21 January 2020

Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience

Our Earth – in terms of climate – is on the brink of no return. This precarious situation is clear for all to see. Extreme events continue to batter every corner of the planet, even those that were hitherto considered safe, protected places. From politicians to designers, by way of the young Greta Thunberg, so many people and organisations are trying to come up with different measures in a bid to combat these phenomena.

The exhibition Survival Architecture and the Art of Resilience, curated by Randy Jayne Rosenberg of Arts Works for Change, a non-profit Californian organisation that has been active in the social and environmental spheres for over a decade, is part of the fight. It brings science, technology, architecture and art together to try and get to grips what people living in high-risk situations need and identify the best solutions for tackling the shock and stress that derive from them. Some 1 million people around the world live in precarious conditions and absolute poverty, and are thus at greater risk of losing their homes, jobs and lives because of drought, rising sea levels, soaring temperatures and the destruction of the habitat, with appalling repercussions on fishing, farming, tourism and so on. However, innovation – both high and low tech – has shown that people at every social level are able to survive and be resilient.

The aim of the exhibition is to make these concepts accessible to all, with four centralised themes that reflect the key characteristics of survival architecture: Circular – the importance of creating structures using materials that can be used and reused ad infinitum; Portable – the ability to put together easily transportable and nomadic dwellings; Visionary – the need for a continuous flow of ideas for radically changing the way we think about shelter; Resilient – the urgent need for structures that can adapt to adverse and dynamic situations. “Artists are uniquely adept at re-envisioning our world and how we relate to it,” said Rosenberg. More than twenty artists, studios and foundations have been asked to showcase various works – installations, drawings, videos and photographs. These include The Empowerment Plan’s coat/sleeping bag for extreme emergencies, Tina Hovsepian’s Cardborigami lightweight cardboard shelter for two people, which folds up for easy carrying; Vincent Callebaut’s visionary designs of for floating algae farms in Southern China; passive houses in Haiti and floating ecological cities outside Monte Carlo; Gerard Minakawa’s Anthropod bamboo huts; Alejandro Aravena’s Villa Verde and Quinta Monroy, solid social housing in Chile; Mary Mattingly’s portable housing and Chris Jordan’s images of devastation and destruction. Projects and reflections geared to triggering a whole new way of building that is flexible, resilient and adaptable to survive the future effects of changing environments. How do we build dwellings that have a full life cycle of durability: before-during-after disaster? Long and short-stay housing? Human habitats, homes and cities, that are flexible, affordable and capable of surviving unforeseen and adverse events – not to mention rethinking the real meaning of “home”?

Until 3rd May 2020

Museum of Craft and Design (MCD)
San Francisco, CA


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