome departure from the ego-driven era of the starchitect
ARCHITECT Someone that reacts 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. A true social architect uses his tools to bring the non-architect architecture to another level.
THE PROBLEM OF THE UNSEEN URBANISATION People are gravitating more and more towards the cities. This is good news. Evidence shows that people are better off in cities. But this shift towards the cities creates a challenge of urbanization which we have never seen before. Alejandro Aravena calls the problem the “3S” menace: “The scale, speed and scarcity of means with which we will have to respond to this phenomenon has no precedence in history.” Aravena explains further: “For you to have an idea, out of the three billion people living in cities today, one billion are under the line of poverty. By 2030, out of the five billion people that will be living in cities, two billion are going to be under the line of poverty. That means that we will have to build a one million-person city per week with 10,000 dollars per family during the next 15 years. A one million-person city per week with 10,000 dollars per family. If we don’t solve this equation, it is not that people will stop coming to cities. They will come anyhow, but they will live in slums, favelas and informal settlements.”.
“So what to do?”, Aravena continues, “Well, an answer may come from favelas and slums themselves.” Aravena talks about his work in Iquique, where he was able to build a home for 100 families with only $10,000 subsidy. To solve these kind of questions, we need to innovate. We need to stop looking at problems on the same way. Including families helps understanding the constraints and including them in the design process can provide architects of new insights. You need to rephrase the problem and find the most simple answer to a complex question. The way Aravena looked at the problem was innovative. The budget they got was half what they would need. So instead of looking at it as a small house, they looked at it as half a good one. Aravena: “When you rephrase the problem as half of a good house instead of a small one, the key question is, which half do we do? And we thought we had to do with public money the half that families won’t be able to do individually. We identified five design conditions that belonged to the hard half of a house, and we went back to the families to do two things: join forces and split tasks. Our design was something in between a building and a house. As a building, it could pay for expensive, well-located land, and as a house, it could expand. If, in the process of not being expelled to the periphery while getting a house, families kept their network and their jobs, we knew that the expansion would begin right away. So we went from this initial social housing to a middle-class unit achieved by families themselves within a couple of weeks.”
x billion in cities
billion in cities poverty 2015 x billionxin x billion in poverty
x billion in cities
2030 x billion x billion in cities in poverty x billion in poverty
CITIES WILL KEEP ON GROWING.
THERE WILL BE MORE FAVELLAS THERE IS NEED FOR GOOD SOCIAL HOUSING
Aravenaâ€™s thinking is incontestably linked with contemporary vernacular architecture. This kind of architecture is all about helping people with less means to have better life conditions. It rejects the standard way of looking at problems and goes back to the roots of a place. Itâ€™s based on collaboration between the community and architect. Contemporary vernacular thinks about architecture not only as a spatial, but also as a social project. By including the community, con-
temporary vernacular is able to hook a project on the traditions of the community. This makes sure that the project respects the values of a community. With the community, the local ways of building can be discovered and explored. Materials used in traditional ways of building are often locally produced. This has ecological, but also social advantages. Locally produced means more input in the local community, and more connectedness of the community.
The gap between poor and rich is big. Too big. Architecture is a privilege in countries all around the world. But we should realise that this is not logical. People with less means need our help more.
As architects, we can make a difference. We should use our tools to help people with less means to create a better living standard. The question is, how far can we go? The line between helping and dictating is quite thin. Itâ€™s important that we work together with the community to know what works for them and what doesnâ€™t. I found the following thought about this in a text of Charles Correa:
THE TWO MAIN TASKS OF THE THIRD WORLD ARCHITECT
Those questions are a main problem in the third world. What’s the role of the architect in the third world? We can’t create totally new systems of cities and expect people to behave as we planned. So what can we do as an architect?
T H E S I S
This topic and the text of Charles Correa really spoke to me that much that I want to do my thesis about it. Especially after my experiences here in Costa Rica. A little summary of how I came to this subject: Costa Rica is often labelled as the Switzerland of Central America: a country with an exquisite nature, ecological leader and no army since 1948. But it is no difficult task to see the other side of the Costa Rican ‘ success story’. In the capital San José, a lot of the problems where Costa Rica has to deal with are really quickly noticeable. The city is extremely chaotic and feels claustrophobic. The big amount of litter and air full of pollution prick the ecological bubble instantaneously. The social welfare also shows its other face in the city. Just outside of the commercial centre you can find impoverished neighbourhoods where homeless people wander the streets. Prostitution and drug use are openly visible. I experience Costa Rica as a country of opposites: gated communities for the happy few with slums
just around the corner; the rich, wondrous nature and the chaotic, claustrophobic cities; the expensive life standard and the scant wage of the Tico’s… The Costa Rican reality doesn’t answer to the image I had before I left for my exchange. But I’m not embittered about the fact that I chose for Costa Rica to spent my semester. My stay here has strengthen my ideas about what I want to do with architecture. Architecture needs to be a crowbar that improves the life quality of the people. We need to realise that architecture can contribute largely to the way in which we form our future society. For social and ecological issues, architecture can be a part of the solution. With my master thesis, I want to investigate the role of the architect in this. I ask myself the following questions: What is the role of the architect in third world countries? How far does the architect determine the building? Can/should the architect determine the way of living with his building? How far does the collaboration with the community go? And when do you have to take your hands of the building?
