Curator/EXHIBITOR Maksut Vezgishi, Pavilion Of The Republic Of Kosovo. Earth is Home / The role of urbanization is to create sustainable environments that bond humans with Nature and it is part of planetary biodiversity. Hence, this is the noblest mission of architecture. Global urbanization is in expansion: population growth, constructions of megastructures (housing, economy, communications, etc.). The process involves countries and societies where every decision—making has a global impact, thus lack of sustainable planning places Earth at risk. The most acute issue is the global warming crisis. We lack the awareness and coordinated actions in order to avoid the effects of climate disaster. Today we learned that no human action can be viewed as an individual anymore.

How will we live together?

Venice Biennale of Architecture 2020

Dea Luma, Ph.D.   

Architect / Assistant Professor 

The University of Tokyo 

September 2020

Architecture is perplexing in how within its systematic framework holds a multifold intersection of engineering disciplines including structural, mechanical, electrical, acoustical, environmental – in winding up with the impact that all of the above have on the human body. Hashim Sarkis, the curator of the Venice Biennale of Architecture 2020, sensibly categorizes the scales of consideration towards the compelling question of “How will we live together?”, by opening the call upon attention to the design for the new [human] body – addressing the need for changes in its “perception and conception”. This fundamentally posed question has provoked reflection and highlighted the responsibility that architects bear for the well-being of users to the built environments they create. Albeit, architects still design by intuition and have little understanding of how our bodies respond to the built environment.

Historically, one of the essential considerations in world architectural cultures has been aesthetic experience. A growing body of literature has particularly examined the dominance of the sense of vision over other senses in design considerations. Endeavors to “please the eye” have gone as far as battling between elaborate classical forms, to the eradication of all the decorative elements to reach to the “less is more”. The attempt to highlight the importance of forms and perceptions of beauty has dominated the decision-making processes in architecture. However, the awareness of embracing the various sensory modalities and focusing on occupants’ needs and well-being, rather than ‘what eyes can see’, has had its advocates as well. 

Steen Eiler Rasmussen, a Danish architect, once noted that “Architect’s work is intended to live on into a distant future. He sets the stage for a long, slow-moving performance which must be adaptable enough to accommodate unforeseen improvisations.” Fast forward to the year 2020, an unforeseen turn of events, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, found the world helpless, confined within four walls. It was but inevitable to witness an unprecedented amplification of the architect’s responsibility challenged to the call for an immediate reconsideration of the impact that architecture has on our lives. This, in fact, is where the agility of this noble profession lies, in the quest to find answers through the art of quick-witted solutions, where flexibility and vision take the final say.

On the bright side, one positive repercussion of this negative thing is that COVID-19 has accelerated the interest in how our bodies function. Now more than ever, people are in constant surveillance of their bodies and health. Technological advances provide a wide variety of biometric research scenarios for a more well-rounded view of human behavior. Therefore, the question rather is, how can we redefine a culture of health through architecture? How do health fears raise awareness of space perception? One fascinating subject indeed is whether the fear created by the COVID-19 could actually impact the way we perceive architecture. What changes in architecture should persist after COVID-19? How can we better define what is and isn’t working? The perception of safety and long-term stability is weighing heavily on the minds of the users. Up-ending everything that we have today, is not necessarily the solution to the current issue. Nonetheless, there are lessons we can learn and address them for both the immediate and the long-term future. 

Novel design principles lay in the evidence of understanding the functioning of the body and examining its relation to architecture. This redounds to the benefit of us all living together, considering that architecture plays an essential role in human health, as it is the host of our daily indoor activities where we spend more than 90% of our time. Therefore, we stand at an intersection of a situation as favorable as it is challenging. An indisputable advantage is that new windows of opportunities are opening for architects, providing us a possibility to aid design-processes by using technological developments. On the other hand, the difficulty lies in the demands for a multidisciplinary approach that would intertwine the contributions of various professionals. Architects are overdue for a revival of research, especially for ideas and practices that inform design’s contribution to the human experience. And, as challenging as it is to keep up with the fast-paced development of the digital world, architects, once again, must be prepared and show readiness for a significant shift in the paradigm of the architectural design.