Al Borde Arquitectos from Ecuador are redefining their paradigm on the architects’ role in society and have created a documentary about the practice of the post-crisis generation of young architecture studios. The LafargeHolcim Awards 2014 jury for Latin America praised the young architects based in Quito for their urban revitalization project that draws on the rural tradition of barter. This form of non-monetary exchange enables the refurbishment of housing in the historical center of the city for residents without sufficient monetary means. The project was considered “a promising economic model to literally mine cities rather than nature” by the jury.
The film looks at the construction of real projects with students, users, and architects themselves. Created by Chilean journalist Katerina Kliwadenko and Spanish architect Mario Novas the film has been featured at architecture exhibitions and presentations at universities in Brazil, Ecuador, France, Hungary, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the USA. The documentary will remain “on tour” at international film festivals until 2019, until it is released for individual viewing.
The project “Under Construction” was completed in 2016, with eight residences (totalling 400 square meters) restored in an abandoned building where tenants exchange their labour as a form of rent. Al Borde Arquitectos were invited to participate in the main exhibition in the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice. Never before had an Ecuadorian studio been invited to showcase its work in the most important architecture exhibition in the world. The studio showed a series of projects and studios, all of them part of a unique “architectural movement” which seeks to address real issues, be part of society and change the established role of the architect.
Al Borde Arquitectos have not only created their own niche for architectural production, but have gained substantial visibility in terms of shifting the parameters on what is defined as good architecture. Their form of architecture upholds local values with a heightened sensitivity to materials and human resources – and enhances social, economic, and environmental outcomes in the projects they develop.
The Latin American portrayal of new perspectives in the social context of architecture has attracted international attention in recent years – and a new focus in understanding the role of the architect. This trend is also shown in the appointment of internationally renowned Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena (founder of Elemental Studio, Pritzker Prize laureate of 2016, and member of the Board of the LafargeHolcim Foundation) as Curator of the 15th International Biennale of Architecture in Venice under the theme of “Reporting from the Front” in 2016.