It’s strange to think that I’ve been writing about architecture for over a decade now and, in some ways, it feels like nothing has really changed when, actually, a lot has changed: both in the world and within the architectural discipline. For one, the angle has shifted from disproportionately focusing on an ego-driven ‘starchitect’ narrative (which was largely driven by the media) to one that casts a wider global net. This is not to invalidate some of the truly groundbreaking works of these starchitects, but it does make one reconsider whether the focus of the architectural field had been evenly distributed. Especially if we are going to be tackling the global issues that we are faced with today, we are going to need a wider worldview – and a strong willingness for collaboration.
While the Global North has historically embraced a more individualistic approach, societies in the Global South are predominantly community-driven – which naturally lends itself to a more collaborative approach. The second edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial will set its sights on this part of the world and examine how practices can tackle today’s issues outside of the more global, Western canon. The exhibition is being curated by Nigerian architect Tosin Oshinowo, who is featured on this month’s cover. “There is a lot more inclusivity now [in the architectural field]; it is very encouraging, and I am optimistic that we are going to carry on in this direction,” she told me during our interview. Championing a multidisciplinary approach, Oshinowo hopes to engage product and industrial designers, architects, researchers and urbanists from across the Global South, hoping to bring to the foreground unfamiliar names from their respective fields for an alternative way of ‘doing things’. “The point is that we inclusively look for solutions that are not always from [within] the sector,” she said.
And while taking on the curator role is a prestigious and highly important endeavour, Oshinowo kept it real by admitting that she may not possess all the tools to bring the kind of diverse and wide-ranging conversation that she’d like if she were to solely stick to her own knowledge of the region. For that reason, she appointed an advisory board of international experts from the fields of art, design and architecture to help guide the exhibition. And for me, that is an important lesson to learn: which is that it is OK to admit that we don’t know everything – even within a professional environment. And this is exactly where the beauty of collaboration is so apt – it brings together different forms of knowledge and expertise for a greater cause, while focusing on togetherness as a pillar for progress. It is a theme I am always encouraged to explore – in this issue and the ones that came before and those that will, I hope, come after.