As director of the 2016 Venice Biennale, Alejandro Aravena is on a mission to harness the knowledge of other disciplines, embrace the insights of untrained citizens, and take architecture to new frontiers
As architects, we are living at a time of shifting paradigms. In the past, the scale of our designs grew large, but how many people were we really engaging with? Today, we understand better the sheer complexity of the issues at play when we design and plan buildings, neighbourhoods and even entire cities – and this demands a new, more open approach.
It’s why I’m so interested in how architects and urban planners engage with other fields – economics, security, the environment and so on. Our challenge must be to go beyond architecture and speak the languages of these other disciplines, before translating our discussions into formal design proposals. One of the biggest problems is bad information – well, architects have a responsibility to engage in broad conversations that ensure we are properly informed about all the parameters of a given project. Our ultimate focus is still on form, but what informs this has expanded dramatically.
I believe the next step must be to create “open systems”: physical conditions in cities that allow all forces at play to have an input. We are entering a new game – one which I hope to shed more light on through next year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice.
The battle for a better built environment is a collective effort that requires everybody’s force and knowledge. As curator of Reporting From The Front, I want to reverse the idea that the Biennale only deals with issues that are of interest to other architects. We have begun by identifying problems that every citizen can not only understand but actually has a say in: immigration, water, land capacity, waste and so on. And we’ve seen an immediate, positive response from people who don’t normally get involved with architecture – across both the developed and developing worlds. […]