Locality in architecture. How “local” are our cities?

In topic: Architecture

There is a delicate balance in architecture. That of keeping a local dialect and speaking fluently the current international language at the same time.

When the 2017 Pritzker was awarded to the Spanish firm RCR Arquitectes, the jury mentioned, they were awarded because of the approach “to create buildings and places that are both local and universal at the same time”. But what does this really   mean? How important are local traits in architecture during the era of a globalized world?

The fear of losing our local values

In today’s interconnected world we rely more and more on international influences, trade, transactions etc. This may be the reason behind a new fear that sociology scholars have already detected: that of losing our local values, customs, way of life even our understanding of regional architecture. There is a justified anxiety there which asks for a new way to approach the production and consumption of culture and architecture has an essential role to play there.

What is “local architecture”?

Local is a word used to describe something particular about a place that makes it different. In different places of the world, people live, work, socialize in different ways and this reflects on the environment they live in: their cities. In most European cities people usually commute to work, so there are advanced subway and bus systems. On the other hand, in many American cities (take LA for example) people prefer to move by – their own – car. A habit that has led to the development of highways. In the Mediterranean people spend much time outside. Balconies and verandas are vital for buildings. In Scandinavia they don’t need balconies but large windows to let natural light in. The way we live shapes the way we build and vice-versa. Architecture and locality are absolutely interconnected.

Local is another word for sustainable

How are our cities built? Where are the materials for their buildings coming from? How are they sourced? These are all questions that need answers. With nearly 70% of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, it is becoming more and more important for cities and therefore, architecture to find ways to locally source environmentally friendly materials.

And there are not only the numbers. Beyond them, locality plays an important role in the experiential aspects of a building, in the emotions it generates to its visitors or residents. People identify themselves with the space they live in. Architecture connects us with the culture of our land, it is a way to even pay homage to our history. And this is quite important in an ever changing world.

17 / 11 / 2021