For many people the year 2020 will be remembered as that very unpredictable and difficult period. Experiencing the fear of a pandemic, having to adjust to lockdown situations, working remotely, practicing new social distancing customs as we inhabit our cities, and the general uncertainty that produced stress, confusion, and in many cases, even worse. Time magazine reflects this feeling towards the year by creating a cover only with the numbers 2020 crossed out by a big X.
We know that no situation is 100% good or bad. And architects, sometimes considered the eternal optimists, always try to see opportunities even in the face of great difficulty. This resilient spirit may even allow us to see some good news from 2020 related to the field of architecture and design.
Covid meant that my international travel schedule was substantially curtailed. So much of the good news that we saw in the field of architecture and design in 2020 comes from the internet or took place closer to home. This has helped many of us come to realize that experiences close to home can be powerful and the connection to the larger world through the internet can open new doors.
Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara win the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize
With the announcement in early March of the award going to two founders of Grafton Architects based in Ireland, it signaled a cause for celebration for architecture, the profession, and women in practice. The quality of their works, always responding to and improving the contexts, including sustainability, their collaborative way of working inside and outside of the office, and the fact that they are the fourth and fifth women recipients of this 40-year-old prestigious prize meant that the entire international community could applaud.
Hong Kong has a shining star
Although political situations and social concerns are often in the forefront, and rightly so, the work of Hong Kong Design Centre and especially its Business of Design Week (BODW) showed us, in a well-crafted hybrid way, that the business of design is much beyond profit and loss statements or KPI's. Under the umbrella theme of finding clarity in uncertainty, speakers onsite and on computer discussed from the specific of designer brands after 2020 to future cities, from sustainable apparel to a new era of multi-disciplinary design. One of the best curated and professionally produced events of this period.
Exhibition close to home
Radical Curiosity. In the Orbit of Buckminster Fuller is an exhibition which opened in September in the physical space Espacio Fundación Telefónica, and remains on view until 14 March 2021. It examines Fuller from the perspective of the reality of 2020, at a confused and uncertain time in which we are experiencing a series of the systemic crises that Fuller considered for over sixty years. The variety of materials, both beautiful and accessible, succeeds in connecting the past with the present, and more importantly, with our imagination for the future.
Firms highlighted for pioneering and relevant work
Fast Company named Studio Gang to the world's most innovative companies of 2020 in architecture. Ranking Studio Gang at #1, Fast Company highlighted the studio's wide range of projects, under the motto “building with cities, not for them”. It is refreshing that a firm that has continually and consistently researched and implanted sustainable, responsible ideas and approaches to all the projects they undertake is recognized in this way.
MASS Design Group of Boston (and the world) was named Wall Street Journal's Architecture Innovator of the Year for their work in healthcare and designing architecture as a medium for healing, through its public-health expertise and ability to reimagine spaces for everyday life.
Recognition of professional work fuels the firms to continue on their journey and inspires others. In this case, the values, ideas, and projects of Studio Gang and MASS Design Group are so worthwhile and the fact that publications that go beyond architecture have seen the great value in what they do is especially moving.
Parlour, a strong voice from “down under”
Parlour is a research-based advocacy organization based in Australia that is working to improve gender equity in architecture and the built environment professions. It was initiated as part of a research project titled “Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work, and Leadership”. The website, archiparlour.org launched in 2012, is one of the most powerful resources and a model for other organizations seeking to bring together a community, including research, resources, and voices, for action in a variety of ways. This year Parlour offered the world numerous quality events and conversations through Parlour Live!, as well as continuing their exemplary work of research, contributing to Wikipedia, news, events, and community building.