Architecture and “Tempodacqua”
On the eve of the new decade, the event curated by Alfonso Femia took on the task to encourage the world of architecture to choose the right tools to design in the age of the climate crisis. What we want to do is explain the innovative quality of a cultural project that has dealt with a controversial problem that must be dealt with urgently.
For a long time now, Casalgrande Padana has been making ceramic tiles using natural materials and a “closed-circuit” production process, which allows for minimal environmental impact (both in terms of manufacture and lifespan of the products). That’s why it was only natural for the company to join the “Tempodacqua” project to take a step forward in understanding architecture in the age of the climate crisis. In this issue we have chosen to relive the event as if it were an animated book: the emotional memory of the fit-out of the Arsenali Repubblicani, the crowded inauguration, the thought-provoking sessions, and the involvement of students. The next few pages will be about the stars of international architecture, the experience of “water countries”, the thoughts of intellectuals, and the new role played by architecture.
To construct with water, we need to understand its time. That’s what “tempodacqua”, the theme of the Pisa Architecture Biennale, is all about.
Two of the most interesting aspects of the theme were analysed by Maarten Van de Voorde, director of Dutch studio West8 in Brussels, and Paraguayan architect Javier Corvalán, founder of Laboratorio de Arquitectura and author of one of the Vatican Chapels at the last edition of the Venice Biennale of Architecture. Nature.
It’s important to give water the time to fill up and return to the sea. Continuously adapting the use of a project is a new strategy compared to the age-old ones used up to now. This way, time – the other concept that defined the theme of the Biennale – becomes an element of the project. Climate-related aspects follow a cycle, and it’s essential to be able to read their effects to plan and design accordingly. In architectural terms, cyclicity is a constant that expresses something different every time. The slowness or speed of geomorphological behaviours indicates the need for permeable and transformable design options. There is no longer – if it ever existed at all – a single solution for everything, nor is it possible to protect everything forever. As Javier Corvalán said, Paraguay is a small country with more geography than history, made above all of water that is either lacking or overflows. The idea of adapting and balancing while enhancing forecast accuracy may be architecture’s new paradigm in the age of climate change.
Short-term choices and architects’ decisions involving cities and territories can speed up the planet’s evolution or reverse the ongoing process. taking action has become urgent, but it’s also important to stop and reflect (and draw) on the decisions to make.
Water is the sentinel of climate change. Rising oceans and desertification are ongoing processes. Engineering can help with the technological and system-related aspects of water, but only architecture can provide the historical and cultural experience to develop efficient territorial and urban strategies. Themes like protection, defence, permeability, variable natural and artificial borders belong to architecture. Moreover, migration and urbanisation resulting from climate change require urban areas that are ready to welcome and integrate these masses of people in transit. Architecture must focus on the metamorphosis to trigger at the right time so as not to frustrate transformation. As Ico Migliore (M+S Architects) said, if we can’t identify the time for architecture, our programmes will not work simply because each project needs to adapt to the conditions of that time to be lived in. Architecture must be able to change and free itself from formality to focus on processes.
Artistic glances and “Tempodacqua”. The role of art in the reflection on climate change.
How does art work? By stirring emotions – both through the artistic quality of the object and the sensitivity of those who look at the works of art – and then processing and transforming them into action. The emotions of “Tempodacqua” integrate into architecture and the rigour of science and technology, which is necessary for its transformation. This contamination leads to design thinking, such as Tina Dassault’s Archisable, instant visions that are immediately subject to the action of water; Leandro Erich’s evocative representations of childhood that tames the surface of water during the early movements, and Marco Introini’s photographs that capture Water cities, the Maritime Republics so full of memories, in images that reveal all the anxiety about the future.
Climate change is impacting the water cycle and water resources. Reversing this process is not about being politically correct or economically feasible. It’s about survival.
Rainfall changes will deteriorate the quality of the soil with severe consequences for agriculture that will reduce the amount of available food, especially in undernourished countries. Rising sea levels are causing coastal erosion, floods and aquifer salinisation in many areas. Forests will absorb less and less carbon dioxide, and this will cause a further rise in temperature. We will witness a rise in the frequency of flooding, heatwaves and hurricanes.
The President of the Italian Council of Architects, Giuseppe Cappochin, took part in a fringe event in Genoa dedicated to water cities, where he stressed the urgency of introducing changes in architecture and the need for letting go of buzzwords – regeneration, circular economy, climate change and sustainability – and taking action.
Architecture is changing
Good intentions and feelings of guilt are not enough to change architecture. What we need now is to establish the boundaries of this change.
Water is a point of reference and arrival, an ancestral drive that is turning into urgency due to the effects of climate change.
Architecture is changing because of the transformation in “its physical support” resulting from climate change. This cause-effect relationship is as evident as it is dramatic. Inventing new ways of building cities and transforming places and the connections between them is not just a social responsibility. It’s an urgency.
Tempodacqua according to Alfonso Femia
There was also a space dedicated to Alfonso Femia’s exhibition within the exhibition, which outlined the research carried out by Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia AF517 through three water-focused projects. The first one was a hi-tech project that involved the development of a hydraulic system to collect and distribute water in Adrar in the Algerian desert. The second project – the Time Oasis installation – reflected on the relationship between humans and nature in extreme conditions in the world’s fragile geography. The third and final project – the Underwater City in Marseilles – was a conceptual erasure of the border between the sea and the city.
There was also a space dedicated to Alfonso Femia’s exhibition within the exhibition, which outlined the research carried out by Atelier(s) Alfonso Femia AF517 through three water-focused projects. The first one was a hi-tech project that involved the development of a hydraulic system to collect and distribute water in Adrar in the Algerian desert. The second project – the Time Oasis installation – reflected on the relationship between humans and nature in extreme conditions in the world’s fragile geography. The third and final project – the Underwater City in Marseilles – was a conceptual erasure of the border between the sea and the city. Projects with a specific identity developed in different scales and countries, but all with a common thread: water.
To find out more, take a look through Percorsi in Ceramica Special 41