Pedro Napolitano Prata
Shortly before the First World War, Harry Brearley (1871-1948), who had been working as a metalworker since he was 12 years old, developed the first stainless steel. Seeking to solve the problem of wear on the inner walls of British army weapons, he ended up obtaining a corrosion resistant metal alloy, and added chrome to the cast iron. The invention found applications in almost all industrial sectors including for the production of cutlery, health equipment, kitchens, automotive parts, and more, replacing traditional materials such as carbon steel, copper, and even aluminum. In civil construction, this was no different, and stainless steel was soon incorporated into buildings.
The Monadnock Building in Chicago began construction in 1891 and is still in use today. The building features a somber facade without ornamentation and a colossal height - at the time - of 16 floors. It is considered the first skyscraper built in structural masonry, with ceramic bricks and a granite base. To support the entire load of the building, the structural walls on the ground floor are 1.8 meters thick, and at the top, 46 centimeters. One hundred and thirty years later, this construction system remains common and allows for the erection of taller buildings with much thinner walls, accomplishing even new architectural works economically and rationally. But what is structural masonry about, and how can designers use it in architectural projects? And for what kinds of buildings is this system most suitable?
At the 2014 Venice Biennale, celebrated architect and curator Rem Koolhaas chose an unusual curatorial theme. Rather than exploring the major issues that plague modern society or their manifestations in the profession of architecture, the event's theme, "Fundamentals," and its main exhibition, "Elements of Architecture," examined in detail the bare fundamentals of buildings, simple elements used by everyday architects for everyday designs. According to Koolhaas, “Architecture is a profession trained to put things together, not to dismantle them. Only by looking at the elements of architecture under a microscope can we recognize cultural preferences, technological advances, changes triggered by the intensification of global exchange, climatic adaptations, local norms and, somewhere in the mix, the architect's ideas that constitute the practice of architecture today.”
Countries that are part of the so-called “global south” have undergone many transformations in their cities and urban contexts in recent years due to the economic and social challenges they face. Urban growth, sustainable development, quality of life and health in emerging cities, and the development of their own cultural identity have been some of the issues that local architecture had to incorporate.
Young architects have understood the importance of making an architecture that is deeply rooted in their own territory while giving this architecture a clear local identity. By generating new typologies and using their own resources and materials, they have presented innovative, site-specific and, above all, solutions with a new fresh focus towards what represents them as creators of this architecture.
As urban dwellers become more aware of the environmental impacts of food production and transportation, as well as the origin and security of what they consume, urban agriculture is bound to grow and attract public and political eyes. Bringing food production closer, in addition to being sustainable, is pedagogical. However, generally with small size and other restrictions, the concerns of growing food in cities differ somewhat from traditional farming.
Urban gardens can occupy a multitude of places and have varied scales - window sills and balconies, slabs and vacant lots, courtyards of schools, public parks and even unlikely places, such as subway tunnels. They can also be communitarian or private. Whatever the case, it is important to consider some variables:
Great school design is more than just a good piece of architecture. Particularly in vulnerable areas with poor public infrastructure, schools symbolize the role of the state and education as a transforming agent for social improvement. They can also become areas for community life, sports, courses, among other uses. Unfortunately, these projects do not always receive the attention they deserve.
Schools require diverse and complex programs and flows, therefore, developing an educational project is one of the greatest challenges for architects. Due to the economy, rationalization, and speed of work, Brazil's largest portion of school projects are designed from prefabricated concrete elements with rigid modulations and, in rare cases, steel. But what may seem to limit at first, can actually become an exercise in structural creativity.
In an attempt to elucidate the systems used to materialize these projects, we've selected a compilation of seven prefabricated schools in plan and section to create incredible spaces for learning.
Within the architecture field, the relationship between design and education has gained prominence, especially when it comes to children’s education. The relationship between architecture, philosophy, and sociology is well known. Frequently, when designing, issues introduced by these fields work as tools to reflect upon the relationship between the space and the user. When we consider children’s education, we must go beyond ergonomics and think of architecture as an educational tool.