Society Magazine - page 35

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes
is an architect, entrepreneur
andworldwide speaker, based
in Amsterdam. After develop-
ing her vision on architecture
and social development, called
Architecting Interaction, Steph-
anie founded AKKAArchitects.
Driven by Architecting Interac-
tion, AKKA is dedicated to create
spaces that foster interactions,
such as collaboration, learning,
creativity and innovation. Previ-
ously, Stephanieworked at OMA,
where she run three projects in
Education City, including Qatar’s
National Library andQatar Foun-
good direction. The “half a good house”
is not only a solution to give poorer resi-
dents shelter, it is not only able to create
better quality houses with lessmoney. It
is a tool empowering people to overcome
property. How? Inmore than oneway.
First, the fact that housing can be done
for such lowcost means that it is possible
to build publicly funded residences on
expensive inner-city land, whichmeans
lower income families have access to
public transport, thus jobs and better
schools. Secondly, when a family gets a
subsidy in the formof a house, the family
owns the house, whichmeans there has
been a transfer of publicmoney into the
family’s asset.
With this project, Aravenawas looking
to create an investment, not an expense.
“Other subsidised properties lookmore
like cars than houses” he says, “They
lose value over time because they are
in under-served peripheries, because
the quality of the environment is very
bad, because the urban layout is bad, the
structure is not there. Consistently, every
single project that we’ve done, has tripled
[in value]”. For poor families, this is by far
themost significant asset they have, they
nowown something valuable and can
acquire a loan froma bank to start a small
business for example. When architecture
can help people overcome poverty, this
is when, I believe, an architect becomes
relevant. Themost powerful relevance
of architecture is in how relevant it is to
people and their reality.
While the Pritzker Price jury called
Aravena “the leader of a newgeneration
of sociallyminded architects”, architects
and architecture fans were not so sure.
His announcement as the 2016 laureate
generated an almost violent wave of com-
ments.“What terrible news on the current
state of architecture. When is thework
of real architects […] going to be awarded
their duly deserved prize? Aravena is fun-
damentally a shaman, a pseudo-socialist
at best and herewe are in 2016 awarding
propagandamachines over real architec-
ture! Goodbye Pritzker. It has been nice
knowing you”. Another simply stated
“What a joke” and yet another said “The
Prizker Prize committee has just made a
fool of itself and discarded all credibility
to the prize”. One part of the criticism is
also linked to the true fact that Aravena
was on the Pritzker jury from2009 to
2015, although I amnot surewhat that
proves andwhywould that be a reason
not to award hima prize he deserves. As
an architect myself, andwhen I read such
comments, I feel a true concern, a genu-
ineworry about the state of theworldwe
are in today. You see I amnot interested in
discussing the potential of architecture to
transform lives but its duly responsibility
to do so. What is architecture - essential-
ly - if not creating shelter, bettering our
living environments and creating better
futures for ourselves and future genera-
tions. When architecture can help people
overcome poverty, I think it is fair to talk
about valuable architecture, prize-worthy
Whether architects and architecture fans
agree or not with the jury’s decision, that
remains quite irrelevant, especially to the
actual users of architecturewhose opin-
ion is in fact the only one that matters.
It is about the non-architects, the actual
people living in the environments archi-
tects create. It is too easy to forget that
architecture is a tool and not an end in
itself. The only confirmation an architect’s
work needs is that of the users and not
that of peers and fans of the profession.
Sowouldwe not gain perspective — as ar-
chitects and professionals — by enlarging
our horizons towhat reallymatters and
listening towhat people, actual users re-
ally need?Would that not be the first step
tomaking a real valuable contribution to
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