The New Architect
AS ARCHITECTURAL PROJECTS BECOME INCREASINGLY COMPLEX, A NEW SET OF SKILLS ARE NEEDED TO ANSWER 21nd CENTURY’S CHALLENGES. THREE ARCHITECTURE PROFESSORS AND SCHOLARS DISCUSS HOW SUSTAINABILITY, AESTHETICS AND SHARED RESPONSIBILITIES WILL BE REFLECTED IN THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT OVER THE NEXT 60 YEARS.
Thijs Asselbergs (1956) has been professor of Architectural Engineering at Delft University of Technology (the Netherlands) since 2008 and works as an independent architect for his Architectuurcentrale office. He develops various activities in the field of architecture policy, the stimulation of young design talent, industrial design and technological innovations in architecture. Asselbergs was chairman of the Archiprix foundation.
Ricardo Avella (1984) graduated cum laude in 2010 as an architect at both the Politecnico in Turin (Italy) and at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, where he also worked as a lecturer for four years. In 2015 Avella founded his own studio in Caracas, ATA taller de arquitectura, where he works as an architect and planner. In 2017 he completed the European Post-Master in Urbanism at Delft University of Technology and nowadays lives partly in Venice and in the Netherlands.
Alessandro Biamonti (1970) works as an associate professor at the Department of Design for the Politecnico of Milan (Italy). He is also a visiting associate professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University (Japan) and a member of the Research Unit Design, Theory, Research and Culture at the Universidad Estad Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte (Brazil).
The necessity was not there yet. “The search for sustainability is expressed, for instance, in a focus on adaptivity and the design of alternative pathways to deal with complexity and uncertainty. “We live in a world where nothing is certain anymore,” says Ricardo Avella. “In the twentieth century, we believed everything was possible: in many parts of the world there was a trend of continuous economic growth. Planners thought they could predict the future and made blueprints of how the world should look like in 20, 30 years. These days we have to deal with extremely difficult problems, such as climate change. As a result, we have to embrace complexity and approach projects in a different way. We have to take into account different future scenarios and therefore move towards an open and flexible design that can adapt if circumstances require this. That is a way of thinking that I discovered in the Netherlands and Italy.”
Throughout the interviews, the idea that shines through is that the architecture of the future, around the world, will be strongly influenced by challenges and solutions in the field of sustainability and circularity.
“Sustainability is a broad concept,” says Thijs Asselbergs. “It’s not just about energy neutrality, for example, but also about buildings that last a long time, that people love, that aren’t demolished. The search for sustainability is a vision that is shared internationally in all architecture courses around the world. Sustainability, energy management and circular thinking: these are fundamental elements that we confront students and researchers with and also inspire them with. Ten years ago, sustainability was just on the agenda. Now it is an integral part of education.
”Today’s student has mastered a sustainable way of thinking, says Alessandro Biamonti. “The new generation of architects was born into a society that is taking responsibility for sustainability issues. Today’s students are not just digital natives but also natives in the field of sustainability. For them it makes perfect sense that sustainability plays a role in the design process. For previous generations of designers, the focus was on other
COLLABORATION AND ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT
Architectural projects are becoming increasingly complex. It is therefore inevitable that more and more people work in project teams.
Asselbergs: “Projects have become very complicated. An architect must therefore be able to work in a
The new generation
of architects was born
into a society that is
taking responsibility for
multidisciplinary way. We also anticipate that in Delft. The new generation of architects no longer have much interest in authorship. They aren’t independent advisors, they are entrepreneurs, they are part of the project team. The responsibility for a project is carried by multiple parties, it is no longer just the architect who has sole responsibility.
Architecture has become a production. This can be also a threat: in the end, who is responsible for the architectural quality?”
Biamonti: “The iconic figure of the master builder doesn’t exist anymore. Society has changed, the dynamics have changed. Nowadays, projects are always the result of collaboration, of large teams, because we need many different skills. It is unthinkable that only one person is responsible for a project, except perhaps for media reasons. It is also about numbers: architecture is one of the most popular course choices. Every year, thousands of young professionals arrive on the market. There are simply more architects available, each with different skills.”
Asselbergs: “We should absolutely stimulate all those people to take the lead in architecture questions related to society, sustainability and smart building.”
The most successful projects
are the multifunctional ones,
those that deal with many
issues with one design.
answer for what is actually needed: mass-customised building systems. Thanks to new technologies such as the 3D printer, robotics and CNC milling methods, there are great opportunities there. You get much more freedom of form. These are very interesting developments.”
NEW AESTHETICS AND TECHNOLOGY
Although these sustainability requirements and innovative technology have an influence on the appearance, aesthetics and originality don’t necessarily take a backseat.
Asselbergs: “I think aesthetics will never be secondary. We are not aiming at that at all in Delft either. What we strive for is to make sustainability an integral part of how you create architecture. For example, we are dealing with an energy challenge. On the one hand, we want buildings to be well isolated, on the other hand, we want them to
produce energy. How can we integrate photovoltaic systems not only in buildings but in the entire built environment? It is not enough to glue some solar cells on a façade. We have to find broader design solutions. That will surely lead to new innovations and will have major impact on architecture of the 21th century.”
Avella agrees: “The most successful projects are the multifunctional ones, those that deal with many issues with one design. These type of projects require a high degree of cooperation between different disciplines, among them architects, engineers, ecologists, planners, sociologists, policy makers… Otherwise we may think we have solved a problem, but in doing so we cause new problems. To avoid this, you have to integrate multiple visions into the design process. And of course, that also includes the vision of the end user: those who live in the city, in the neighbourhood, in a street.”
Asselbergs: “The influence of the end user is very important. In the 20th century we started with massive housing productions, because many people had to be housed. Now you see that, increasingly, we’re looking at how you can adapt that mass production in alignment with the people themselves and how you can provide an
We must work on making our own identities and cultures visible, which we must cherish.
Biamonti: “The aesthetics of it remain important. A building cannot be ‘functional’ without producing a certain aesthetic well-being. Attention to sustainability should not be an excuse to create an ugly world. Perhaps a new aesthetic will arise, probably it has already emerged. There is no specific dominant style, it has been like that for decades. There are a multitude of styles and aesthetic languages.”
Asselbergs: “Thanks to the internet you get a kind of uniformity of architecture throughout the world. I have Archiprix International, a prize for young architects in architecture courses from all over the world. We also make catalogues and books from that. In it you can see that everyone is looking at each other. Whether you are in Dubai or London, in Sydney or at De Zuidas in Amsterdam, everything will look the same. Whether that’s positive? It’s terrible. We must work on making our own identities and cultures visible, which we must cherish.
Diversity must be linked to local and climatic conditions and the availability of materials. In the Netherlands we work a lot with brick, in Sweden they work a lot with wood, in Indonesia with bamboo.”
Biamonti: “New technologies are a tool that enables us to work faster and better and to detect design errors at an early stage, but I don’t think that new technologies change the way we design. I think it is very important that universities emphasise design skills so that designers are able to devise and develop innovative or at least original solutions.”
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