BIGGER & SMALLER
by Anna Deeg
Simultaneously, our world is growing bigger and smaller.
Populations and cities are exploding, while globalized economies and technology connect the earth into an ever-tighter exchange of products and
Development seems boundless and eternal; the anticipation of robots, megacities, and self-driving cars denoting the inevitable progression of our overwhelming race.
Living in the US, it’s easy to envision our cosmopolitan cities full of these
advancements; ubiquitous technology
situated within towering skyscrapers,
amongst multi-unit living, and under
The advent of digital modeling and software has led to the production of truly innovative forms in various cities, but how does this idiosyncratic architecture translate to developing cities?
Does the pervasive influx of foreign cultures, technologies, and aesthetics indicate the architectural future of emerging cities? Will their past be demolished and decontextualized in the name of Western modernization?
Some designers are addressing both concerns simultaneously. Kéré Architecture, helmed by Burkina Faso native Diébédo Francis Kéré, combines innovative design with context in African schools, clinics, and houses. His projects integrate a local language of local materials assembled by local workers empowering and stimulating the community around each structure. His open forms implement passive strategies and sustainable systems.
The result is architecture in harmony with its environment; structures that respect the preceding vernacular architecture of the place while utilizing modern techniques.
While Kéré is not alone in his contextual constructions, past development in Africa and other developing nations has been largely dictated by colonists imposing their inappropriate architectural styles on vastly different people and places.
Future development could easily follow this history of narrow-minded foreign investment focused on generating profits rather than supporting and improving the conditions of the city’s citizens. As Wu-Tang Clan so succinctly articulated, ‘cash rules everything around me’.
So how can we ensure developing cities create spaces that promote social equality and honor architectural histories through contemporary technology and design? How can we help build up egalitarian metropolises in a way that supplements the existing setting? Or does the way forward mean abandoning the past? We can start by following Kere’s simple advice:
“create a building that respond[s] the best to the need of the climate and the need of the people, using the most available material.”