A Global Moratorium on New Construction
“A Global Moratorium on New Construction” is an initiative -and a provocation- that argues a drastic change to construction protocols is necessary: the suspension of new building activity must be enforced. Articulated around a series of roundtables and events, the intent is to stear a conversation among architects and planners, but also industry actors, policymakers, activists, and citizens on the role of construction in generating untenable ecological and social injustice and to seek ways to take action. In March 2020, Bruno Latour’s questionnaire was making the rounds, touting that “if everything is stopped, everything can be questioned, bent, selected, sorted, interrupted for good.” 1
Yet, worldwide, construction sites largely kept operating. The pause offered by the pandemic to question our societal model as advocated by Latour did not happen. Critical questions about the profession remained unaddressed. The moratorium emerged as a provocation to think, at the threshold between the need to pause, and the reality of extractivist practices on which we rely. The intent is to approach the discussion from different angles — for planning disciplines (what does it mean for designers to stop building), but also taking into account global inequalities (overbuilding versus lack of housing depending on contexts), construction vs distribution, etc- to address all these complexities, gathering and hearing several voices.
The moratorium is grounded in an on-going a research/pedagogy project on construction materials and extraction, Architecture of Extraction and the seminar at Harvard GSD Material World , and co-organized with B+ (Olaf Grawert, Roberta Jurcic, Angelika Hinterbrandner, and Gregor Zorzi) and moderated by Charlotte Malterre-Barthes.
The first rountable (Stop Construction? 23.04.2021, at Harvard GSD) hosted Cynthia Deng and Elif Erez, Arno Brandlhuber, Noboru Kawagishi, Sarah Nichols, Omar Nagati and Beth Stryker and Ilze Wolff.
The second roundtable (Pivoting Practices, 02.06.2021, at ETH Zurich) will discuss what would it mean for architecture and planning professions to shift from building anew to dealing only with an existing stock, what are potential role models, and radical new ways of practicing.