The Mexican writer and Nobel laureate in literature, Octavio Paz, affirmed that architecture is the incorruptible witness of history because one cannot speak of a great building without recognizing in it the witness of an era, its culture, its society, and its intentions. In the end, the architect’s freedom to design often comes up against a problem or need of his time to solve; and at that moment the freedom that he had to design converges with creativity, to try to solve said problem.

Architecture as proof of a past that we cannot deny is fully visible, and therefore those ancient temples that served as centers of worship and meeting for a certain society, have now become monuments for the admiration of a past that was sublime, and now It’s just a historical record. In retrospect, everything we do in the present will be part of the past and the generations that come after us will be in charge of seeing the full picture of what we did.

The concern for the past and the future are part of our human nature, but our concerns and actions in the present are what will leave a mark, this leads us to ask ourselves: How is our generation designing its spaces in the 21st Century?

Extending the Life Cycle of Buildings

The inexorable fight against climate change that we face as a society has many fronts, where various disciplines intervene through technological developments involved in the application of new materials and construction systems that do not generate a negative impact on the environment. But there is a strategy that seems to go unnoticed; such as extending the life cycle of an existing building towards uses that could be located at an opposite pole from the original use.

The advantages of this strategy are multidimensional, since they conserve a significant amount of resources, reduce waste and minimize the environmental impacts associated with the manufacture and transport of new materials for incorporation into the building.

One of the projects that best exemplifies the brilliant reuse of a building is the Children’s Community Center The Playscape by waa. This building from the 70s located in the north of Beijing, in the past it used to be an industrial complex and now it is a playground for children that in an extremely delicate and conscious way takes on the character of a neighborhood to house the experience of playing on the street privileging it over entertainment in front of a screen.

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Children’s Community Centre- The Playscape_©Fangfang Tian
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Children’s Community Centre- The Playscape_©Fangfang Tian

The narrative of this project is extremely interesting since by proposing a fluid approach through spaces that trigger playful and learning activities, a contrast is created in the character of the pre-existing and the rigidity of its façade with the delicacy of the forms that generate connections around the entire complex. This project is proof that even though the original approach of the building differs from the new proposal, the creativity and freedom of this new generation of architecture studios propose a much more resilient approach to the challenges presented by today’s world.

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Children’s Community Centre- The Playscape_©Fangfang Tian

Combining Ancestral Construction Systems with New Technologies

Many of the materials we use today had their origin several years ago, as is the case of reinforced concrete, which had its origin thanks to Joseph Monier at the end of the 19th century and continues to be one of the most widely used construction systems around in the world thanks to its versatility and durability.

From time to time, the technological advances of humanity come across materials in common use. This interaction between two opposite entities leads to the rediscovery of the material’s nature. One of the most notable examples of these technological advances in the field of architecture and design is 3D printing.

TECLA is a pioneering project that combines the use of 3D printing technology with a material such as clay, whose nobility and plasticity have made it possible to build homes in practically all geographical areas of the planet over time. This house is the work of Mario Cucinella Architects and the collaborative 3D printing technology of WASP.

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TECLA_©Iago Corazza

The entire house was printed from local soil, which refers to traditional construction practices whose main characteristic is the low carbon emissions incorporated into this material, in addition, the integration of 3D printing made it possible to create continuous shapes that could not have been achieved through traditional methods.

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TECLA_©Iago Corazza

This house was not “built”, now we speak of it as an architectural element on a human scale that was printed and that incorporates principles of bioclimatic architecture in response to the growing demand for sustainable houses and that, in addition, we could witness the application of this technology for contingencies of an urgent nature, which would detonate the need for rapid production of homes, triggered by crises such as natural disasters and migratory exoduses.

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TECLA_©Iago Corazza

Creating Affordable Architecture

One of the most common perceptions around architecture is that carrying it out is an expensive process that requires significant use of economic and technical resources.

Nakasone House by Escobedo Soliz is a project that shows that architecture is not synonymous with high cost. This project had as one of its main premises a limited budget which was resolved through creativity in the use of common and affordable construction materials on the market.

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Casa Nakasone_©Ariadna Polo

In Latin America, self-construction is common because most of the population does not have access to professional architecture services, leaving the design process in a gray area at the free discretion of owners and local builders.

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Casa Nakasone_©Sandra Perez Nieto

A great differentiator of Nakasone House was that the designers worked side by side with local builders to reinterpret their knowledge of vernacular building systems. This process combined with the conscious use of local materials such as red brick, wood, and volcanic stone from the area, allowed this project to stand out for bringing architecture into a perfect balance between being affordable and highly identifiable qualities.

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Casa Nakasone_©Sandra Perez Nieto

There is still a long way to go before the 21st century is near its end, but even though this horizon is far away, we can see through the comparison of the architectural processes of the past with the contemporary ones, that the design and architecture of today are constantly evolving, attending to the vicissitudes of modern life while feeding on new and diverse factors for what this century may bring.

References:

  1. Waa | we architech anonymous [online]. Available at: http://w-a-a.cn/ [Accessed date: 22/02/22].
  2. Mario Cucinella Architects [online]. Available at: https://www.mcarchitects.it/ [Accessed date: 22/02/22].
  3. Escobedo Soliz [online]. Available at: https://www.escobedosoliz.net/ [Accessed date: 24/02/22].
Author

Mexican architect, LEED Green associate & CPABE. Design lover in all its expressions with a strong interest in sustainable development and accessibility. Enrique Tovar lives through dedication and passion. He firmly believes that creating a narrative through writing and photography is a vital tool to reach a deep understanding of design.

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