The Future Of Architecture, from MOMA

04Nov12

Paola Antonelli is arguably one of the most powerful people in the arts. As a senior architecture and design curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, Antonelli can make a young designer’s career as well as shape audiences’ views with her populist, ambitious exhibitions that range from celebrating humble objects to examining the ways in which design protects and shelters us.

There’s been a shift in architecture away from big, glittering buildings and more toward humanitarian design: disaster relief, sustainability, affordable housing. What do you think accounts for this shift, and do you think it will continue once the economy gets back on track?

I think I’ve seen this shift in all fields, not just in architecture and design. There are strange changes in history, sometimes you generalize, but it’s also the truth that the ’60s had a different atmosphere from the ’70s and the ’80s. So I have to say that this whole last part of our life has been really characterized by a lot more of a sense of responsibility in all fields. You have these colossal things that have happened — whether it’s 9/11, whether it’s big humanitarian disasters and genocides, a big economic crisis — somehow we’re all much more on our tip toes and we’re noticing what’s going on and we’re all becoming much more responsible. Oh, and I forgot to mention, a little environmental crisis going on too.

Architects and designers are part of the world, and they cannot avoid being really involved in it. So at the time I was preparing “Safe,” I was talking a lot with Cameron Sinclair, who was just starting Architecture for Humanity and was one of the first examples, but there was a lot going on already. What I like in particular is the selflessness that all this requires, because architects tend to be really big egos, and it’s fabulous to see that when they really have to step up to the plate they do it. And they do so by letting go of their signature moves, because the best way to be a humanitarian architect or designer is to work with the people who need the work — not to do things from thousands of miles away, but to be on the ground and let the wisdom and the knowledge of the people there inform the proposal and the ideas that you may have. Which is also an evolution of the Peace Corp.

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