Quite a few publications dedicated the last few weeks to features about trend forecasting for the next year. But could it be possible to guess what will be fashionable next year by taking into consideration trends in different disciplines such as architecture? Let's try it. Architecture has recently been looking at community projects that could also be considered as radical statements with wider sociological implications and purposes (think about Assemble winning the Turner Prize).
The 15th International Architecture Exhibition (Venice, 28th May - 27th November 2016) will be entitled "Reporting from the Front" and its current director Alejandro Aravena hopes to prompt participants to come up with practical and functional solutions to the new and old problems society is going through, like the need to provide growing numbers of people with accommodation and basic living conditions under increasingly difficult circumstances.
The Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale 2016 will follow along the same lines: commissioned by Het Nieuwe Instituut and curated by Malkit Shoshan, the space will be entitled "Blue: Architecture of Peacekeeping Missions".
Architect and founder of the architecture think tank FAST, Shoshan has been a fellow of Het Nieuwe Instituut for the past two years and has been working on the research programme "Drones and Honeycombs" about public space as war zone. In the context of thie programme, Shoshan studied the progressive way that The Netherlands contributes to United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The United Nations has active peacekeeping missions in hundreds of sites around the world. The military bases are usually conceived as self-sustaining islands characterised by extreme design: they are shut off from their surroundings and do not contribute to improving the lives of the inhabitants of these regions.
There is instead a need to find new spatial solutions that can also have significance for local communities and Shoshan proposes to add a fourth "D" - standing for Design - to the UN "Guidelines for the Integrated Approach" that reunite Defence, Diplomacy, and Development. The final point is indeed conceiving a UN base not as a closed fort, but as a catalyst for local development.
The presentation in the Dutch Pavilion will revolve around one specific case study, that of Camp Castor in Gao, Mali. The UN Mission began operating in Mali in April 2013. Camp Castor occupies a third of the size of the city and is placed in a central area for the future growth of the city.
The UN peacekeeping mission in this case is located in the desert region of the Touareg, known as "blue men" because of their indigo clothing, and is carried out by UN Blue Helmets. In this nomadic region the borders are fluid and shift with the seasons; besides, there is a state of permanent crisis due to war, climate change, sickness and hunger.
According to Shoshan, the confrontation and juxtaposition between different systems - foreign and local, military and civilian, settlement and desert, Blue Helmets and blue people, the crisis and the Dutch response - provides the prerequisites for new spatial conditions. The Dutch submission to Venice will therefore introduce visitors to new opportunities and challenges and try to come up with scenarios for the Post-Military use of Camp Castor that may leave behind a constructive legacy capable of improving the lives of millions of people. Future scenarios could relate to water-related projects and water plants or the creation of a green area, an airport or a banking system. The Dutch Pavilion will therefore be tackling some very contemporary key themes, including conflict, its effects on society and on architectural and urban planning and innovation in the hope of offering new perspectives for the present and a glimpse of the future.
Mali and peacekeeping missions may not have anything to do with fashion (if we do not take into account one issue – the enormous waste of resources generated by foreign forces during peacekeeping missions and the waste of resources generated by fashion; in both cases materials could be recycled...), but the final themes (impact on society and the collective meanings of some current architectural projects) are clearly pointing us towards a future in which community interventions with a social impact may end up being the key in fashion as well. So just a final suggestion fashion-wise: leave material, colour and print forecasting behind, the next trend may indeed be refocusing the attention on projects that, involving real people and spaces, may finally help us imagining and creating a radically, drastically and dramatically new fashion scene.
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