Adrian Lahoud, curator of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial
Adrian Lahoud, curator of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial

Sharjah Architecture Triennial is an invitation to 'radically rethink' questions about architecture, says curator Adrian Lahoud

According to Adrian Lahoud, the curator of the upcoming Sharjah Architecture Triennial, the theme 'Rights of Future Generations' is an invitation to "radically rethink" fundamental questions about architecture and its power to create and sustain alternative modes of existence. 

"The last decades have seen a massive expansion in rights," he added. "Yet this expansion has failed to address long-standing challenges around environmental change and inequality. A focus on health, education and housing as individual rights has obscured collective rights, such as rights of nature and environmental rights.

"At the same time, the conceptualisation of rights as basic standards reduces the diversity of human existence to mere subsistence within a universal minimum." 

These preconceptions, Lahoud noted, are expressed in very basic ideas. Shelter, for example, is thought as a necessary structure that shields people from natural threats and is often designed as a barrier. Labelled a 'colonial legacy' by Lahoud, these concepts have long informed the ambitions architecture authorises. 

Rights of Future Generations intends to explore how inheritance, legacy and the state of the environment are passed from one generation to the next, and how present decisions have long-term intergenerational consequences, as well as how other expressions of co-existence, including indigenous ones, might challenge dominant western perspectives. 

"Turning to alternative concepts of architecture and the environment, the Sharjah Architecture Triennial will focus on moments where experiments with architectural and institutional forms collaborate to generate new social realities," said Lahoud. "Architecture's power is fundamentally propositional and pedagogical. Design is an opportunity to bring alternative modes of existence into being, including new concepts of what buildings, cities, landscapes and territories are."

In order to do that effectively, said Lahoud, architecture has to find ways of working alongside institutions that are able to structure the protocols, habits and rituals that organise lives according to these new ideas. 

The Sharjah Architecture Triennial will open in November 2019, and will be the first major platform for dialogue on architecture and urbanism focusing on the Middle East, North Africa, East Africa and South Asia. 

The event will take place across two civic buildings in Sharjah as part of the platform’s commitment towards adaptive reuse and preservation of modernist architecture.

The two recently decommissioned buildings include Al-Qasimiyah School and the old Al Jubail Vegetable Market, both of which act as examples of 1970s and 80s architecture found across Sharjah and the wider UAE.

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