Poetical, Polite, Political Architecture in Latin America
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In 2016 and responding to the Pritzker Price given to socially committed Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, Patrik Schumacher [Partner at Zaha Hadid Architects] complained that the Pritzker Prize had mutated into a humanitarian design award and announced a worrying symptom of a political politeness flowing over architecture practice. With examples in recent humanitarian architecture laureates such as Alejandro Aravena, Shigeru Ban or Balkrishna Doshi we are experiencing a shift in recognition towards a more socially committed practice by comparison with the beginning of this century and that had witnessed celebration of exclamatory poetical building expression in the works of starchitects such as Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry, amongst others. Using this recent debate as starting point I would like to explore the conflictive oscillations of architecture when referring and relating to the poetical, the polite and the political. The use of these three notions is limited to specific understandings associated with material practices that might be summarized as follows: POETICAL having an imaginative or sensitively emotional style of expression. POLITE relating to 'refined' cultural expressions. POLITICAL having some reference to the polis and thus considering the social and political community as a primary instance. It is my intention to trace the understanding, interpretation and implementation of these three notions within some Latin-American architecture practices of the last 50 years. In order to do so I will go over some ideas published by academia and I will present some building examples that help illustrate some points; mostly low-income housing and public infrastructure which are the most pressing architectural subjects in the region.
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