CULTURE

Architecture and challenges of a globalized world

Where is great architecture produced? By whom and for whom? Who are those who seek it out and are willing to pay through the nose for it? Some say states and big companies are buying architecture today, looking for new symbols and functions. And the architects need the clients too. When we talk about great challenges in architecture, we inevitably talk about big investors. If in the 19th century we had benefactors and patrons, today we have business groups and alliances between governments and companies. Naturally, «big» architecture is sown only where it has room to grow; the West and the Far East. The Euro-Asian dialogue, now stronger than ever, reveals striking similarities and brings to the surface the true nature of the globalized market. Nevertheless, «today we have a more or less homogenized idiom of form, while having vast ideological differences on the other hand,» noted Yiannis Aesopos, assistant professor at Patras University’s Department of Architecture. «Some architects display a stance of social criticism, while others show a greater adaptability to changing circumstances. We can, however, see a steady rise in the criticism of the stance of states and multinational corporations in relation to architecture. It is a debate that is sure to play a central role in the very near future,» said Aesopos. A so-called «architect’s agenda» has already been formed, according to the professor, and it was discussed at length recently at a Patras symposium, where the Cultural Capital is hosting the world premiere of the international exhibition «New Trends in European and Asian-Pacific Architecture, 2006-2007.» The exhibition was initially a Euro-Japanese affair, explained Aesopos, who was in charge of bringing the exhibition to Greece and ensuring the support of the Patras – European Capital of Culture 2006 organization. «It began by ranking Europeans in Tokyo as a joint program to develop dialogue and communication between architects. Exhibitions were held in Tokyo in 2001 and 2002, but with EU enlargement came the question of adaptability,» said Aesopos. Commissioners were therefore elected to select architects from EU member states and from Asia and the countries of the Pacific. The exhibition, which evolved into a platform for new ideas and innovations reflecting new trends and influences, was also gradually linked to the institution of the European Capital of Culture. Patras brought together architects both for the exhibition and for a symposium that was held June 2-12. Organized by Aesopos, the conference addressed the new challenges in architecture today. Commissioners Winy Mass from the Netherlands (from the famed Rotterdam-based MVRDV) and Japan’s Riken Yamamoto were responsible for selecting nine firms from Europe and seven from Asia and the Pacific to show their work, while at the Greek end, Andreas Angelidakis participated in the exhibition with the «Blue Wave» hotel and «Cloud House,» two studies on the ideological and emotional potential of construction.