Letter from the Editor
As we were wrapping this issue, we learned of an interesting piece of news from Sweden. Cementa’s Slite plant, the country’s biggest cement factory and secondlargest source of greenhouse gas emissions, was prohibited from continuing to mine limestone due to environmental concerns. Instantly jeopardizing future construction, the local ruling points to a major issue worldwide. The making of architecture, a massively carbon-intensive industry, is under more scrutiny than ever. How, why and what are we building? In the wake of a summer marred by increasingly hostile weather, with wildfires and floods appearing globally, everything we create has to have environmental integrity.
To plan the September/october issue, devoted to cultural, commercial and institutional buildings, we reviewed numerous just-completed and about-to-becompleted projects by renowned practitioners around the world. Our intention — as always — was to spotlight exceptional architecture. In 2021, that means highlighting works that make a significant positive impact, socially and ecologically, on their broader communities.
Two that stood out to us were a stormwater treatment facility in Toronto by Gh3* (“Silent Treatment,” page 68) and a university in Burkina Faso by Kéré Architecture (“Low Tech High,” page 62). The first redresses a local problem with regional repercussions; rather than externalizing pollutants, why not redesign the stormwater treatment process through a building that is also a striking piece of infrastructure? The second exemplifies a different kind of infrastructure, social and educational. Expanding a learning campus in a country with a huge teen population and establishing a verdant landscape on arid land at the same time, it provides new futures both for students and for the ecology of the site.
We also interrogate the impulse to build ex novo when we could preserve perfectly good existing buildings. Our feature on social housing (“Community Ties,” page 78) shows that we needn’t demolish in order to carve out space for new opportunities. We can build upon the past, conserving both embodied materials and energy and embedded memories of place. And so, we’re asking many questions. The Venice Biennale (“Life, Together,” page 84) raises even more. In fact, it shows that there are no easy answers — encouraging conversations and listening to each other’s perspectives is much more important.