By Nayera Yasser
Sitting in a meeting with few of the world’s most brilliant architectural and intellectual minds; Andres Lepik, a scholar from the Museum of Architecture TU in Munich, suggested curating an exceptional exhibition that would advocate architecture’s social responsibility. However, the only response he received was full of scepticism.
Now, several years after that meeting, Lepik has 22 countries on his itinerary, that he aims to expand even further across the globe. The Goethe Institut has teamed up with the entrepreneurial architect to take his idea into the heart of different countries.
Together, the two entities have put up a plan that would include several countries that highly aspire to developing their own architecture. “Think Global Build Social” tackles the essential topic of social responsibility; how architects should be involved in the community through establishing buildings that apply positive economic and environmental criteria.
The display simply showcases photos and stories of several successful projects around the globe, in areas such as Indonesia, Mzamba, Chile, among others. All the highlighted buildings have one major factor in common; their establishment through the use of environmentally friendly materials, whilst consuming minimal money and time.
“I know all the designers who worked on the showcased projects. I am only a curator who selected these projects to make an exhibition. I researched them, travelled to many of these countries and interviewed the architects,” said Lepik.
Lepik, along with Anna Heringer, founder of Studio Anna Heringer, and Adel Fahmy, scholar from the Modern Sciences and Arts University in Cairo, aim to redefine the basic job description of architects in Cairo, followed by many other capitals.
“People should understand that architecture is not only an object that comes out of a designer and gets placed into a position in space or city; instead, it is something that develops within the society and the architect is more of a catalyst, somebody that goes along with the process of social impact,” said Lepik.
With that being said, the exhibition is highly active in fighting the mistaken stereotype that links architecture solely to luxury. All of the showcased projects, along with their miniature replicas, represent ingenious works of architecture that revolve around minimalism and maximum functionality.
“Through this exhibition, the audience, whether professional architects or not, can understand that they have a say and an active opinion, as they can participate in the various processes that lead to architecture. It is not necessarily that politicians or architects or developers have to dominate the process; the community itself can start the processes that lead to buildings,” said Lepik.
This exhibition marks Lepik’s second visit to Egypt. Based on the initial thoughts that he has been receiving, and his own observation, Lepik believes that the solution for Cairo’s deteriorating architectural practices remains in the hands of citizens themselves.
“I think Cairo has a great history and it might have a great future if the processes that lead to architecture are guided in a better and friendlier way towards the benefit of the human beings. If it ceases to revolve around investments solely, and instead becomes a cultural process once again, then I believe there could be a great future for architecture in Cairo,” said Lepik.
The exhibition is set to last for a little less than a month before moving to another country. Along with the exhibition in the Townhouse Gallery in Downtown, the activities include a panel discussion and a talk.
“I think there are already some attempts to implement this fashion of architecture, this is one of the main reasons why I am here, in order to start discussions and workshops,” said Lepik.
According to the curator, both the talk and panel discussions should discuss and incept some contemporary ideas, inspired by the showcased projects, and tailored for Egypt.
“Think Global Build Social” will be touring more than 20 countries. After starting in Cairo, it will be heading to Amman and Beirut. Afterwards, it will be going towards Johannesburg, Lagos and Accra. Meanwhile, another version of the exhibition is touring North and South America, from Canada to Chile.
According to the curator, the exhibition is only a tool to highlight this key role of architecture; however, its strength truly lies in the exhibited buildings. “This impact does not end when the exhibition starts; in fact it continues with the use of the people living in these projects,” said Lepik.