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Individual Paper: Spaces like Actions

Rescuing endangered spaces as an alternative to cultural globalization

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Globalization is increasingly stressing local cultures and ways of living, trying to bend city structure, public space, houses and private life to an international standard through advertisement of an increasingly “better life”. Rather than having a cultural basis, the standard is often determined by the best seller, so that you can eventually find a Swedish kitchen in Thailand as long as you have a mall selling it. The so-called developing countries are the most exposed to this phenomenon, ready to forget centuries of traditions in favor of air conditioning and high-rise buildings. Have you ever considered how restrictive it is to be always surrounded by the same objects, rooms and environments, the only variation being color or textures to be chosen from a catalogue? To a variety of cultures, personalities and behaviors should correspond a specific variety of spaces to live in. The switch could simply be made from buying an environment to making your own environment. In this sense, degrowth can be interpreted as a multitude of spatial solutions against an imposing average model, adding variety, dignity and meaning to the simultaneous everyday lives.

There is a broad sensitivity over conservation of buildings but less over little daily rituals, instinctual gestures connected with the real meaning of a space: an immaterial patrimony between architecture and anthropology that both disciplines seem to have discarded. Forgotten by conventional conservation methods, this patrimony conveys an immaterial and public idea of space that materialize in many humble but specific versions. Paniyaru, kaki lima, cocho, veeschuit, kutsunugi-ishi are modest and conventional places for whom is accustomed to them, but they are mysterious and unintelligible for foreigners, ephemeral presences drifting into the oblivion: endangered spaces.

Spaces like Actions project aims to draw the attention on these local alternatives for slow living, preserving their values and their stories and offering a solution for the shaping of future built environments. A key to the social development of uprising multicultural communities can be avoiding standardization and increasing the global curiosity for these multiple stories. Instead of trying to find a common form for our cities, try to bring together the vibrant liveliness of variety. We are composing an atlas for the documentation and preservation of different forms of use of spaces, a dictionary for the translation of many architectural languages acting as a tool for every person involved in the development of local communities. The first Spaces like Actions workshop took place between November 2017 and February 2018 in Indochina, and can be used as case-study for the future development of the topic. If we aim to create significant places for humans, we should consider architecture beyond the standard, rediscovering the stories and unwritten dialects of our living traditions.