Cities: Affordable Housing Public Debates 2022 by the Norman Foster Foundation

Uniting minds such as Alejandro Aravena, Tatiana Bilbao, and Peter van Assche, the event probed into how cities of the future can tackle rampant urbanisation and housing demand.

by Jerry ElengicalPublished on : Nov 18, 2022

Housing, more specifically the right to adequate housing, was recognised under the right to an adequate standard of living, in both the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human rights back in 1948, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which was adopted in 1966. Yet, over a half century since these landmark documents came into force, the problem of providing sufficient affordable housing for all is one that has still not been addressed to its fullest extent, despite it being an important component of the UN's 2030 Agenda. Now, with the added issues of gentrification, rampant urban migration, and most importantly, the climate emergency, piling onto the obstacles encountered as part of this task of gargantuan proportions, the onus is on those who are shaping the built environment of today to find trajectories towards a tomorrow where housing for all is given the precedence it deserves. In this light, the Norman Foster Foundation, in association with the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, organised the first edition of their 'Public Debates on Cities: Affordable Housing' at the Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos in Madrid, Spain, on November 16, bringing together an esteemed panel of speakers to discuss global scenarios surrounding housing for all in the cities of the future.

Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos in Madrid, Spain - The conference’s venue | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
Fundación Francisco Giner de los Ríos in Madrid, Spain - The conference’s venue Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

Speakers invited for the first segment of the conference were Peter van Assche (Founding Principal, bureau SLA, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Chairman, Committee for Architectural Review and Monuments, Utrecht, the Netherlands), Tatiana Bilbao (Principal, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio, Ciudad de México, Mexico), Jonathan Ledgard (Founder, Rossums Studio, Lausanne, Switzerland; Director, Afrotech Future Africa Initiative (Afrotech-EPFL), Ècole Polytchnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPLF), Lausanne, Switzerland), and Maria Vassilakou (Former Vice Mayor, Vienna, Austria). To follow, the event concluded with a conversation between two Pritzker Prize winners: British architect Norman Foster, President of the Norman Foster Foundation and Founder as well as Executive Chairman of London-based Foster + Partners, and Chilean architect Alejandro Aravena, Executive Director of ELEMENTAL. The discussion was moderated by Stuart Smith, Director of Arup Germany, who is based out of Berlin.

The speakers at the event included Alejandro Aravena, Tatiana Bilbao, Norman Foster, Jonathan Ledgard, Stuart Smith, Peter van Assche, and Maria Vassilakou | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
The speakers at the event included Alejandro Aravena, Tatiana Bilbao, Norman Foster, Jonathan Ledgard, Stuart Smith, Peter van Assche, and Maria Vassilakou Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

The conference was the latest in a line of other public debates organised periodically by the foundation, and also part of the Cities: Affordable Housing Workshop from November 14-18. At the event, an introduction by Stuart Smith outlined the conference's main points of focus, beginning with the UN Habitat’s estimation that according to present rates of urbanisation, nearly three billion people (40 per cent of the global population) would need access to adequate housing by 2030. The specific problem was gradually defined on a series of dimensions, all related to a simple yet extremely pertinent question: "How do we deliver affordable housing in our cities?” In order to address it, the first segment comprised a series of presentations and discussions that collected the insights of van Assche, Bilbao, Ledgard, and Vassilakou.

Norman Foster, President of the Norman Foster Foundation and Founder as well as Executive Chairman of Foster + Partners | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
Norman Foster, President of the Norman Foster Foundation and Founder as well as Executive Chairman of Foster + Partners Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

Each of the experts was given five-minute slots to elucidate their own perspective on the problem at hand, alongside avenues towards solutions discovered through their individual practices. While van Assche stressed on the need for community and process-oriented solutions, Bilbao dove into how "architecture can create platforms for people to experience and develop their own existence, accommodating life as a process."

Alejandro Aravena, Executive Director, ELEMENTAL | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
Alejandro Aravena, Executive Director, ELEMENTAL Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

Ledgard's presentation outlined the gravity of the housing situation that cities of the future will face, particularly with respect to the speed at which the problem is hurtling in our direction, faster than most can even begin to comprehend. Finally, Vassilakou presented her own experiences working as a public official, citing a three-fold strategy - "Affordability, Liveability, and Community" - for building better cities with high urban quality of life. A panel discussion moderated by Smith followed, where the panels' cultural and professional diversity was put on full show, each commenting on different facets of the problem as seen in their individual geographical contexts.

