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Jorge Tárrago Mingo, Architect and professor of the School of Architecture of the University of Navarra

Architecture matters

Architecture Week 2019

Mon, 14 Oct 2019 17:28:00 +0000 Published in Diario de Navarra, Diario Vasco, Las Provincias (Valencia), El Diario Montañés

Every year at this time we architects celebrate architecture in a special way. And we invite everyone who wants to join us. The celebration is very young. Especially if we compare it with the longevity of the discipline and agree that it has accompanied man since ever. It begins in 1985, when the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization agreed that the first Monday of October, therefore this year on the 7th, would be dedicated to the 'World Habitat Day'. Somewhat later, in 1996, the International Union of Architects (UIA) decided that the same date would be 'World Architecture Day'. And in more recent times it has been extended to a whole 'Architecture Week'.

With the inflation of 'world days of' perhaps one might ask does it make any sense to dedicate a day, a whole week, to celebrating architecture? Indeed, what do we celebrate?

Both questions are rhetorical. The answer is yes to the first one. And also without any doubt. The purpose of the celebration is to draw attention, reflect, perhaps encourage concrete solutions, above all to disseminate and, of course, have as much fun as possible sharing with the public our passion for architecture and our concerns. To this end, the Colleges of Architects, the Schools of Architecture and many other related institutions have programmed, as they do every year, cycles of conferences, guided visits to relevant architectures that open their doors to us, itineraries through the cities, exhibitions, competitions, debates, courses. Everything has the goal to bring architecture closer to all audiences, to show and explain the reasons for the highlights, perhaps to teach how to look at the city with a more comprehensive and, why not, more critical eye.

In the opinion of many this is, in fact, a pending topic and where much more can still be done. And yet, I would go so far as to say that never before has architecture been so much in the limelight or aroused so much interest in public opinion. I am not referring so much to the controversies that regularly crop up in the news - the last one, for instance, about the statements of a political representative on housing - and not even in spite of the clikbait contents that only want to satisfy our curiosity.

I would like to highlight -and thank whoever it may concern- how the interest in architecture knowledge dissemination has been recovered in the media. It is true that traditionally the main written media have included it in their cultural sections or supplements. Like everything else, this has gone through different moments, better and worse. But never before have there been so many architects collaborating in the written press, supplements, opinion magazines, or in digital media. Since just a couple of weeks, for example, the new season of Julia Otero's radio program on Onda Cero has included every Friday a section on architectural issues. In social networks she announced it like this: "From the moment we wake up until we go back to bed, everything around us is.... #Architecture". Well, that's right. We should also congratulate Televisión Española for this year's broadcast of Escala humana on La 2, which has shown the impact that urban planning, design, architecture, has on our daily lives through short chapters. Or right now, on the same channel and also on schedule central, the programming of episodes of the classic British series Grand Designs.

Perhaps never before have so many architects dedicated themselves to organizing, for example, children's workshops to awaken children to architecture through play, partnership and experimentation. Or perhaps never before have so many institutions, museums and foundations endeavored to transmit to society the service vocation of architecture. And yet much remains to be done so that we all perceive the importance it has for everyday life, even in its smallest details, from the moment we get up until we go back to bed.

And what are we celebrating? This year's theme is Architecture... Housing for all! And we are invited to reflect on how to plan for universal access to decent, affordable and environmentally friendly housing. There is no space here to enter subject. It will be very much in the media in the coming days. Two simple data that speak for themselves show the urgency of the issue. According to UN-Habitat some 3 billion people will need access to housing by 2030. That's 40% of the world's population. Second, if the world's cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter of CO2 behind China and the USA. The challenge is more important than it seems. It does not only affect quantitatively, it also means addressing our cities correctly and under new paradigms to make a better, safer, more inclusive and more sustainable architecture.