At this year's reSITE conference in Prague, speakers attended from around the globe to present differing perspectives on the challenges of migration, with topics of interest ranging from economics, to city planning to architecture. But as revealed by the following presentations, migration is a topic that requires interrogation on a number of different scales and in a number of different contexts: from the global economic focus offered by Saskia Sassen in her opening keynote lecture, to the focused challenges of designing micro-apartments shown by Mimi Hoang of nArchitects; and even to the unusual case presented by Krister Lindstedt of White Arkitekter, when a migration is undertaken not by individual people but by a whole town at once.
When we started talking about migration [as a conference theme], everybody said ‘don’t do it, it’s too controversial.’ We said that’s exactly why we’re going to do it.
This defiant attitude was how Martin Barry, Chairman of reSITE, opened their 2016 Conference in Prague three weeks ago. Entitled “Cities in Migration,” the conference took place against a background of an almost uncountable number of challenging political issues related to migration. In Europe, the unfolding Syrian refugee crisis has strained both political and race relations across the continent; in America, Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has led a populist knee-jerk reaction against both Mexicans and Muslims; and in the United Kingdom—a country only on the periphery of most attendees’ consciousness at the time—the decision in favor of “Brexit” that took place a week after the conference was largely predicated upon limiting the immigration of not only Syrians, but also of European citizens from other, less wealthy EU countries.
In architecture, such issues have been highlighted this year by Alejandro Aravena’s Venice Biennale, with architects “Reporting from the Front” in battles against, among other things, these migration-related challenges. From refugee camps to slums to housing crises in rich global cities, the message is clear: migration is a topic that architects must understand and respond to. As a result, the lessons shared during reSITE’s intensive two-day event will undoubtedly be invaluable to the architectural profession.
Sociologist Saskia Sassen's researches and writes about the social, economic and political dimensions of globalization, immigration, and networked technologies in cities around the globe. Her books and writings—published in over sixteen languages—have sustained the interests of architects and planners who seek to better understand the city via the systemic conditions that find expression in the reality of urban space.
Now actively involved in teaching Columbia University, we caught up with Sassen at the Arquine Congress in Mexico City, where she shared some interesting views on the role of architects, her contemplations on the future of the city, and her thoughts on the impact of the internet on the city.
Check out a full transcript of our interview with Sassen after the break.
Phaidon Press recently made us aware of a video they posted on what makes a successful city. It is part of a series by Ricky Burdett that promotes the book Living in the Endless City. This video features Ricky Burdett, Richard Sennett and Saskia Sassen. This is an important topic as three quarters of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050.