What’s sustainable? Putting tons of solar panels on the roof or use 20 cm of (possibly toxic) insulation might not be as sustainable as we think.
SO WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY ?? Architects are putting the same high rises all over the world; It’s copy-paste in China, Dubai, African cities, Europe, America…. I have serious questions about this. Not only is this kind of architecture totally not responding to peoples tradition, but it also goes against every logical thought of building in different climates
IT’S TIME FOR A NEW GENERATION OF ARCHITECTS who realises that it’s
about time to stop dreaming about prestigious glass high-rise towers in every part of the world. The obsession with the high-rise tower is not contemporary but totally outdated. Because this tower fascinationdoesn’t only neglect different cultures, but it’s also a total violation of logical climatologic thinking.
In a lot of climates, glass towers just don’t work. They need to be packed with air conditioning, heating systems, ventilation systems, triple glass, elaborate insulation... This all for the sake of a good interior climate in the tower the architect envisioned. Some of those technics are portrayed as ecological. But the opposite is often true. These systems consume a lot of energy to manufacture, and keep spilling it while in use. Contemporary vernacular architecture goes back to the vernacular way of building and gives it a modern twist. The fact that it’s based on a traditional way of building makes that the building can be much more ecological than those which aren’t. This is because the vernacular way of building is based on locally produced materials, which are used to get the best climate indoors.
This is an image of a project I made in the first semester of my third year. It is my first project that has some traces of the contemporary vernacular thinking. We had to design a hostel in the city centre of Ghent and could choose our own site. I completely based my choice of site on a brick wall on the site. That brick wall fits perfectlyin the surrounding, itâ€™s bold and strong, so I couldnâ€™t think of something else to use for this project. The old brick wall inspired me so much, that I decided to multiply it on top of itself and use that as the outer shell of my hostel. I made this Photoshop on the first day of the project and the outside of the project didnâ€™t change much during the whole semester. Brick is a vernacular material in Belgium. It has been used for ages, and is locally produced. We have clay-mines and brick factories all over the c. Bricks are also quite ecological. They are made from clay, a natural material and they can be reused when a building is tore down, which makes the already low energy consumption of the production even lower..
MY EVOLUTION IN THINKING When I began my architecture studies, I had no idea what I was starting. I just chose this study because I wanted a creative study combined with sciences. I wasn’t really passionate about architecture at that time. So I also didn’t knew much about it. I thought architecture was all about designing the shiniest, prettiest and showiest buildings. Although I wasn’t really a fan of the typical starchitect’s work, I was convinced that I was going to build minimalistic, white, clean houses.
I’m also concerned about the way a lot of architects look at the ecological issue. Aren’t we overthinking and overcomplicating it?
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Unfortunatly, not every assignment gives the freedom to really push these ideals. But I’ve noticed that the ones where I could, are still the ones I love the most.
C O N C E R N S
As already became clear in this booklet, I am very concerned about the social problems we have to deal with. The social inequality, exploding cities… There’s need for GOOD social housing and I have the feeling too much architects don’t put their heart into a social housing project.
Containers as classrooms/ workshops in an old garage
This thinking changed quickly. When I started reading and researching about architecture I found out that it could be so much more than only nice houses for the happy few. Real fast I began to think of myself as a social architect with a concern for the environment.
Maybe we should turn everything around and look at it in other ways. But I truly believe WE ARE
ON THE VERGE OF A BREAK THROUGH. I have the feeling more and more young architects are thinking about social problems and are willing to search for better ways to design social housing and ecological projects. I believe contemporary vernacular architecture could help us in that search, that’s why I’ve made this manifest.
G O A L S
I am not really concerened with taking a theoretical position or developing a style. My goal as an architect is being able to help people with few means and ameliorate their living standards by using sustainable building ways with an eye for tradition without neglecting the change in the world we live in.
AN EXTENSION SCHOOL. OUR Out of our experiences on a workshop in Montavoix, we agreed that you donâ€™t need a newly designed building to be able to have a good functioning school. With some changes, any building can be a suited place for school.
PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT
Education also has a teaching function to society. We want to use this project to give a signal to society that not everything needs to be new to function. By reusing abandoned buildings, we can see the school building as a motor for a rundown neighbourhood.
FOR A SCHOOL.
We used 3 parameters to get the most impact. 1) All the buildings needed to be in different neighbourhoods of Ghent which deal with poverty. This way, the building can work as a motor for social improvement. BY AN AUTODESK PRODUCT 2) All PRODUCED the buildings need EDUCATIONAL to be less than 1.5km away from the original school building. 3) The buildings need to be empty right now. We want to show that itâ€™s really possible to make a school in buildings that are available. .