Decolonise to decarbonise and back again
The entangled sitch of architecture in light of contemporary crises can only be solved through new forms of collaborations and through deliberately studied interdisciplinary models and designs for the future. For Lokko, there has always been a gap between architecture as a profession and architecture as a discipline; the latter being the broader field. Colonial prints are laid bare in evidentiary practices, propelling the prolific writer and educator to examine the complicated contexts “beyond architecture that deals with the building of buildings” by lifting the layers for dialogues “about resources, ways of thinking, about politics, ways of thinking about the world”.
Africa remains a significant frontier with potentials of untapped resources, and the globe’s need for geopolitical realignment, would have to stop Europe and the US from mulling over Africa as the post-Cold War yielding pad.
Postdoctoral Researcher in Politics of Architecture at SOAS, University of London Kuukuwa Manful argues that putting Europe at the centre of African stories is a choice that favours colonial histories. Kuukuwa emphasises that “European architects operated as though the continent were a blank slate, devoid of pre-existing architecture worthy of note.”
Sinking foundations, floating treasures: The Venice of our times
The graph of the average carbon dioxide (CO₂) levels in the atmosphere worldwide from 1959 to 2022 is a playground slide and the 2015 Paris Agreement goals are not in the ballpark just yet. Buildings are currently responsible for 33% of global energy consumption and 39% of greenhouse gas emissions. The Carbon Leadership Forum, cites projections that the world’s building floorspace will double by 2060.
In Venice, housing is becoming increasingly unaffordable, partly due to the Biennales which happen to be central with the touristification. Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences in a 2021 report, suggested that the average sea level could be anywhere from 17cm to 120cm higher in Venice by 2100. Trailing the vibrant footpaths over the watery maze of 120 islands into the buzzing squares bordered by largely Gothic structures with white Istria stone waterproof basements impregnated with sea water salt, and mostly lacking septic tanks, you barely sense that someday Venice might have to succumb to its sinking foundations.
As sea levels will continue to rise over the coming decades due to the ongoing melt of the Antarctic, Greenland ice sheets and mountain glaciers, will Venice be hit as hard as low-lying Jakarta? Do manageable "acqua alta" events give some squeeze of assurance that the frequency and intensity of coastal flooding might not topple Venice?
In November 2019, the Italian city with a population of 261,905 (2017) suffered its second-worst flooding event after the worst ever flooding of 1966. More than 80% of the city went under water with an estimated €1bn euros (£0.9bn/$1bn) worth of damage, according to Luigi Brugnaro, the Mayor of Venice. Since 1923, water levels have reached 150cm (59in) or more on only 10 occasions, but five of those have been in the last three years.
The Biennale's work towards carbon neutrality
The main aim of the Biennale is to create a platform for architectural solutions to contemporary drawbacks of the society, and since La Biennale di Venezia has achieved an international standard PAS2060 carbon neutrality certification, it brings to light the practically-minded aspiration to contribute to the reduction of both operational and embodied carbon.
The Biennale visitor misses the scenery when tons of waste exhibition materials are conveyed by hand and boat across Venice. Arch+, Summacumfemmer and Büro Juliane Greb’s "Open for Maintenance – Wegen Umbau geöffnet", reveals a unique “action framework for a new building culture” by using leftover material and “spolia” from more than forty national pavilions and exhibitions of the Biennale Arte 2022.
While climate expert Dario Camuffo attempts to trace the Venice water levels in the paintings of Canaletto and Bellotto, with the city holding on to the dam system MOSE as a prospective answer to extreme flooding, the Biennale rings up the curtain on architecture’s untold possibilities for action in designing socio-ecological cities. Fortunately, be it the curation, projects or texts, light is shed on environment-friendly perspectives divulging climate concern.