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BIG ARCHITECTURE CONFERENCE: KNOW YOU / KNOW HOW / YOU KNOW

human /technical/ personal

An insight into the art and relevance of the urban

Globalisation crisis and critical regionalism

Curators: Janko Rožič (Odprti krog) & Erik Jurišević, Mirjana Lozanovska, Silvija Shaleva (KONNTRA)

Paul Ricoeur: »How to become modern, yet still not lose touch with tradition«

 The symposium aims to discuss how critical regionalism, which involves architectural theory as well as spatial practice, can help resolve different types of crises in the third millennium. The crises which are, at least in terms of space, becoming increasingly global, be it urban, ecological, economic or health-related crises.

Kenneth Frampton is a British-American architect and an architectural historian who wrote a famous essay, “Towards a Critical Regionalism” (1983), which can nowadays be understood as a response to uncritical postmodern approach. In that essay Kenneth Frampton pointed out, back in 1983, that „universal civilization“ will not be able to solve global problems without taking into consideration „autonomous cultures“. After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, when the bipolar system collapsed, and after the Wall Street stock market crash of 2008, when the first „globalisation“ attempt was seriously rocked, it is becoming increasingly clear, that the time of critical regionalism is yet to come.

„Cultural diversity“ is crucial for the survival of our entire world. Similarly, „biological diversity“ is considered to be essential for the dynamic balance of our planet. Therefore, it is no coincidence that natural scientists – who explore various habitats, places which are not abstract, but real living spaces – were the first ones to discover the importance of diversity for the survival of our entire world.

Critical regionalism renders possible the creation of a turning point which shall modify the relations between the global and the local, a centre and an edge, the virtual and the real. By applying phenomenology of senses, which is being delicately developed by a Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa, and by understanding and applying spatial principles, it should be possible to steer architectural and urban development in such a way that it would link the modern and the traditional, the scientific and the artistic, the technological and the natural. Such urban development, which will be in tune with people in their cultural and natural environments, will not only be sustainable, but also truly long-lasting.

After the fall of modernist ideologies and postmodernist imagologies, our cities are losing not only their „aura“, as was first noticed in the 20th century by Walter Benjamin, but they are also losing their fundamental orientation, externally towards nature, and internally towards culture. In today’s endless “suburbia”, industrial zones are being replaced by commercial mega centres and giga factories. Besides, we are confronted with successive economic crises as well as an increasing global ecological crisis, and even those who are in favour of science, such as Hawking in Musk, are pointing out that, due to the unregulated outbreak of the so called „artificial intelligence“, the problems may escalate even further. On account of economic and financial crisis of 2008 as well as the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, the most recent global crisis that no one was and no one could have been prepared for, we are forced to reflect upon the foundations of our civilisation. We should not only passively observe the virus crisis. The ancients Greeks considered “crisis” as the moment of decision, and accordingly, we should think carefully and act effectively in the moments of crisis. We should find a new balance between the humane and the technical, the industrial and the post-industrial, a production and a market, the urban and the suburban. Additionally, we should also find a new, wider, global balance between people, culture, and nature.

The modern epoch was »utopian«, the postmodern epoch is even »atopian« (non-spatial). The real space was in both cases lost, forgotten, therefore it is crucial that in the period of crisis we descend from »utopos« to the real »topos«. We need to break away from various cults of postmodern virtual reality, where reality shows exemplify an extreme form of weakened reality, and we should make it to the culture of the real thus reaching freedom and simplicity of the real space. This should be rendered possible if, in accordance with the principles of sustainable development and critical regionalism, we agree to acknowledge the laws of this planet which are, just like DNA, already imprinted in our natural and cultural heritage. It is about time we recognize the actual value of the historic city centres, old squares and villages. A historic city, with all its time and spatial dimensions, does not only represent an abstract palimpsest of the Bakhtin’s chronotope and Einstein’s space-time continuum, it also signifies the actual living space of the concrete environment, a record of architectural language, and a selection of spatial principles as well as a stock of knowledge and models that can be universally applied to the local conditions. Nowadays, it should be possible to combine the most recent findings in art, science, architecture and urbanism with the most ancient building knowledge and architectural wisdom. Architecture is the most effective and the most ancient tool of sustainable development. As early as in 1st century BC, Vitruvius, a Roman architect and civil engineer, mentioned sustainability (»firmitas«), which has so far been wrongly interpreted in the narrow sense of the word itself as hardness of a construction or durability of materials. In its wider sense, the word can also denote stability, constancy and durability. Architecture can therefore be considered as the most ancient and essential lever of moderate, sustainable development.

