Letter from the Editor

- Elizabeth Pagliacolo, Editor in Chief

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.

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