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July 06, 2021  |  permalink

reSITE’s Design & The City Podcast: Hashim Sarkis

The team at reSITE — for which I was the visiting curator of the 2018 and 2019 festivals — asked me to interview MIT Architecture and Planning dean and Venice Architecture Biennale curator Hashim Sarkis for a special Biennale episode of its podcast Design & The City. You can listen to it here or wherever fine podcasts are published. I have the additional honor of being exhibited in this edition of the Biennale thanks to my MIT teammates Rafi Segal, Sarah Williams, and Marisa Moran Jahn — the brains behind Open Collectives.

An excerpt of our conversation is below:

Hashim: The Biennale is not about the pandemic, it is about the causes that led us to the pandemic. It is about climate change. It is about how we live together with other species and the planet. It is about increasing political polarisation, and how we can live together across these political divides. It is about growing economic differences and how these are really eroding the idea of a common good, and how we can re-engage that through architecture. It is about mass migrations, and how we can, whether citizens, nomads, tourists, or refugees, find common spaces to live and share. All of these are factors that led us to the pandemic. But this Biennale is not about the pandemic.

The pandemic will probably go away, hopefully, it will go away very soon and we will forget about the two feet, six feet, eight feet. But if we do not address these major issues, other pandemics or other problems will come back to haunt us. That’s what this Biennale is about.

If we do not address these major issues, other pandemics or other problems will come back to haunt us.

Now, you asked me about the end of cities, and I want to remind you of a very similar moment that took place during the Second World War when cities were being bombed, and people were leaving central cities elsewhere to go to the countryside and all. And there was a very lively debate in, and among, urban planners and urban designers about where we will be after the end of the war. Some were saying well, “we will now continue to inhabit the countryside, we will be spreading around because of new transportation systems”. And others were saying “no, we will come back to the city as a way to rebuild and reassert the urban presence”.

I would say that after the war, both happened at the same time, or at different degrees in different settings. And I feel that we will probably face a similar situation now. I do also want to point out that those who fled the city are the ones who could afford to. And therefore, if anything, the pandemic or this phenomenon led to an even bigger divide between the rich and the poor. The rich house and the poor house have become much more strongly distinguished through this public health crisis.


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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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