“These designs are bold”: new CAMP exhibition gets its debut

Prague’s Centre for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP)

Forty percent of global carbon emissions come from the construction industry, and a new exhibition at Prague’s Centre for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP), A Lot With Little, features 10 architectural projects from the Global North and South that bring sustainable solutions in housing and building transformations. The designs featured are described as “bold but affordable”, so I asked head curator, Argentinian born architect Noemí Blager, how these two methods go hand in hand.

Noemí Blager | Photo: Amelia Mola-Schmidt,  Radio Prague International

“Most of the projects in A Lot With Little have been made with smaller budgets, others with more generous budgets. When I talk about doing a lot with little, it’s not necessarily little money, it’s more about the projects having little or no cost in terms of their environmental impact. When we think about the word ‘bold’ here, it describes the nature of the projects. All the architects are very daring, because they don’t care about prejudice.

“For example, in Niamey, the capital of Niger, there is a project that has used compact earth to build housing for middle class people in the city. But society has a prejudice against the materials that were used, because people conceive it as a material for ‘poor people’. The architects had to overcome this prejudice, and build something that responds to the climate conditions of the area, that provides beautiful architectural spaces, without having to use something like concrete, which might be the expectation because it’s what is used in the west, even though it’s wrong for the climate condition of the specific place.

“In that sense, I think these designs are bold. These projects are very rooted in the local culture, and they interact very well with it.”

CAMP | Illustrative photo: CAMP

That leads well in to my next question, because this exhibition brings in successful examples from the Global North and the Global South. Why was it important to have these distinct perspectives from these different parts of the world?

Photo:  Amelia Mola-Schmidt,  Radio Prague International

“They are all very different. For example, the countries in the Global South have vastly different realities – you have desserts and areas that have problems with flooding. In the Global North, the limitations are not so much in material resources, but there are economic issues, like regulations that architects have to negotiate.

“I think it is very important to show examples of both because in the case of the Global North, it’s very important for the architects to influence and encourage the construction industry to do the right thing. I think the architects in this exhibit are doing this very well, and have shown that having a lot of material resources doesn’t mean you have to use more, instead you can be more essential. You can be more generous in the amount of space you give, and allow the inhabitants to complete the projects with their own personalities. It’s not about the architects, it’s about the people who are going to occupy the architecture.

“In the Global South, people are experienced in doing a lot with little, and using what they have at hand. I think for the more industrialized, wealthier countries, it’s important that we start economizing the amount of material resources we use.”

Prague’s Centre for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning  (CAMP) | Photo: CAMP

I’m curious, because this project features example from Paraguay, Bangladesh, Barcelona – you yourself are from Argentina. Why is CAMP in Prague the place to tell this story?

“It’s the perfect place for many reasons. CAMP is such a fabulous, state of the art exhibition space. We made this exhibition a film because we want to take it to as many places as possible, and because it’s a film, all you need to do is send a digital file. Right now it’s being shown in Prague, China, Chicago, and Zurich, and soon it will open in Berlin.”

“I’m absolutely in love with Prague, and aside from the beautiful heritage and the wonderful architecture, it’s a very young city, and there’s a great, creative vibe here.

“The fact that a platform like CAMP exists is amazing, all cities should have places like this, where there is a dialogue between the architects, the planning officers, developers, investors, and the general public. We should not just talk to architects, it’s important that when we communicate architecture that it communicates to those who pay for it, inhabit it, and those who will make policies about it. There should be a more holistic approach, and more dialogue between these key stakeholders.”