  • Stuart Smith, Director, Arup Germany | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Stuart Smith, Director, Arup Germany Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • Jonathan Ledgard, Founder, Rossums Studio, Lausanne, Switzerland; Director, Afrotech Future Africa Initiative (Afrotech-EPFL), Ècole Polytchnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPLF) | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Jonathan Ledgard, Founder, Rossums Studio, Lausanne, Switzerland; Director, Afrotech Future Africa Initiative (Afrotech-EPFL), Ècole Polytchnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPLF) Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • Maria Vassilakou, Former Vice Mayor, Vienna, Austria | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Maria Vassilakou, Former Vice Mayor, Vienna, Austria Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

During the second segment, a more intimate discourse between two architects at the forefront of innovation in urbanism at different levels took centre stage, with both Aravena and Foster presenting their own outlooks on participatory design, the need for simplification, sustainable construction, and means to politically define ownership in the domain of affordable housing. Aravena shared his own views on understanding user needs through participatory design, to better focus and direct the knowledge architects bring to the table. In his view, the act of clearly defining questions and using design's power of synthesis to answer them by bringing users into the mix more closely, has proved vital throughout his work at ELEMENTAL, particularly in their now famous incremental housing schemes in Chile.

  • Tatiana Bilbao, Principal, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Tatiana Bilbao, Principal, Tatiana Bilbao Estudio Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • Peter van Assche, Founding Principal, bureau SLA, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Chairman, Committee for Architectural Review and Monuments, Utrecht, the Netherlands | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Peter van Assche, Founding Principal, bureau SLA, Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Chairman, Committee for Architectural Review and Monuments, Utrecht, the Netherlands Image: Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

Headed by Norman Foster, the Norman Foster Foundation advocates for interdisciplinary thinking and inquiry to help pave the way for future generations by highlighting the vital role of architecture, urbanism, and infrastructure. Promoting innovation that transcends conventional boundaries, the foundation is also the custodian of the Norman Foster Archive and Library which aims to disseminate information on narratives surrounding the built environment through Foster’s own work as well as that of other revered architects such as Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Charles and Ray Eames, Buckminster Fuller, Richard Rogers, Zaha Hadid, and Tadao Ando.

  • The panel discussion featuring Smith, van Assche, Bilbao, Ledgard, and Vassilakou | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    The panel discussion featuring Smith, van Assche, Bilbao, Ledgard, and Vassilakou Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • Peter van Assche stressed on the need for community and process-oriented solutions | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Peter van Assche stressed on the need for community and process-oriented solutions Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

By partnering with the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction—founded to promote and transform the construction sector with a greater focus on sustainability through roundtables and conferences—the event sought to augment the activities of the 'Cities: Affordable Housing Workshop', which invited researchers, students, and practitioners to come together to reflect on the possibilities of dignified housing solutions in cities. The solutions in this case, focus on adopting new methods and technologies to alter the currently flat curve of productivity in the construction industry and how these measures can also serve to manage the impending hurdles of resource scarcity while lowering carbon footprints.

  • Tatiana Bilbao dove into how “architecture can create platforms for people to experience and develop their own existence, accommodating life as a process” | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Tatiana Bilbao dove into how “architecture can create platforms for people to experience and develop their own existence, accommodating life as a process” Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • Jonathan Ledgard and Maria Vassilakou at the conference | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    Jonathan Ledgard and Maria Vassilakou at the conference Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

Besides highlighting the role of architects and designers, the event also brought the prospect of greater public involvement, technological innovation, collaboration, as well as environmental and social awareness into the fold. The development of the built environment and the responsibility of everyday citizens in directing this evolution was also a central theme, directing the event’s discourse to more inclusive design processes. As Foster himself concluded during the discussion: "And in the end, everything is about design. Combating climate change is about design.”

  • The second segment featured a moderated discussion between Foster and Aravena | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    The second segment featured a moderated discussion between Foster and Aravena Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation
  • The two celebrated architects presented their own views on affordable housing and how the cities of the future can address it through participatory design | Cities: Affordable Housing - Public Debates | Norman Foster Foundation | STIRworld
    The two celebrated architects presented their own views on affordable housing and how the cities of the future can address it through participatory design Image: © Pablo Gómez-Ogando, Courtesy of the Norman Foster Foundation

What do you think?

About Author

Recommended

LOAD MORE
see more articles
3888,3804,3877,4111,3864

Keep it stirring

get regular updates SIGN UP

This site uses cookies to offer you an improved and personalised experience. If you continue to browse, we will assume your consent for the same.
LEARN MORE AGREE