It looks that something is really changing within the architectural realm towards more meaningful forms. Expressive—and extremely expensive—museums, pavilions, and cultural centres are today less frequent in the architectural publications. The economic crisis caused by the speculative property market has displaced the leading role of the “Bilbao Effect”. Conversely, architectures referencing social, economic and ecological problems are receiving more attention and admiration from people inside and outside the profession.
Last year’s exhibition at MoMA “Less Scale Big Change” constituted the decisive support towards this change of mind. The eleven projects exhibited represented the commitment towards an architecture that responds to localized needs in underserved communities. Moreover, the jury at the architectural biennale in Venice in 2010 awarded the Golden Lion for the best national contribution to the pavilion of Bahrain: three huts built by fishermen referencing the displacement of local communities in Bahrain through property developments. The huts stand as the symbols of fishermen’s modest needs, in contrast to the speculative projects that surround them.
Some architects have long been working in projects that foster social change in underserved communities. Among them, the work by Alejandro Aravena in Chile or the one developed by Teddy Cruz along the border between Mexico and the U.S. exemplifies the change of interests in the architectural and urban realm. Architecture is conceived today not only as an iconographic mechanism, but also as a powerful tool for social, economic and ecological change.