La Biennale di Venezia
Campo di Ghetto Nuovo, Cannaregio 2909., 30121 Venice
The phenomenon of favelas – in the multitude of forms in which it presents itself in different parts of the world – is an event that involves, today, a billion people and that will affect two billion in the short span of a couple of decades.
The exhibition “From Favelas to Parametric Cities” aims to offer the viewer an approach to understanding this expanding universe of favelas – leaving aside any humanitarian or sociological considerations – by following the model suggested by traditional scientific research which combines practical experience with theoretical analysis.
The practical phase was conducted by the architect Giulia Foscari who visited and studied Brazilian favelas and tested some specific aspects by means of architectural proposals. This work culminated in the publication of the book “della Favela” which was published by the Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica of Italy in 2004.
This phase of research was essential to comprehend that the actual nature of favelas does not allow any possibility of synthesis. Based upon her experience, the reality of a favela is essentially a collection of fragments – assembled through the challenges of daily life with a high level of unpredictability – that are loosely connected only by reciprocal local interactions.
As a result of this inherent difficulty of reducing the phenomenon of a favela to a single vision, Giulia Foscari’s report concentrated at this first stage on offering the reader multiple approaches as well as observations of behavioural and architectural detail.
However, the study of these fragments led Giulia Foscari over time to research a broader architectural theme: that the methods of construction within a favela are founded on principles of assemblage that are similar to procedures of composition proposed by some contemporary architects, as an alternative – if not even in opposition – to the rational procedures of modern architecture.
One could say that certain contemporary architects – whether consciously or not – have adopted from favelas particular techniques, which would suggests that the favelas could be seen as prophecies of contemporary society or, vice versa, that contemporary society is a metaphor for favelas.
That is to say, that the reality of dense urban settlements such as favelas presents greater proximity to contemporary architecture’s bottom-up approach – spanning complexity theory, emergent systems, parametric design – than to modern architecture’s linear top-down design.
The above realisation formed the starting point for the second – or theoretical – phase of research which was conducted by Giulia Foscari in collaboration with three other architects Arturo Lyon, Kristof Crolla and Marc Boles, in the context of the Master programme “Design Research Laboratory” at the Architectural Association of London, under the critical supervision of the architect Patrik Schumacher.
This phase focused on the analysis of underlying rules of natural emergent systems (which one could argue are similar to the assembly of human beings within a favela) as a starting point for developing new urban growth strategies able to address population densification in metropolitan settlements.
The design proposal, presented by the four architects (Sugar Inc.) in this exhibition, consists of a high-rise, three dimensional urban mesh that offers a counter model to urban sprawl, by allowing the absorption over time of population growth in London through a radical ground to volume relationship.
The project is based on the development of plug-ins for the 3D software package Maya that create a parametrically driven, smart environment in which, as the population increases, a spatially differentiated model grows over time by adapting and responding to local conditions.