Enough of this World: Museums

Master Thesis
Spring Semester 2024

Sustainability is equally multilayered and entangled between materials and practices. Sustainability within the field of architecture is undoubtedly about environmental and ecological practices, pushing toward producing less pollution, reducing impacts on the local to the global scales, giving place and attention to nonhuman and biodiversity, etc. Sustainability however has an equally social dimension, in the sense that it can (and should) contribute to the creation of a more sustainable society. Sustainable architecture practices have to take into account the existing social structures and communities in place, and address the vulnerabilities that are created by their environment with an intersectional lens, considering how gender, race, class, sexuality and other identities might impact communities and people differentially. To do so, they should work toward the suppression of the structural obstacles toward social justice. Sustainable architectural practices should also consider the economy of construction labor, and maintenance to create virtuous cycles taking in consideration all the steps of the building economy. This has been compromised by a 20th century which has seen inspiring progress coupled by ruthless continued exploitations and dispossessions by way of the process typically referred to as globalization.

Architectural heritage and sustainability intersect when one becomes the resources of the other. They overlap when pasts imaginations, ecologies and building practices become resources to shape actual practices and futurities, toward a more sustainable architectural field. For them to intermingle, broader forms of architectural research are fundamental. The unsustainability of the globalization contradictory derives from the binary character of conceptualization established by European culture between the Orient and the West. This binary distinction of identifiable geographical borders came along with the dichotomy of known-accepted (developed) and unknown-exploitable (undeveloped) rooted in the imperial mindset. Imperial erasure of local identities, as well as the erasure of traces of their affliction, has proven harmful.

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Screenshots of Rhael ‘LionHeart’ Cape, Those With Walls for Windows (2023), exhibited at the Venice Biennale (Arsenale).

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Decolonization:  Indigeneity,  Education  &  Society. Vol. 1, No. 1, 2012, pp. 1-40

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The American Uncle Sam follows the British John Bull in their racist “civilizing mission.” Victor Gillam, “The White Man’s Burden (Apologies to Rudyard Kipling),” originally published in Judge magazine, April 1899. Source: The Ohio State University Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

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Superimposition of all images of the course reader.

Student Projects

To play a role in these necessary transformations, we, as architects, must strive against a closed view on sustainability which would consider the reduction of carbon emission as a solution and the only objective. This reader gives some cues to trace the continuities between colonization of land and people, architecture, heritage and sustainability while it grants some paths to act, as architects, against the structures of power and oppression that still destroy worlds. A fundamental hypothesis laid by the chair is that, to answer through practice to the multilayered crises we are facing within a decolonial, intersectional and sustainable perspective, we, as architects, must act hyperlocal and in close contact with our immediate surroundings. We, as architects, must refuse the relegation to pasts and heritage of techniques, uses, economies, and know-hows which have participated in the production of our built environments for centuries. We, as architects, must fight against the extractivism and under-development enacted by the actual building economies, materialities and techniques in reclaiming situated and (purposefully) forgotten know-hows and practices. We, as architects, must refuse to participate in the production of a toxic, unjust and uneven built environment while positively creating new worlds and practices, locally sourced, historically anchored, socially just, climatically responsible.

↗  click on corresponding project for more details

Neues Völkerkundemuseum
Charlotte Thallinger

Museum am Platzspitz
Jozef Merx

Museum Rietberg Repurposed
Linquan Xu

Open the Door
Valmira Haziri

Address & 
Contact

Prof. Mariam Issoufou
Chair for Architecture Heritage & Sustainability
ETH Zürich
Department of Architecture

HIL E 47.1
Stefano–Franscini–Platz 5
CH–8093 Zürich

issoufou-all@arch.ethz.ch
+44 633 48 58

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