Where are the utopian visionaries?
Architecture of social exchange
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, Hansy Better Barraza is an Associate Professor of Architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design and a founder of Studio Luz Architects, a firm that features in major national and international exhibits and publications.
The book opens with theoretical essays, each specially commissioned, from a stellar cast. Michael Sorkin assesses “the site of the social” in architecture; David Gersten draws on John Hejduk’s legacy to consider architecture’s role as “a gatekeeper” between the world “out there” and everyday life; historian Jonathan Massey proposes “five ways to change the world”; with Chris Marker’s films as a springboard, Mabel O. Wilson recounts her search for traces of Valentino Deng’s ravaged village in South Sudan.
Subsequent essays form a field guide to “exchange” projects from Harlem to Port-au-Prince to Serekunda and Indore, a few still unbuilt, all virtually unknown to students of architecture. Jae Cha, Peter Clegg, Simón Vélez, and famed modernist Balkrishna Doshi demonstrate the benefits of easily found and/or scavenged materials, including bamboo. Money is saved; no gas-guzzling, earth-leveling machines are needed; residents rely on their own building skills and their (not the architect’s) notions of home and community.
In other, also generously illustrated essays, Milton S. F. Curry, Hansy Better Barraza, Jennifer Lee, and Pablo Castro present varied alternatives to ghettoizing large groups in bleak housing complexes and urban “deserts.” The book ends with an epilogue in which Alberto Pérez-Gómez shows that expression of the “poetic imagination” is as important as pragmatic concerns in the pursuit of social justice in architecture.”