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Tema - Architect and Society
Tema - Critical Thinking
1

In his book “On the Shortness of Life”, Seneca reiterates the idea that he doesn’t consider years filled exclusively with work or leisure to have been truly “lived” if such activity is not accompanied by the cultivation of intellect and wisdom.

2

For Friedman, architects are necessary for designing public buildings and organizing public space, but we should be no more than companions or advisors with regard to private dwellings.

3

I would extend Friedman’s thesis to include a public, peri-urban bus network which would connect towns and facilitate movement for young people, broadening their educational  and cultural horizons without relinquishing or having to choose between studying and the family home. Just as Bogotá was transformed by the TransMilenio rapid transit system, without the need for any construction work at all, we too can transform “empty Spain” by investing in public transport, relocating production and redesigning the amount of time and the ways workers are physically present in their offices.

The Virus and Friedman’s Metropole Europe

Serpentine Gallery Summer House in London, designed by Yona Friedman

Yona Friedman has died. She died on 20 February in this turbulent year of 2020, after having lived for 96 years (which, according to Seneca, isn’t the same as having simply reached the age of 96).1

We first met this architect, who was born in Budapest, emigrated to Haifa (in what was then Palestine) after the Second World War and ended up living in Paris for most of her adult life, purely by chance in June 2016, when she travelled to London to open a summer house at the Serpentine Gallery.

Actually, that pure chance was aided by my total admiration for Friedman’s Europolis concept and my having based my Little Architect programme on her pedagogical proposals and her call for architects to educate society with architectural knowledge and thereby give people the freedom to transform their dwellings and the power to transform their cities.2

Metropole Europe, or Europolis, involves the creation of a land where it would be possible to live and work in cities and small towns connected by a very efficient high-speed train network, and in which commuting to the great metropolis would seldom be required. The theory is based on optimising the potential of networks and technology to make working  from home more widespread, to revitalise rural communities and to facilitate the balancing of work and family life – in other words, to ensure that children are raised by their parents rather than by schools and nurseries between 8 am and 6 pm. Talking of which, there’s a chapter in Charles Montgomery’s book Happy City called “When Kids Pay for Distance”. In it, Montgomery associates long commuting distances and the absence of both parents from home with childhood unhappiness and depression and with adolescent drug addiction and crime. It’s a book and a subject that could provide material for a whole new article.

Working remotely and not spending hours and hours struck in traffic jams on our way to work would multiply our leisure time, raise the possibilities of intellectual nutrition, and reduce environmental pollution. Does that sound familiar?

Yona Friedman died just before the COVID19 health crisis brutally and uncompromisingly put the very pillars of her theoretical approach into practice.

In the upcoming “post war period”, our cities won’t need architects to rebuild buildings, infrastructures or streets, but we should sit down right now with our political leaders to analyse the benefits remote working has been offering in terms of cutting down movement and thus reducing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, reducing unproductive time and, above all, increasing the amount of time we can devote to our children and to ourselves.

Friedman’s Metropole Europe was intended to avoid insalubrious, inegalitarian macro-cities and create a working and living environment spread out over an ultra-connected area where fast movement is possible, but only when physical presence at a place of work is strictly necessary. Minister Teresa Ribera, Minister Abalos: please let us analyse the coronavirus crisis from an environmental perspective!3

That party at the Serpentine went on and on, and not only did it continue (to my immense delight) at the home of the great Richard Rogers, a house filled with the sound of La Bamba and the smell of melting chocolate, but I also had the honour, thanks to Yona’s daughter Marianne, of being able to stay in contact with Yona up until very recently, during which time we shared ideas about educating children in architecture, freedom and love in order to improve this world ravaged by pessimism and the climate crisis.

R.I.P., and may the loving Yona Friedman live forever.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página
1

In his book “On the Shortness of Life”, Seneca reiterates the idea that he doesn’t consider years filled exclusively with work or leisure to have been truly “lived” if such activity is not accompanied by the cultivation of intellect and wisdom.

2

For Friedman, architects are necessary for designing public buildings and organizing public space, but we should be no more than companions or advisors with regard to private dwellings.

3

I would extend Friedman’s thesis to include a public, peri-urban bus network which would connect towns and facilitate movement for young people, broadening their educational  and cultural horizons without relinquishing or having to choose between studying and the family home. Just as Bogotá was transformed by the TransMilenio rapid transit system, without the need for any construction work at all, we too can transform “empty Spain” by investing in public transport, relocating production and redesigning the amount of time and the ways workers are physically present in their offices.

Autor:
Semisótano está formado por Dolores Victoria Ruiz Garrido y Juan José Ruiz Martín. Tienen más de 12 años de experiencia en la realización de proyectos de muy diversa escala: desde edificios públicos a pequeños trabajos de interiorismo. Atesoran varios premios de arquitectura internacionales y nacionales. Actualmente, residen en Londres donde combinan su actividad como arquitectos con el diseño de un programa educativo en la Architectural Association (Little Architect) con el que introducir la enseñanza de la arquitectura en las escuelas de primaria de todo el Reino Unido. La labor del estudio ha sido también la de acercar la arquitectura y el arte a la sociedad, impulsando proyectos culturales de toda índole. Son Co-fundadores, de la plataforma, SCAN, (Spanish Contemporary Art Network) que promociona artistas emergentes españoles en UK. Son miembros activos de ASA (Asociación Sostenibilidad y Arquitectura) y orgullosos padres de dos niños.

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