Buildings affect us. They reflect our cultural values and mould our behaviour. “We shape our dwellings,” Winston Churchill said, “and afterwards our dwellings shape us.” Yet in recent times appearance has been admired over purpose, aesthetics over social need.
That may be set to change. Santiago Cirugeda, a subversive architect from Seville, has shunned the glamour, and financial security, of luxury office space for the architecture of activism. In austerity-hit Spain, 500,000 new buildings lie derelict, unemployment is high and funding for community initiatives is minimal. Pulling these threads together, Cirugeda and his team – often working on the fringes of the law – use rapid building techniques, recycled materials and volunteer labour on abandoned municipal land for projects that people need.
In the waterside slums of Port Harcourt, Nigeria, 480,000 residents face the threat of displacement as the government seeks to redevelop their land, claiming urban renewal is necessary for economic development. But Kunlé Adeyemi has an alternative solution. He envisages a city of floating homes that would allow residents to remain within their community, and safe from rising tides, while at the same time improving the quality of their lives.