Al Jazeera films focus on radical architects

Architects using design to confront problems in their communities

Builder Ricardo de Oliveira.
Builder Ricardo de Oliveira.

Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera is to show a series of films focusing on radical architects from Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Spain, Palestine and Vietnam.

The series – entitled “Rebel Architecture” – focuses on architects using design to confront urban, environmental and social problems in their communities.

Dan Davies, producer of the series, said: “We couldn’t help noticing that despite all the problems afflicting humanity, many of which architecture uniquely has the ability to assist and even solve, most of the mainstream and architectural press celebrates the aesthetics of huge iconic projects, marvelling at insanely complicated ways to fold giant sheets of metal.

“As we face issues from floods and natural disasters to an explosion of urban populations, soaring inequality and displacement through conflict, architecture seems wholly absent. So we wanted to look beyond the discussion of the aesthetics of ‘star-chitecture’ and see what architects outside the mainsteam are doing.”

The six-part series, which starts on August 18, begins with a film documenting the work of Spanish architect Santiago Cirugeda, who uses his knowledge of planning law to “occupy” abandoned properties and to build structures on unused land.

It also features Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari who designs disaster relief shelters and Eyal Weizman, professor of spatial and visual cultures at Goldsmiths University, who explores the way the built environment is used as an instrument of occupation.

In Vietnam, the series follows Vo Trong Nghia, whose projects focus on open spaces and sustainable design, while in Nigeria, Kunlé Adeyemi has designed floating buildings to solve issues of flooding and overcrowding.

The final episode explores Rocinha, the largest favela in Brazil, with builder Ricardo de Oliveira, and masterplanner Luis Toledo.

“The rebel architects have to push boundaries, but they must also look beyond their own buildings," said Davies. “They start by looking at the wider context in which they live - be it Spain hit by the financial crisis, or Pakistan ravaged by floods - and work out how they can change the status quo with architecture.”
 

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