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Field Notes on Scarcity – Sharjah Architecture Triennial, United Arab Emirates

11 Nov — 10 Mar 2024

The Beauty of Impermanence:

An Architecture of Adaptability
The present state of the relationship between architecture and the natural environment reveals our global and local histories; it communicates priorities around sustainability and equity that have long needed to be reconsidered. In the context of where I come from in Nigeria, the scramble for Africa cemented the seeds of colonialism, confirming the processes of resource extraction across the continent. This set the pace of limited development for centuries to come, creating and enforcing part of the division between what we now know as the ‘Global North’ and ‘Global South’.
In the ‘Global South’, issues of scarcity have created a culture of re-use, re-appropriation, innovation and collaboration. These practices propose a new model of thinking, one that is born out of scarcity rather than out of abundance. This model celebrates the use of natural materials with the understanding that repair and reconstitution are instinctive, necessary and desirable. It also embraces the idea that nothing can be permanent, and that everything in our environment should adapt to conditions of scarcity to match our realities and needs, thereby resulting in a progressive and evolving architecture.
The answer to how to build a sustainable future in our precarious present has its roots in traditions of architecture and design that have been with us for generations and continue to evolve. Across the ‘Global South’, many practitioners, craftspeople and communities have embraced long-standing traditions that have been systematically ignored by the canon. These approaches prioritize an understanding of impermanence, inventive responsiveness to limitations, and a psychology of the collective that is essential for our shared future.
In this edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial, we will explore design solutions built from conditions of scarcity and how these illuminate a pathway forward to reorient our conversation on sustainability. Whereas the current global perspective on sustainability relies on technical innovation, this new perspective prioritizes contextual solutions, resource sharing and waste reuse. We will showcase examples of work that are based on a more foundational notion of regeneration and renewal that underscores an understanding of circularity that has been with us for generations. We will explore techniques that are ingenious, embracing the idea that everything is impermanent and subject to evolution and repair, and that work with nature rather than against it.
Bringing together architects, designers, artists, planners and researchers working in the ‘Global South’ and through its many diasporas, The Beauty of Impermanence is a collective, collaborative effort to explore a future for architecture that embraces the undercelebrated traditions of the region to comprehend a more sustainable, accessible and equitable view of the future.
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