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AR November 2019 on the Foreign + Emerging Architecture

1466 cover ar foreign + emerging architecture

Sixteen architects under the age of 45 to watch from around the world, plus critical regionalism revisited, the Bauhaus in Britain, Laurie Baker, Louis Kahn, Álvaro Siza and much more

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As the dream of globalisation burgeons and bursts, the foreigner is considered with suspicion, an outsider and alien. But with challenges and catastrophes extending far beyond the boundaries of the local, the nearby and the neighbourly, the foreign and the faraway hold many answers. The urgency of the climate crisis and imminent implosion of our economic structures bring Kenneth Frampton’s reconciliation of the global and the local and his ideas about Critical Regionalism into new sharp relief, as Véronique Patteeuw and Léa-Catherine Szacka argue. Architects such as Laurie Baker, a British-born architect who made India his home in his thirties and featured in the month’s Reputations, proved that architecture can learn from local wisdom, but as Charles Holland warns in Outrage, ‘as soon as we go near the vernacular, we kill it.’ 

Sometimes, distant lands can be resistant, impenetrable, impossible to gain a foothold, as many Bauhauslers including László Maholy-Nagy and Walter Gropius found when they briefly made the UK their home in the 1930s. Zanzibar Town has been visited by many foreign forces, influenced and etched by the impact of colonial segregation and European Modernist post-independence visions, yet the Swahili urban tissue endures. Distance stretches and collapses in the remittance economy, the fiscal and social transaction between ‘“here”/local and “there”/global’ as Lesley Lokko explains, and on the threshold of the embassy, a patch of one country inside another, featured as this month’s Typology.

Foreign places can be where architects fully realise their potential, allowed to manifest unfettered, such as Louis Kahn’s National Assembly Building in Dhaka and Irish architects’ experimental Tropical Modernism in West Africa, the likes of which they had no opportunity to design at home. Often sending drawings from Ireland and receiving a photograph of the finished building some years later, these architects discovered that designing from a distance required contingency. Álvaro Siza has always resisted designing ‘a Portuguese building’ abroad, and today, unable to visit first-hand sites in remote Korea and China, designs with colossal models that he can poke his head inside.

For 20 years, the AR has catapulted emerging architects on to an international stage, often the first step to gaining recognition (and commissions) overseas. This year, the 16-strong shortlist includes practices from places as wide-ranging as Ireland, Denmark and Madrid to Turkey, Colombia and Chile. The full table of contents is available here.