Lisa Findley, California College of the Arts
This paper session invites explorations of contemporary architectural strategies, tactics and practices in the “New Third World” that leverage locally available materials, technologies, labor, and cultural sensibilities to create a specific yet contemporary, sometimes even radical, architecture.
In his erudite 1995 book “The Other Tradition of Modern Architecture: The Incomplete Project”, Colin St. John Wilson describes the project of Modernism in architecture as cleaving architecture in two: into “architecture” as a fine art and “building” as a functional and technological activity. The purpose of the book is to open a conversation about the reintegration of these two pieces of a whole. While St. John Wilson is focused on European modernism and the post-war inklings of a return to holistic notions of architecture in the work of architects like Aalto, the world was littered with other examples at the time: the experiments of Lina Bo Bardi in Brazil, the tentative explorations away from the canon by Pancho Geddes in Mozambique, the finely tuned projects of B.V. Doshi in India and the startling emergence of Luis Barragan in Mexico.
In fact, the most robust examples of the work St. John Wilson admires was actually in non-European settings just emerging from under the hand of colonizers. Like Aalto’s postwar Finland, these countries were resource poor and if architects wanted to build well, they had to rely on local materials and craft. Unlike Finland, however, in these cases the modified modernism took on a complicated political slant as well. Modernism in these contexts was a break with the colonial past, a badge of sophistication and an indication of an intention to be part of the international community through the adoption—and adaptation- -of the International Style.
In the 1970s and 1980s, a time of global economic expansion and corresponding rapid internationalization and globalization of architectural practice, these kinds of locally embedded modernist practices withered away. However, as the successes of the post war global system of reached a point of diminishing returns, as the first wave of post-colonial governments fail to maintain the fragile constructed unities of colonization, as cultures re-fragment, there is resurgence of engagement with this kind of local modernism.
Like the post-war contexts of early explorations of this strategy, developing countries around the world face resource restrictions, have dire need for maintenance and development of local building technologies and labor pools, and have talented architects who are saavy about global trends and the benefits of contemporary design practices. On top of the challenges Aalto faced, these architects face myriad environmental challenges ranging from the sourcing of materials to the energy consumption of their buildings. They are also often working in post-colonial settings where questions of visual, cultural and political identity are meanings they must fold into their practices, processes and buildings.
Submissions to this session should go beyond a survey of an architect or practice to contextualize these in terms of St. John Wilsons’s thesis, the issues it implies, the conference theme and the larger arc of contemporary practice.
Submission Site is CLOSED