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Unsung, Rebels Architect Solutions

Monday, August 18, 2014

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The words rebel and architect aren’t often paired, but a new documentary series showcases seven such individuals—including Pakistan’s first female architect—who are rethinking urban areas and how to design them.

 Makoko, Lagos; Kunle Adeyemi; Rebel Architecture; school
Images: Al Jazeera America

Rebel Architecture, produced by Al Jazeera America, features outside-the-box designs like this floating school in Makoko, Lagos, created by Kunlé Adeyemi.

In Rebel Architecture, an Al Jazeera America series that begins today (Aug. 18), viewers follow architects from Vietnam, Nigeria, Spain, Pakistan, Israel/Occupied West Bank and Brazil who design for the majority as a form of activism and resistance to elite architecture.

Their clients are slum dwellers, disaster and war victims, and victims of urban overcrowding.

The series offers a radically different view of the profession than the typical profiles of moneyed "starchitects" who design for the rich and famous, says series creator Dan Davies.

Typically independent and self-funded, rebel architects design to solve problems and reduce social ills.

'Another World'

The six-part series includes Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan's first female architect, who has become one of the world's most successful providers of disaster relief shelters.

After a 2005 earthquake in her country, she designed a bamboo shelter of adobe and mud walls that was cheap to build and had a low-carbon footprint. Since then, she has built 2,000 shelters.

Yasmeen Lari; Pakistan; sustainable building; Rebel Architecture

Yasmeen Lari, Pakistan's first female architect, has built 36,000 homes for Pakistani flood victims since 2010.

"I often tell my colleagues, 'Let us not treat disaster-affected households as destitute, needing handouts,” Lari told the news outlet. “Rather, let us give them due respect and treat them as we would a corporate-sector client."

In 2010, after floods affected 20 million Pakistanis, Lari build new, safe waterproof homes—36,000 to date.

"When we train as architects, we're taught that architecture is like God because you create things. As a result, your ego is inflated,” she said.

“You think no one else can do what you're doing. Now, my work is something else. It's another world I am working in."

Vo Trong Nghia; House of Trees; Vietnam; Rebel Architecture

Architect Vo Trong Nghia greens up Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam with House of Trees. Nghia is one of seven architects featured in Rebel Architecture.

Other featured rebel architects are:

  • Eyal Weizman, an Israeli who studies the role of architecture in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the evolution of urban warfare;
  • Vo Trong Nghia, of Vietnam, who designs environmentally sustainable buildings and low-cost housing solutions for his country’s poorest communities;
  • Nigeria's Kunlé Adeyemi, who implements floating buildings to solve flooding and overcrowding in waterside slums;
  • Brazil’s Ricardo de Olivera and Luis Carlos Toledo, who work in Rio de Janeiro’s Rocinha  community, Brazil’s largest favela (slum); and
  • Santiago Cirugeda, who works in Seville reclaiming abandoned urban spaces for the public, though self-building is illegal in Spain.

The Creator

Series creator Davies says that architecture can help address the needs created by the "urban explosion of informal settlements on the edge of hyuper-cities like Manila, Dehli and Mexico City."

As of 2010, more people are living in urban areas than in rural areas for the first time in history, Davies wrote in an article about the series.

“Many of the new city dwellers are fleeing the other threats humanity is faced with, like extreme weather events, drought, rising sea levels, and displacement through conflict, while even ‘peaceful’ countries with temperate climates suffer from the social issues created by soaring inequality,” he wrote.

“Architecture can directly contribute to solving these issues," Davies writes. "Good design can produce very dense, yet liveable cities."


Tagged categories: Architects; Architecture; Building Envelope; Green building; Modernist architecture; Residential Construction; Schools; Sustainability

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