Today, by complete coincidence*, we watched a TED lecture by Pritzker prize winner Alejandro Aravena. “If there’s any power in design, that’s the power of synthesis,” is how he started his talk. What a great description.
Architecture is the synthesis of many different and disparate endeavours, desires, and influences: function, context, culture, codes, structure, community, shelter, beauty, art, experience, cost, energy, usability… all to generate form and space and inhabitation that can touch and excite and calm and tickle the soul while providing us with the places where we live, work, congregate, exchange, eat, and play.
To this end, and one of the drivers of his prize award, is Alejandro’s work in the field of housing in underserved areas. Taking his cue from the very favelas his work is meant to ameliorate, he developed a brilliant concept: if the $ available could only pay for half of the generally necessary size of house, then, rather than think about building a small house, build half a house. Wisely choose what half to build. Leave the other half for the inhabitants to build and develop.
Homes with voids, pre-slotted for a non-pre-ordained expansion**. “The more complex the problem, the more the need for simplicity.” A simple, almost comically so (well, let’s just build half a house!) idea, executed well, providing good, safe, housing, while also bringing forward the same of place and of ownership of community by the owners as did the favelas through their own hands.
* I had chosen what talk we’d watch several weeks ago – I swear I am not on any secret Pritzker judge committee!
** Note, too, the lack of adherence to a particular form or style, creating each time instead.