the reconstruction of villages after severe flooding or destruction by earthquakes. Since 2010, she has participated in the construction of 36,000 houses, using vernacular building techniques and materials rather than importing mass-produced architecture. Nghia also uses the success of his sustainability- oriented practice in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City to experiment with low-cost and qualitative forms of dwelling for inhabitants of the Mekong Delta. The 3,800 houses that his office designs are built thanks to prefabricated elements transported by boat, which can reach areas inaccessible over land. As for Adeyemi, his project for a floating school to provide education to the population of Makoko in the Lagos lagoon obtained him international recognition. The video also shows his project for the Chicoco Radio in Port Harcourt (Nigeria), another audacious building that involved the local community in its design.
Pakistani architect Yasmeen Lari taps into local building techniques to reconstruct villages in the flood- stricken Sindh region.
The second group, composed of Ricardo de Olivera (Brazil), Santiago Cirugeda (Spain), and Eyal Weizman (Palestine), emits the real sense of rebellion suggested in the title of the series. de Olivera has the particularity to be a self-taught architect from Rocinha, Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela. He designs and builds dwellings for himself and for others in this informal settlement, as an alternative to the prohibitive prices of the Brazilian city. The precision and care he demonstrates in the film demystifies the usual imagery associated with the favelas that depicts them as chaotic and dirty aggregations of shanty houses. Cirugeda’s office, Recetas Urbanas, is based in Seville, where he has been designing several small buildings that often negotiate their (sometimes temporary) existence through ambiguities in the law. His architectural contributions always encourage and promote a sense of community in the public space. As the film shows, Recetas Urbanas shares the economic uncertainty of the communities with which it works, and sometimes invents new forms of labour and economy in order to make its projects happen. Weizman might be the most influential of all, since he has redefined an entire branch of the discipline by way of his writings and the Forensic Architecture research project that he created and directs at Goldsmiths College in London. The film introduces these two dimensions, beginning with an exposé of the violence of architecture employed by the Israeli government and army to implement the occupation of the Palestinian territories, and then presents the work carried out by Forensic Architecture. The latter intends to produce a scientific-legal discourse on architecture that would allow spatial experts to intervene in geopolitical trials.
Not everyone might separate these architects into two groups as done here, but doing so underlines how architecture can be understood as a political instrument. The strategy that consist of dedicating most of one’s efforts to a profitable practice of architecture while finding time for philanthropic projects, is not morally condemnable as such. It might be argued that the former is the condition of the latter, a paying-the-rent tactic that many of us understand all too well.
Eyal Weizman explains architecture's key role in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the evolution of urban warfare.
Although ethical considerations can intervene depending on how these projects are understood, i.e. are they generously offering expertise to people who might or might not need it, or are they involved in a holistic challenge of the political status quo that creates drastic social discrepancies and transmits a sense of urgency to these architectures? The works presented in the second group certainly belong to the latter scenario, which is what gives them a political dimension. Whether they challenge the segregationist association of law and capital in Rio de Janeiro, a hermetic public space in a country violently experiencing an economic depression, like Spain, or a five-decade long military occupation of a territory and its inhabitants, we can see that these works use architecture as a political weapon. Beyond its technical and cinematographic quality, the Al Jazeera series allows us to reflect on what such a practice of architecture might mean.