The Grand Prize for Architecture 2012, issued by FADEA (Argentine Federation of Organizations of Architects) and ARQ (the prestigious supplement by Clarin Architecture), has been awarded to the Puerto Roldán House in the outskirts of Rosario, Argentina. A design of Architects Maite Caballero and Gerardo Fernandez.
This 'Grand Prize' is a great effort that should be emphasized as very positive, as it gives recognition to the professional skills of architecture studios across Argentina. However, it seems necessary to point out some paradoxical facts that will maybe allow us to reflect and address the pressing challenges concerning architecture in our time.
While there are many categories and prizes, a “Grand Prize” is a symbol, primus inter pares, an acknowledgement to the rest of society about the state of the field.
This is where the greatest perplexity arises: the model that stands out from the rest of the winners is an individual house in a gated community on the outskirts of a city. This does not seem to be the best of recommendations for those looking at this award as a referent of the métier, or for society at large.
Beyond highlighting the formal austerity that the house represents, you have to recognize that this model implies an outdated urban planning typology. The house encourages low density neighbourhoods, and with it implies a negative environmental and social impact.
Today the vast majority of international academic and scientific views agree that compactness in urban areas is the logical thing to do. This very compactness is one of the factors that helps to facilitate the communication and exchanges which are, as we know, the essence of life in a community.
Therefore, individual housing has become the less environmentally efficient option, with the most energy, land and water being consumed. In addition, the car use from these individual houses involve high fossil fuel costs and CO2 emissions that exacerbate global warming. Finally, in our particular case, this land use is a real waste of the richest and most productive land in the world, at a time when obtaining food is vital for mankind.
Shouldn’t a Grand Prize in architecture take into account these issues? Are these not some of the challenges posed to the thousands of architecture students today?
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