1

Miranda, Antonio. No hay bancos en Wall Street. Prologue in El espacio público como ideología; Delgado, Manuel, Madrid, Catarata, 2011, page.

2

Civil. From the Latin civīlis.

  1. adj. Civil (pertaining to the city or its citizens).
  2. adj. Sociable, polite.
  3. adj. Neither military nor ecclesiastical nor religious. (Civil aviation, civil marriage).
  4. adj. (of construction work) Intended for public service, e.g., roads, bridges, ports.
3

Lacaton & Vassal, “Structural freedom, a precondition for the miracle”, 2G magazine, Issue 60, page 173.

4

Remodelling of a 530-dwelling social housing block at Grand Parc, Bordeaux. Winner of the EU Mies van der Rohe Award 2019. Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, Frédéric Druot Architecture and Christophe Hutin Architecture.

5

Provision.

  1. The action of providing or supplying something for use.
  2. A stock of materials or supplies set aside for when they are needed.

Architecture as a Unit of Habi(li)tation

I started writing this article on 7 October, World Architecture Day 2019. The last day of this same month will be World Cities Day. Perhaps some time in the future the two events can be synchronised, or at least brought closer together. When all is said and done, it’s difficult even to describe a city without taking into account architecture. And vice versa: perhaps the ultimate expression of architecture as a refuge and a space will be precisely here in the collective context of the city.

I don’t know exactly when architecture and the city were apparently separated, as if they could both be pigeonholed in exclusive, hermetically self-referencing compartments. Professor Antonio Miranda  wrote that “separately, both disciplines are innocuous”1, emphasising their tremendous power of civil transformation2 when combined (here I use the term “civil” in the sense of assets that are available to citizens in the shape of preventive heritage as in squares or poplar groves, bridges or breezes, schools or landscapes, streets or balconies).

The city should have general multi-scale management strategies in place at all levels from domestic to regional. Defining a public model addressing things like facilities, infrastructures, water cycles, climate, public space, landscape, mobility patterns and waste management requires an ambitious map of sustained and chronologically and spatially coordinated actions. In this regard, architecture should be understood to be a crucial, active component in the management of complex urban environments.

Lacaton & Vassal refer to this particular view of architecture as “urban planning on the ground”3 , and I was able to corroborate what they meant this summer in their Grand Parc4. Apart from an evident improvement in living conditions in the banlieu, their intervention there has also created a winter garden in each dwelling which reduces these fragile properties’ energy consumption. The new scaffolding looked as if it were somehow propping up those densely inhabited screens, consolidating the building’s originally neglected volume. The new space on the lower storey has been turned into a cycle area that runs into a public garden zone incorporating the car park next to the Grand Parc station on Line C of the modern local tram system.

Buildings should guarantee worthy living conditions for citizens: this is architecture understood as a unit of habitation. However, these powerful structures, enclosures and housing complexes also have enormous potential as a means of provision, of meeting practical needs outside the building itself5. Architecture is capable of city building even in the spaces it leaves between buildings: it can provide a reserve of water, energy or other resources; it can improve air quality and contribute to urban biodiversity; it can contain shared spaces that affect mobility, food supplies and care provision; it can deploy resources to help us alleviate and adapt to climate change; and it can play a cultural role insofar as that implies legitimately defending the world.

In short, it can also be a unit of habi(li)tation.


Cover image: Photo by MDAC, summer 2019.
Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor

 

Notas de página
1

Miranda, Antonio. No hay bancos en Wall Street. Prologue in El espacio público como ideología; Delgado, Manuel, Madrid, Catarata, 2011, page.

2

Civil. From the Latin civīlis.

  1. adj. Civil (pertaining to the city or its citizens).
  2. adj. Sociable, polite.
  3. adj. Neither military nor ecclesiastical nor religious. (Civil aviation, civil marriage).
  4. adj. (of construction work) Intended for public service, e.g., roads, bridges, ports.
3

Lacaton & Vassal, “Structural freedom, a precondition for the miracle”, 2G magazine, Issue 60, page 173.

4

Remodelling of a 530-dwelling social housing block at Grand Parc, Bordeaux. Winner of the EU Mies van der Rohe Award 2019. Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, Frédéric Druot Architecture and Christophe Hutin Architecture.

5

Provision.

  1. The action of providing or supplying something for use.
  2. A stock of materials or supplies set aside for when they are needed.
Autor:
Miguel Ángel Díaz Camacho, doctor Arquitecto por la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Es el actual Presidente de la Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura vinculada al Consejo Superior de los Colegios de Arquitectos de España. Dirige la compañía MADC & Partners SLP dedicada a la arquitectura, el urbanismo y el diseño ambiental, obteniendo numerosos premios en concursos nacionales e internacionales, así como reconocimientos a su obra construida. Profesor universitario, investigador, escritor y crítico de arquitectura, es autor, entre otros, de los libros “Párrafos de Arquitectura. Core(oh)grafías” (2016) y “Arquitectura y Cambio Climático” (2018).

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