They say there are only two sure things in life: death and taxes. Yet so much of our energy — whether in our personal lives or especially, in the field of the built environment — is predicated on creating an illusion of security, permanence, certainty, in the face of constant flux and unpredictable change. In this interview we discuss with LINA member Kosovo Architecture Festival (KAF) and the LINA Fellows involved in the 2023 edition — CCP - Cities Connection Project, Ana Gallego and Damiano Cerrone — on the theme of Certain Uncertainties.
KOOZ This year’s Festival was titled Certain Uncertainties. What do you feel is the potential in the uncertain? How did the programme address and explore the ways in which we — as architects, planners, designers and creatives — can plan for an uncertain future?
KOSOVO ARCHITECTURE FESTIVAL As always, we try to choose challenging themes for our festival. Through the lectures, workshops and exhibitions we tried to address the "certain uncertainty" of our near future through several perspectives. I think this year’s topic had a particular resonance with the selected LINA research fellows.
One potential in the uncertain, which emerged repeatedly as an outcome throughout the Festival, is hope. In addition, there is at least some "certainty" that we, as creatives, will play a positive role in making our future brighter.
"There is at least some "certainty" that we, as creatives, will play a positive role in making our future brighter."
- Kosovo Architecture Festival, LINA member.
"Certain Uncertainties" Kosovo Architecture Festival 2023.
KOOZ Through the selection and comparison of recent public spatial initiatives, Cities Connection Project aims to generate synergies between public institutions, universities, cultural entities and architecture studios throughout various European cities. How does the project approach and define the contemporary European city? What is the potential of establishing this network?
CCP It could be said that the "contemporary European city" is a generic concept that has many versions depending on the social, economic and cultural context of each place, but there are certainly some common points that can be recognised in projects selected over the last ten years. Basically, public architecture builds the city and it does so from three dominant typologies: collective housing, facilities and public space. In this sense, we can affirm that the public housing projects that we show here are the result of architectural competitions, where typological innovation and the proliferation of common spaces that foster relationships between users are valued. If we look at the facilities, there is a clear commitment to inclusive spaces, sustainable choices in the terms of materials, to efficiency from a climactic point of view and to unquestionable architectural quality. Finally, when we analyse public space, in most cases we have found spaces recovered from the city in dense and often degraded areas, treated as centres of shared life that connect children with the elderly, including play areas, leisure spaces, fragments of nature.
"Over the past ten years of running "Cities Connection Project", we’ve been able to discuss a selection of 250 projects from various European cities, with the involvement of a multitude of cultural institutions, public promoters and professional groups."
- CCP Cities Connecting Project, 2023 LINA Fellows.
The potential of this network lies, during the first phase, in the moment when a connection is initiated. This exhibition passes through three participating cities, wherein the architects involved and the cultural institutions participate in a series of debates, round-tables and conferences in each location, showing us what is happening and how each city is developing urbanistically. In its second phase, when the exhibition becomes itinerant, the content is shared with other cities in various contexts, enabling us to compare our findings with an external perspective and to collect some extrapolated examples. Simultaneously, it allows the acknowledgement of further local projects, expanding the initial network. Finally, the production of publications or catalogue will make it possible to revisit the projects at a later date and to verify the validity of the theses and urban proposals posited in the moment.
Over the past ten years of running Cities Connection Project, we’ve been able to discuss a selection of 250 projects from various European cities, with the involvement of a multitude of cultural institutions, public promoters and professional groups, which has generated much-needed shared knowledge and resources with which to build a better future.
KOOZ The notion of public space as a generator of social well-being raises a challenge to architectural design, proposing that public spaces can improve both the physical and mental health of all citizens. Such spaces are also increasingly important from an environmental perspective and for the sustainability of our cities. Ana, how does your research explore the notion of wellbeing? Why and to whom have our cities progressively lost public space through time?
ANA GALLEGO The research explores a multifaceted reading of the term “wellbeing”, deep-diving across various dimensions of society, the environment, and urban planning. Emphatically, our reading of the term “wellbeing”, suggests the enhancement of the quality of life for citizens and transform their perceptions and experiences of the urban landscape through well-designed urban public spaces.
From an environmental perspective, there is a focus on how we can reactivate and reimagine public space in the city. Significant emphasis is placed on promoting alternative, porous urban designs and priority is given to ecological considerations when envisioning new urban scenarios. Concerning urban sustainability, the research advocates for a holistic approach that centres around contemporary well-being, including insights from neuroarchitecture and salutogenesis (an approach that focuses not on the cause of health problems, but on factors that support good health).
"Our project Park the Parking focuses attention on examining and challenging the impact of private cars in the cities, clarifying the contrast between parking and public space in urbanised areas."
- Ana Gallego, 2023 LINA Fellow.
Given this context, our project Park the Parking focuses attention on examining and challenging the impact of private cars in the cities, clarifying the contrast between parking and public space in urbanised areas, and finally highlighting and reimagining alternative scenarios for these machine-occupied places in our nowadays hyper-densified cities. It envisions innovative structures that aim to not only improve the well-being of residents but that also allow us to rethink our interaction with the urban environment, and to reassess strategies for utilising public spaces as a public good.
KOOZ Through the project Tallinn 1.5: A Vision for a Planetary City, SPIN Unit has explored what Tallinn would look like if it produced all the food it needed to sustain itself. What prompted this line of enquiry? Could you expand on how you approached the redesigning of the urban landscape, rethinking our streets as public spaces?
