Architecture that Cares for Our Future : A Lot With Little

A Lot With Little is a multichannel film installation showcasing innovative, affordable and sustainable solutions in housing, education, building transformation, and disaster relief spanning the Global North and South. Beginning its journey in Venice Architecture Biennale 2023, the exhibition visits handpicked cultural epicenters  – Chicago, Zurich, Berlin, Guangzhou – and until March 3, 2024 in Prague’s Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP).

We have succumbed to a generation that is marked by unforeseen events and escalating natural disasters, where the construction sector contributes to almost 40% of global carbon emissions. For the architecture community, this moment represents not just an opportunity but a compelling imperative to innovate sustainable approaches in shaping architecture. Thus architecture should be guided by societal demands, crafted with available resources, and attuned to local culture, economy, and the environment. It must embody ethical and responsible principles, safeguarding our collective future.

A Lot With Little project is created and produced by curator and architect Noemí Blager with films by Tapio Snellman, film director and artist working predominantly with architectural and urban planning themes.

“In a world where unpredictable events and natural disasters increasingly affect our living conditions, the responsibility of architects has never been as critical as it is today. Indifference to the overwhelming consequences of climate change is not an option. With limited time, money and resources at our disposal, we urgently need new sustainable ways to design and produce good architecture. An architecture led by societal needs, and made with the resources at hand, that responds to local culture, local economy and the environment. An architecture conceived ethically and responsibly, that cares for our future,” says curator Noemí Blager.

In the light of this, A Lot With Little film installation features selected projects within their original contexts, accompanied by interviews with the respective architects. This exhibit provides a glimpse into the challenges of design, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in the spaces and go beyond merely a visual appreciation. Employing film as the medium, the presentation of architecture adopts a sustainable ethos, obviating the need for transporting exhibition materials, or generating waste. This approach ensured universal accessibility, inviting visitors to partake in a unique journey of the meaningful impact of architecture on our everyday existence.

Prague’s Center for Architecture and Metropolitan Planning (CAMP), the exhibition’s host, features a distinctive 25-meter-long projection screen that guides visitors through an exceptional exploration of a diverse and intricate world. Navigating through various geographical, cultural, social, and economic contexts, visitors uncover the challenges confronting modern architecture.

A Lot With Little exhibition features projects of diverse magnitudes that showcase inventive, resourceful, and cost-effective solutions, neatly categorized into four sections: housing, education, transformation, and disaster relief.

Global housing challenges, driven by migration and population growth, intensify demands for proximity to work and affordable infrastructure. The projects featured in A Lot With Little provide innovative, context-sensitive solutions addressing social and private needs while considering local conditions and showcasing creative and sustainable approaches to the pressing housing crisis. Niamey 2000, designed by Atelier Masm reimagines urban housing by adopting a dense, pre-colonial city-inspired model that prioritizes privacy, cultural appropriateness, and sustainability through unfired earth masonry and passive cooling techniques. They address Niger’s extreme temperatures and reintroduce locally derived resources, making affordable homes accessible to a wider population.

Niamey 2000, designed by Atelier Masm

Few others were 85 Social Dwellings units in Cornellà by Peris + Toral Architects, that provide 85 affordable housing units designed as a matrix of interconnected rooms, eliminating corridors to optimise the floor plan.

The Iturbide Studio designed by Taller Mauricio Rocha + Gabriela Carrillo is a compact studio on a 7x14m plot, that creates a cocoon of intimacy amid the vibrancy of a bustling neighbourhood through meticulously detailed masonry details. Few other projects featured were the Rot Ellen Berg, a traditional old house in Belgium designed by Architecten Jan de Vylder + Inge Vinck (AJDVIV) and the Abu House in Paraguay designed by Architects: Solano Benitez + Gabinete de Arquitectura.

Khudi Bari for climate refugees, designed by Marina Tabassum Architects with FACE

The multichannel film installation featured disaster relief projects by two notable organizations:the Foundation for Architecture Community Equity (FACE) and the Voluntary Architects’ Network (VAN). Other notable projects were the Paper Concert Hall by Shigeru Ban Architects with VAN which was constructed to support the city’s reconstruction and resume immediate medical activities after the devastating earthquake that struck Italy in 2009.

Paper Concert Hall by Shigeru Ban Architects with VAN

Addressing the crucial role architecture plays in infrastructural development in the education sector, an array of projects were chosen to act as harbingers of change – establishing the power of community participation in achieving positive outcomes. For instance, Teletlón, Children’s Rehabilitation Centre designed by Solano Benitez + Gabinete de Arquitectura innovatively uses reclaimed materials to create spaces for rehabilitating disabled youth in Paraguay. This is done using triangular modules of salvaged bricks to form vaults, an origami-like folded brick wall and tempered glass wall offering views of garden, and repurposing of a dilapidated building on site to make the new administration building.

Lacaton & Vassal + Fréderic Druot and Christophe Hutin’s Transformation of 530 Dwellings

The installation also shone light on some projects that brought to life dilapidated and aging structures by repurposing them to contemporary needs. For instance, Lacaton & Vassal + Fréderic Druot and Christophe Hutin undertook the Transformation of 530 Dwellings in France, where the quality of life of residents in a fully occupied social housing was improved by generous extensions of winter-gardens and balconies,giving the families more space and natural light. Retaining the existing building proved to be a cost-effective alternative that kept the community together.

The collection of films created a conscious repository to create awareness, and cultivate a synergy for architects from across the globe to commitment to sustainable, affordable, context-driven architecture that harmonizes with its surroundings and prioritises societal betterment.