Boundaries #12 to #17

a “half-dozen” reviews from John Hill @archidose

I’ve reviewed Boundaries, the Italian-English magazine edited by Luca Sampo, a number of times on this blog. The last time was in April 2015, more than one year ago, so now seems like a good time to highlight the most recent issues. Below are descriptions and highlights from the last six issues, which show some thematic strands: building small and “rebuilding the future.”

Boundaries 12: Compact Living
Those familiar with Boundaries know that the projects and stories typically are found in parts of Africa, Asia, and other corners of the world not represented so well in the mainstream architectural press. Further, the projects tend to be for groups of people that are not the traditional clients of architects: issue 10 focused on “Architecture for Emergencies,” for example. That said, Compact Living’s theme and selection is the closest I’ve seen the magazine veer to the mainstream, with primarily middle- and upper-class dwellings primarily in Europe. Clearly the goal is to stress that it’s possible to live comfortably in small houses, therefore creating less of a strain on the environment. Chapters work accordingly: under 25 m2, under 35m2, “the big tiny,” and so forth. Lately I’ve been in a landscape mood, so I’m partial to the Green Box by ACT_Romegialli.

Boundaries 13: Tiny Houses: Self-Built, Off-the-Grid
This issue continues where the previous issue left off, featuring even more tiny houses but focused on ones that are self-built and/or off-the-grid (each project is noted accordingly). Not surprisingly, most of the projects are for camping, for weekends away from home, not as primary residences. A few of the structures were designed by Saunders Architecture and are located on Fogo Island, Canada. Somehow, two projects feature nearly identical facades made by reusing old windows. But because it reminds me of a bamboo facade I designed (but never built) in grad school, I’m drawn to Benjamin Garcia Saxe’s Forest for a Moon Dazzler.

Boundaries 14: Tiny Architectures on the Move
The last of the tiny trio is all about portable structures. Moving isn’t just on wheels (or in one case, the structure is its own wheel), which is reflected by two chapters on floating buildings. Given this emphasis on portability, the typologies are more broad than the previous two issues. There are temporary dwellings, but also cultural buildings and pavilions that serve to give people a perch to experience the landscape from. With a bit more novelty present in the floating structures, my favorite project in the issue is Creatura by Mark Torrens and Federico Forestiero, which uses a human hamster wheel to move around.

Boundaries 15: reBuilding the Future: Education
As Sampo writes in his editorial in this first of three “reBuilding” issues, “Architects, and architecture itself, have almost completely abdicated their power of social and cultural transformation. … We are losing our ability to dream and hope. Today, more than ever, it is time to rebuild the future.” This statement could sum up all of Boundaries, but here it sets the stage for a series of issues with a common theme but varied typologies. School, as Sampo hits up on well, “is a place where new possible worlds are outlined; worlds that are waiting to be discovered by different eyes.” The schools for underserved communities are an exceptional and varied bunch, but the one I can imagine learning the most in is Vin Varavarn Architects’ Baan Huay Sarn Yaw School.

Boundaries 16: reBuilding the Future: Healthcare
Healthcare is the typology of the second “reBuilding” issue, which translates primarily into clinics and health centers on the African continent. These projects share some common features: low-skill construction, village-like plans, an emphasis on natural ventilation, and the influence of Francis Kere, who has one project in the issue. That said, I found myself drawn to the one project on the European continent: a pavilion by VANDERSALM-aim that allows cancer patients to have their chemotherapy treatment administered outdoors.

Boundaries 17: reBuilding the Future: Culture
The most recent issue of Boundaries, which came in the mail yesterday, heads into the cultural realm. But no worries: in Sampo’s hands, culture is not made up of big-budget museums or opera houses. It’s all about schools, libraries, art spaces, community spaces – places where people come together to learn, perform, read, even cook. The projects show cultural spaces as buildings, but also public spaces carved in some unlikely places. In that vein, The Wave, a public performance space in Valparaiso, Chile, by the Oslo School of Architecture and the Scarcity and Creativity Studio, is a standout.

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