Young Architects’ Responses to the Challenges of Tomorrow

From the four corners of the globe, the focus is on housing: from temporary housing units to modules, exploring new forms of living space

Luca Molinari

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Photos Shuhe photography, courtesy of LOT-EK ©

“Transmitting architecture”, namely the definitive challenge for future decades launched by the 23rd UIA Congress to those willing and able to accept it, conveys the crucial role played by architecture in creating new forms of engagement with and attention to the huge variety of situations it encounters on a daily basis. Architecture is a discipline in constant metamorphosis, but the demands and crises of this century have tested its resources and social role perhaps like never before.

I like to think that the title of this Congress regards above all the capability of architecture to open up to the world, to look it in the eye and remain silent for a moment. And to do this without losing sight of the history and specific qualities of its own sphere. I believe that in order to continue producing the visions that represent the future and nourishment for the environmental and physical lives of our children, architecture has to develop a visionary form of realism that will be unexpected, humble and surprising.

experimenting with instability, with situations in flux, where film and visions merge, giving rise to innovative, generous spaces

And this is why for the session dedicated to “Young architecture” we decided to call on some of the most experimental and unorthodox players on the contemporary scene, from three different continents. The 23rd Congress bases a significant part of its identity on comparing different disciplines and at the same time, involving a sizeable number of young creatives. The presence of players like LOT-EK from New York, Gary Chang/Edge Design Ltd from Great Britain, Bevk-Perovic from Ljubljana, and Metrogramma from Milan is ample confirmation of this.

The encounter will revolve around the projects designed and constructed in the last decade, on the ideas and experiences which preceded them, but above all on the creative processes that arise in relation to an incredibly diverse range of environmental situations.

LOT-EK, the up and coming New York firm set up by Giuseppe Lignano and Ada Tolla, has been working with the unstable poetics of shipping containers as a primary module with a nomadic bent. Their residential projects of creative, responsible recycling meld with free experimentation that often gives rise to museum installations, with habitat as the prime concern, restored to its status as primary, direct experience.

Leaving New York, with its range of diverse, highly sophisticated interior projects, LOT-EK is now working on its first major architectural projects in Beijing, having just completed two new buildings in a district for which Sigeru Ban created the masterplan, and a number of mobile buildings, currently under construction.

The work of Gary Chang, an architect of Chinese origin based in Hong Kong who has worked between HK and China for years, with increasingly frequent design projects in Europe, has a natural propensity for instability. For Chang too, his work draws from experimenting with instability, with situations in flux, where film and visions merge, giving rise to innovative, generous spaces.

His numerous commercial interiors alternate with his recurrent work on designing a 35 square metre living space. He has rebuilt this four times in less than eight years, a life project that explores maximum density, maximum complexity housing. This project resulted in a pavilion for the Venice Biennale in 2000, and a house constructed near the Great Wall of China, a long strip of architecture with interiors able to change constantly according to the time of day and the energy required by the structure.

The theme of living space, and housing in general, also features in the work of Metrogramma of Milan, and Bevk-Perovic of Ljubljana, awarded best new European firm in 2007.

In both cases research work alternates constantly between urban projects and architectural style, offering an interesting interpretation of European culture. It is impossible to address the body of architecture without addressing the city and local area. And this point of departure inexorably characterizes the sophisticated urban projects by Metrogramma and Bevk-Perovic, which on the one hand have a conscious relationship with the finest contemporary European architecture, and on the other have the capability to offer possible glimpses and visions of future living scenarios.

It falls to this session to establish points of contact and comparison which go beyond the scope of individual experiences, posing awkward questions and, I hope, eliciting responses which will help us continue to reflect on and seek not only styles and forms, but also processes for future living.