David Basulto, interview – Евразийская Премия
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David Basulto,

Founder and Editor in Chief of ArchDaily, Member of the professional jury of the international competition Eurasia Prize 2018:

 «We believe that we need to inspire architects understanding the diversity and complexity of our world…»

ArchDaily exists for more than 10 years. During this time you’ve published tens of thousands of projects from different countries and prepared hundreds of interviews with professionals in the architectural and urban planning sphere. Summarizing the received knowledge, can you single out some global trends, forecast in what direction the modern architectural and town-planning sphere is moving?

– From all the interesting trends we are seeing around the world, perhaps the most interesting are:

Doing more with less. In emerging economies, where resources are scarce, architects need to do more with less. This has led to innovations specially in the use of materials, which result in projects that are more honest. From progressive housing in Chile to rebuilding efforts in Mexico, from bamboo use in Indonesia to the use of brick in Iran. All these trends have been shaped by innovation and are presenting a strong aesthetics that is the true expression of materials. This is also connected with an interesting trend we are seeing, as a new regional character is coming out of this. Globalization flattened architecture during the 90s and early 2000s, in a similar way that happened with the International Style. But now we are seeing that this new aesthetics of the “more with less” is resulting in a strong local character of projects. Vietnam, Iran, Indonesia, Paraguay, Chile, are good examples of this.

Your audience is hundreds of thousands of specialists from all over the world, which makes ArchDaily the largest professional network for architects and urbanists. Do you feel responsible for the content that you publish? What values and ideas do you consider important to broadcast to your readers?

– Our mission is to improve the quality of life of the next 3 billion people that will live in cities by 2050, by providing inspiration, knowledge, and tools to the architects who will face this challenge. By being today the largest platform for this, we have a tremendous responsibility in the daily curation we are doing. We believe that we need to inspire architects understanding the diversity and complexity of our world, and for this we need to abstract ourselves to understand what real value can a project transmit, beyond pure aesthetics. The impact of buildings in the urban fabric, the use of local materials, the development of a local character, innovation, material technology, are among the things that interest to us from a building point of view. But also where our profession is going, how young architects can enter into the profession faster, and how to scale architectural knowledge, is that interests to us from a profession point of view.

As far as we know, you position ArhDaily not only as a media, but also as the largest industry library. Have you thought about developing this idea, perhaps, to create an educational platform on the basis of the portal?

– As practicing architects we understood the importance of having access to a library of inspiration and knowledge, and also about materials and construction products, a core part of the architect’s work that is very hard to develop at the beginning of your career. That’s why we build our product catalog, but always understood as an instance of learning. In that aspect learning has always been embedded into what we do, but in a passive way. We have been discussing how to approach the trend of online education, specially by understanding the need of scaling proper architectural knowledge across the world and how e-learning is and is not working today.

What problems of modern industrial cities do you consider to be the most serious and why?

– The reconversion of former industrial zones with rich urban potential is perhaps the biggest challenge. In the past industrial age, these zones would be located in prime land: waterfronts, near transport infrastructure, central areas. As industries move out of the city or just get replaced by technology, there is a big opportunity to turn this former industrial zones into new developments for the city, usually of big scale and with the potential to refurbish old buildings. The industrial infrastructure also has potential, as it usually leaves voids across the city. On the other hand, what will the new “industry” look like, with massive automated facilities outside the city, from data centers to distribution hubs.

What, in your opinion, is the main achievement and the main weakness of the architecture of the XXI century?

– For me globalization is the biggest achievement and the biggest weakness of this era. It offers many benefits, but with the danger to flatten everything.

What architectural objects built in the last 10 years impressed you the most?

– For me the most interest objects have to do with city transformations. From the High Line in New York to Kings Cross in London, to Zaryadye Park in Moscow. In terms of the building as experience, Japanese architecture is always sublime to me. From the Teshima Museum by Ryue Nishizawa, to Sou Fujimoto radical housing.

Which country (or countries), in your opinion, is at the forefront of architecture and urban planning?

– There are countries where architectural culture is very strong and there is space for experimentation, such as Japan. But the countries that today interest me the most are the places where there is a rapid growth in architecture in hand with a strong local identity, as I mentioned before: Indonesia, Vietnam, Iran.

You’ve visited several Russian cities. Can you give a review of the architecture with which you managed to get acquainted? What impressed you most, what decisions seemed controversial?

– For me Russian cities have always been fascinating in the sense that there is a series of accumulated layers, from neo classical to modernism, with a unique character. Of course that the soviet era architecture is interesting to me as it materialized the ideals of a society, when architects played an important role. Today I see that the challenge is on how to move forward with a new character, that can acknowledge the past, but building a new identity away from false historicisms or copy/paste of globalization’s ideals, materializing the needs and aspirations of Russian society today.

The headquarters of the Eurasian Prize is located in Yekaterinburg, an industrial metropolis located east of the Ural Mountains. The general impression of it can be received by watching this short video. How would you describe this city, which 5 epithets suit it most? With what city would you compare it?

– Yekaterinburg looks like a city in change, with a strong presence of its industrial past and neoclassical and post-soviet architecture, finding its new character. The presence of the Itse river and its connection with the city offers many opportunities, reminding me of cities like Frankfurt.

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