Architecture, which is based on real space, can link micro and macro levels, artistic and scientific levels, as well as the humane, the technical and the natural. By applying the principles of „critical regionalism“ (Frampton), „phenomenology of senses“ (Pallasmaa), „spatial principles“ and spatial knowledge, it should be possible to achieve a fundamental turning point in the process of urban development. It is necessary to carry out a thorough renovation in settlement centres and to revitalize historic city centres. Apart from that, a badly urbanised suburbia should become re-urbanised – it is the suburbia which was planned in accordance with the industrialisation and automobilization schemes which are nowadays considered to be out-of-date. The renovation certainly should not become a tool for emptying city centres under the guise of modern notions of gentrification and touristification, the two words which really sound unpleasant to our ears, and their echoes sound even worse, since they both imply a decline of authenticity and city identity. The revitalisation of real life and support to fellow human beings, neighbourhoods and communities in their cultural and natural environments, can be achieved only through a systematic and thorough renovation. It is in this way that urban can become urban again.

Instead of getting lost in various postmodern „virtual realities“ and „reality shows“, where people are drifting as if they were trapped in some ancient labyrinths, we should primarily rediscover the authentic reality. We do not need the analysis of comparisons between the objective and the subjective, the technological and the humane, the external and the internal. What we truly need is an insight into the actual reality of matters, here and now. We need to gain an insight into the art and relevance of the urban.

Tex by Janko Rožič, Odprti krog (Open Circle)

Intelligent façades

Interlacing of demands and human-centered design

Curator: Jernej Markelj PhD

Intelligent façades no longer represent an added value, but an inevitable necessity, so that a building can function properly. Advances in building technology, tightened requirements of the legislative bodies resulting from environmental causes, and higher expectations of various building users, push the development of an outer building skin even further. Façades are becoming adaptive, interactive and intelligent in order to meet the demands of time. Its design shall determine the benefits a facade can have on its occupants, its impact on the surrounding environment or its effect on building energy efficiency. It can, among other things, improve the natural lighting conditions of the interior space, contribute to unisturbed views to the outside, enable fresh flow of air, and harvest water or energy from the sun, among other aspects. And yet, a façade is still the face of a building which is shown to the outside world. It represents an exterior of a building which can now, with the evolvement of a building skin, be freer in expression and can be more communicative with the outside world.

Light is much more than just light

Curator: Tomaž Novljan PhD

In the area of interior design, the role of light goes beyond its functional duty, i.e. to make it possible for us to see something. Light transcends its rational frames and moves into the zone of irrational, even spiritual. This is particularly the case with natural light which, unlike artificial light, is much more complex in its appearance and besides, it is also hard to tame.
Despite its »non-materiality«, light represents a unique building material. That statement can be supported by numerous architectural creations which, due to their exquisite lighting design, are raised above an ambient level to the level of milieu, where an architectural experience shifts from worldly to spiritual. Light, and consequently shadow, can make architecture meaningful and set it into a certain geographical and cultural context of place and time. Between the Sun, which still remains our most durable and sustainable source of light, and a candle flame, which is considered the most intimate lighting, lies an endless sea of possibilities which are, on one hand, supported by modern technology, and on the other by creative excellence and well-considered, innovative use of light in interior design.
Exploring the above-mentioned aspects is precisely what this year’s Big Architecture Festival will be about.

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