After a four-day and free opening program of screenings, discussions, and performances that ran from the 9th to the 12th of November, the inaugural Sharjah Architecture Triennial is now officially the last opening on our 2019’s list of architecture events and perhaps also one of the most compelling and avocational ones. Founded in 2017, the triennial is a platform for architecture and urbanism of the Global South.
Situated on both the Gulf and Indian Ocean coasts, Sharjah is at the center of millennia of migration and trade. The Triennial embraces the city’s history as a space for cultural exchange, platforming diverse stories and voices from across the Global South as alternatives to prevailing structures of extraction and exploitation.
Curated by Adrian Lahoud, the Triennial sets out to rethink fundamental questions about architecture and places the relationship between generations at the heart of our struggle to avert the climate crisis. Both the opening program and the participating projects demonstrate the diverse strands of inquiry within the theme and suggest multiple ways that architecture can shape our co-existence with others instead of extractive modes of living.
The relationship between generations is at the heart of our struggle to avert a climate crisis. Architecture’s role is pivotal because it shapes our co-existence with others, with kin that have passed and those yet to come.
Extractive relations between beings are reinforced by the social, technical, and mental ecologies we inhabit and that we continue to reproduce unthinkingly and unfeelingly. Without identifying the fact that the present state of affairs is not an accident of history, but rather a war waged against beings in order to condition them to accept their exploitation, we will never understand climate change on its proper terms—as a symptom of the eradication of alternative perspectives on what it means to live and to co-exist with others.
Yet, alternative perspectives courageously struggle to survive everywhere we turn. The Triennial is an archipelago of such struggles drawn from across the Global South. Their stories are—in the words of the Uluru Statement from the Heart—a gift to those who are ready to receive them. They indicate enduring sites of experimentation against extractive social orders. Their rebellion against extinction has been going on for centuries. The task faced by architects is to align themselves with these struggles in order to imagine what is possible beyond the existing arrangement of things. Rights of Future Generations sets out to rethink fundamental questions about architecture and its power to create and sustain alternative modes of existence.
Ngurrara Canvas II Awakening Ceremony, ‘Rights of Future Generations’, inaugural edition of the Sharjah Architecture Triennial. 2019. Ph. Courtesy of Sharjah Architecture Triennial.
The opening program, an interdisciplinary conversation brought together architects, artists, anthropologists, researchers, performers, academics, and musicians as well as policy-makers, invited a rethinking of architecture’s role in an age of climate crisis, claiming that intergenerational rights are at the heart of our struggle against climate change and holding architecture accountable for securing the rights of future generations.
Free and open to the public, the program unfolded along three perspectives: Afterlives, Intergenerational Transmissions, and Devotional Practices. The inaugural days opened with a walk from Sharjah’s dhow port to the Old Al Jubail Vegetable Market; a press conference by Mauricio Hidalgo, chief of the Huatacondo community (northern Chile) in the Al-Qasimiyah School; and an awakening ceremony by the custodians of the Ngurrara Canvas II, which was displayed at the Sharjah Art Foundation.
Each event was followed by a series of performances, talks, and screenings by the Triennial participants and invited guests. The music program, developed in collaboration with Ma3azef (an online magazine dedicated to contemporary Arabic music), featured a variety of performances throughout the tour days.
Also, the Rights of Future Generations Working Group is a forum for policymaking and advocacy whose mission is to secure a better world for future generations. It aims to address the fundamental risks of environmental degradation, poverty, inequality, and political, racial, and gender discrimination.
On 12 November, the Working Group held its first policy day at Sharjah’ s Africa Hall, which was open to the public. After an opening intervention by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohamed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, Dilma Rousseff (36th President of Brazil) delivered a lecture on the politics of climate change, global justice, and development; and Marfa Fernanda Espinosa (President of the United Nations General Assembly) spoke of the UN’s failed multilateral efforts to address climate change.
Working throughout the Triennial, the Working Group will develop a charter on the rights at future generations to be known as the Sharjah Charter. The group is chaired by Lumumba Di-Aping, chief negotiator for the G77 countries at the 2009 Copenhagen Summit, farmer representative of the Republic of South Sudan at the United Nations, and advisor ta H. H. Sheikh Dr. Sultan. Participants of the exhibition include: Anna Tsing, CCCP/2020, DOGMA, Felicity Scott, Feral Atlas, Francesoco Sobregondi, Godofredo Pereira, Greg Thomas, Informal Collective, Jasbir K Puar, Marina Tabassum and associates, Mark Wasiuta, Marwa Arsanios, Public Works, Studio Anne Holtrop, Studio Bound, The Otolith Group, and many others. We strongly recommend checking out sharjaharchitecture.org for the full list.
DATE: 9 November 2019 – 8 February 2020 / HEAD CURATOR: Adrian Lahoud / FOUNDED BY: Khalid Al Qasimi / VENUES: Al-Qasimiyah School, Al Juail Fruit and Vegetable Market, Gallery 5 (Al Mureijah Square), Mleiha archaeological site, and Africa Hall / TEXT: Sharjah Press Office / LEAD SPONSOR: waste management company Bee’ah / FULL SCHEDULE HERE