Three Ambassadors of the LafargeHolcim Awards brought their projects to life at “Structures and Materials” in the series “Meetings on Architecture” at the Venice Biennale. Led by Curator and member of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation, Alejandro Aravena, the expert panellists presented a series of case studies from an “insider’s perspective”. Both the presentations and the Q&A session that followed emphasized the complexity of what it takes to get things built, and the importance of focussing on materials to create sustainable design solutions.
Knowledge not charity
Alejandro Aravena, Curator of the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice 2016 introduced the topic of the meeting. “We are seeking professional knowledge, not professional charity,” he explained. He stressed that this “Biennale for the poor” is focussed on tangible solutions to improve the life of people today and in the future, taking into account that “giving form to something built” is only the very last step in the working process of an architect.
Save material not energy
“We will have no choice but to build (much) more to accommodate the needs of two billion young people leaving their parents’ homes over the next 16 years”, said Werner Sobek. The member of LafargeHolcim Awards juries calculated this would require an additional 60 billion tonnes of building materials per year – an amount far beyond all capacities.
We must therefore build more with less: “It all has to be recyclable and produce no waste”. According to the expert on bringing architects and engineers together, it is time to focus on saving material rather than conserving energy. “We must go beyond fossil fuels and make far better use of the sun – it delivers much more energy that the world could ever use”.
Blend knowledge and technology
Specialist in unreinforced masonry vaults Philippe Block presented computationally-optimized approaches to save up to 70 percent of construction material by combining frequently-overlooked construction techniques in combination with cutting-edge computer technology: “It’s about finding a good mix between Zaha Hadid and the traditional master builder,” he said.
Philippe Block and his partners at Ochsendorf, DeJong & Block (ODB) have come up with smart building solutions for self-supporting vault structures. These are optimized to reduce material use to a minimum and in some cases to achieve a thickness of just two centimetres for a free span of 16 metres. By comparison, this is one third of the thickness of an eggshell at the same scale! The architect and structural engineer is a member of the Academic Committee of the LafargeHolcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, and was also responsible for the structural design of the prototype Droneport shell made of Durabic earth-compressed tiles on display at the Venice Biennale.
Exchange in practice
“Structures and Materials” included 2016 Golden Lion winners for “Best Participant” Solano Benítez and Gloria Cabral of Gabinete de Arquitectura (Paraguay); Philippe Block (Switzerland); Werner Sobek(Germany); and Simón Vélez (Colombia); together with moderator Alejandro Aravena (Chile). The next “Meeting on Architecture” on September 24th will feature LafargeHolcim Awards winners Anna Heringer (Austria), Francis Kéré (Germany/Burkina Faso), and Kunlé Adeyemi (Netherlands/Nigeria).