DAMIANO CERRONE Last year we designed Tallinn 1.5, an exhibition curated by the Tallinn Architecture Biennale, to conceptualise a spatial blueprint for a city poised to enhance its food self-sufficiency and bolster the necessary biodiversity to uplift public health standards. By nurturing nature, we consequently foster stronger and more resilient urban communities. Following the exhibition, we transitioned from theory to action, having been entrusted by the City of Tallinn to formulate their inaugural Green Factor programme. This initiative integrates food production as a vital criterion, propelling the revitalization and greening of existing and forthcoming yards.
In the context of the European Green Deal, cities are contemplating transformative projects to foster sustainable and equitable food systems. Tallinn is at the forefront of this, grappling with issues of spatial inequality and a heavy reliance on imported food. Our analysis highlights the monumental challenge of achieving food self-sufficiency, largely driven by the current dietary preferences leaning towards animal proteins. A shift towards a "planetary diet" could significantly reduce the land required for food production, potentially bringing self-sufficiency within reach.
"This is a call for immediate action, highlighting the urgent need to revise existing planning norms to ensure food security and pave the way for sustainable urban landscapes."
- Damiano Cerrone / Spin Unit, 2023 LINA Fellow.
Our collaborative project with Tallinn Technical University encourages residents to participate in a crowd-mapping campaign to identify local food production sites, fostering community engagement and innovation from the outset. However, this ambitious vision faces barriers, primarily the limited scope of municipal project portfolios and existing policies that fail to promote regional cooperation.
As we envisage a more sustainable urban future, it becomes evident that cities alone cannot encapsulate circularity. A broader, regional approach is necessary to address global challenges on a local scale. Hence, cities must reclaim spaces dominated by outdated infrastructure to cultivate a circular economy that aligns with contemporary needs and environmental imperatives. This is a call for immediate action, highlighting the urgent need to revise existing planning norms to ensure food security and pave the way for sustainable urban landscapes.
KOOZ As practicing architects, working and researching at the scale of the city, how do you factor in the idea of uncertainty? Do you see this as a threat or an opportunity?
CCP Uncertainty is the working field of the city, which means that it is both a threat and an opportunity. And based on this principle, in our opinion, it is in this field of uncertainty that the most brilliant projects appear. Through the Cities Connection Project, we have seen how the theme resonates in cooperative housing projects that push community life to the limit, in cultural facilities that emerge in abandoned warehouses, in public spaces that appear as an oasis in dense neighbourhoods, in schools that transform office buildings, in the choice of impossible materials, or in the creation of spaces that citizens quickly make their own.
The city is a complex organism that is constantly mutating and in order to plan its development through architectural projects some certainties are necessary, but it is in uncertainty that we find the space for action that will allow the city to shine.
"Uncertainty is the working field of the city, which means that it is both a threat and an opportunity."
- CCP Cities Connecting Project, 2023 LINA Fellows.
AG Architects working on city-scale projects are adept at navigating the uncertainty inherent in these endeavours, given the long duration of such projects and the ever-evolving transformation of urban landscapes. We can view uncertainty as a complex yet integral partner in the creative process. This uncertainty, as I understand it, wears a dual face – that of a looming threat and an inviting opportunity.
As a threat, uncertainty is a constant presence, prompting a perpetual quest for research and a deeper understanding of the underlying issues. However, I often find it to be a powerful source of inspiration. Uncertainty acts as a catalyst, compelling us to venture into uncharted territory, fostering innovative thinking and novel approaches to architectural design. The fluid nature of architecture, mirroring that of the city, accommodates a wide array of perspectives and disciplines.
We must embrace the multiplicity of viewpoints as an opportunity to enrich our work. Thus, rather than being hindered by uncertainty, we have to thrive within it, weaving together diverse perspectives to create resilient and visionary cityscapes.
Founded in 2012 the Kosovo Architecture Foundation is one of the largest organization of its kind in the SEE region with an objective to present to the local architecture & general public contemporary global methodologies, theories and tools in the field of architecture, design and urban planning.
Ana Gallego has worked in the international architecture studio Miralles Tagliabue EMBT in Barcelona since 2020. She is the lead coordinator of the Urban LAB of Mental Health which participates in the public policies of the EU, making an investigation that joins mental health, urban design and technology policies in the EU. She has taken part in MODELFest with ‘Aigua Sana’ (2022) and at BCN Architecture Week with ‘Square it' (2021), both exhibitions related to the improvement of the urban space.
The Cities Connection Project (CCP) is a connector between cities and their architecture, created by architects Nicola Regusci and Xavier Bustos, with the aim of generating synergies between architects, cultural agents, governments and universities among European cities. The project aims at establishing connections between european cities with the aim to create a cultural network to affirm the value of contemporary architecture.
Damiano Cerrone is an urbanist, researcher and educator. He cofounded SPIN Unit, an urban research and innovation practice; and UrbanistAI, a participatory design platform to reimagine the future of our cities. His practice focuses on urban research and policy design for the public sector. Cerrone is also affiliated with and teaches at several academic institution in Finland and abroad.
Federica Zambeletti is the founder and managing director of KoozArch. She is an architect, researcher and digital curator whose interests lie at the intersection between art, architecture and regenerative practices. In 2015 Federica founded KoozArch with the ambition of creating a space where to research, explore and discuss architecture beyond the limits of its built form. Parallel to her work at KoozArch, Federica is Architect at the architecture studio UNA and researcher at the non-profit agency for change UNLESS where she is project manager of the research "Antarctic Resolution". Federica is an Architectural Association School of Architecture in London alumni.