Repair is our new mantra. Think of repairing in all domains as of now. Nature is showing us the way how to repair in many ways. Culture is also embracing the shift towards repairing as caring. If we really care about our planet, and there is no planet B, we shall have to repair in many more domains. We are used to repair bicycles, cars, roofs, windows etc. Repairing is never boring. You can improve the performance of a device or building by repairing it, even with relatively small budgets. Isolation of buildings is a good example of investing in upgrades through repairing. Rather than throwing away a functioning heating system repairing it with an energy saving device is enhancing its performance and produces fewer emissions in the short run. Heat pumps are the way forward for new installations. Shifting a sector, heating with gaz, to ensure longer lasting repair and improve options would save a lot of raw materials and CO2 as well. The construction sector has repair work almosts in its DNA, the energy sector will have to make that shift as well. Dare to repair.
Zu den Ursprüngen des “Bauhaus” in Weimar gehört das Haus, welches die Feder von Georg Muche entworfen hat. Auch wenn das Bauhaus überwiegend mit Walter Gropius assoziiert wird, ist die Parallele von Georg Muche zu dem französischen Maler und Architekten Le Corbusier frappierend. Beide waren geprägt durch die eigene Malerei und Zeichenkunst. Die Entwürfe für Häuser oder Villen folgten Zeichnungen, die wiederum einer “cognitive map” mit Prinzipen der Konzeption und der Konstruktion folgten. Treu den Ansätzen des Bauhauses verwirklichte Muche bereits in 1923 sein Musterhaus. Modulare Bauweise, preisgünstige Erstellung, aktuelle Technologie, perspektivische Blickwinkel und Lichtspiel. Eine gewisse Parallelität zu der Villa La Roche und Jeanneret von Le Corbusier besteht nicht nur in der zeitlichen Dimension, sondern auch in dem Einfluß von kubistischem Spiel mit Perspektiven in Haus und auf das Haus. Die von der Malerei herkommenden Architekten entwerfen ihre Räume mit “The painter’s eye“. Vielleicht kommt nicht zuletzt daher der Traum vom Eigenheim, der so prägend bleibt in ganz Europa und der westlichen Welt. Geprägt von den 1910er und frühen 1920er Jahren war kostengünstiges Bauen eine wichtige Rahmenbedingung. Relativ kleine Grundrisse, modular erweiterungsfähig, preiswerte Baustoffe sorgten trotz Schwierigkeiten für rasche Realisierungsmöglichkeiten. Eine gewisse deutsch-französische Parallelität drängt sich auf. LeMonde vom 6.4.2023 beschreibt ausführlich das Dilemma des 21. Jahrhunderts. Der Traum vom eigenen Haus wird für die nächsten Generationen schwieriger zu realisieren sein. Rohstoffpreise, Grundstückspreise, Arbeitslöhne, Kreditzinsen schnellen in die Höhe. Der Traum vom Eigenheim bleibt ein Traum älterer Generationen oder der glücklichen Erben solcher Häuser, fast unerreichbar für Durchschnittsverdienende. “Gemeinsam statt Einsam” ist die noch gültige Schlussfolgerung, die bereits Henning Scherf formuliert hat. Die neue Herausforderung für den Bau war, ist und bleibt die soziale Frage, der wachsenden Ungleichheit entgegen zu wirken.
Construction as an industrial sector was growing strongly in the last decade. Corona crises, supply chain disruptions have slowed growth in the last two years, but the sector was still growing in terms of employment. The topic of skill and employee shortages hardened from year to year. In March 2023 the sector has more time to reflect on the somehow rapid, if not sometimes chaotic growth of the previous decade. The macro-economic scenario has changed now. Following on supply chain disruptions, we saw the high inflation rates of raw materials. The war of Russia against Ukraine caused energy prices to soar and eventually come down again. Latest worry is the increase in interest rates to finance construction projects of public, private and the business sector.
The whole sector is known for its economic role of forerunner of economic cycles, up or down. So, what are the prospects? Not so rosy, as the experts explain for example on the expert forum of the Belgian construction forum. The official from the Belgian National Bank announced a rather bleak outlook for the sector. New construction is stalling, but the renovation of buildings, especially for the purpose of reducing energy consumption is still strong and growing. Long-term reduction of emissions keeps the sector busy, thanks to the EU green deal in my opinion. The public, private and business investments in buildings all keep growth from turning negative. 2 big worries remain: (1) skill shortages and the lack of employees signalled in job openings in the sector is high and still rising; (2) the scarcity of women employed in the sector is still trailing most other sectors. Most companies have seen earnings grow over the last decade, sufficient time to build up reserves for the tougher quarters to come. Skill shortages and gender biases are harder to overcome. The Construction Forum in Brussels addressed both topics and tries to convince employers and the younger generation. Construction companies have to work on their male-dominated image was one of the take home messages Hélène de Troostemberg, the Director of Build Up pronounced.
It is not certainly not enough to have a woman as moderator of a panel and an all-female singers group accompanying the presentations. Women as architects, technicians and builders will make the sector even more attractive for the next generation of men as well. Aging of employees in the sector is another tough issue waiting for innovative solutions. Digitalisation of every step in the value chain is an additional necessary step. The leadership and trade unions in the sector are well aware of these facts. Maybe next year women engineers will pilot the robotics demonstration rather than being in charge of building a nice atmosphere with their songs. I must admit I liked the intro song to the Forum: “We build this city on rock ‘n role”, but I am less sure whether rock ‘n role will solve the gender and recruiting issue of the sector. However, naming and framing the problem(s) is already part of the solution.
The exhibition of photos and film on “masculinities,liberation through photography” is an excellent example of how artistic approaches to central social phenomena enrich our understanding. The collection of images on masculinities enlightens and reveals the social construction of masculinity. All persons interested in such basic questions should grab the opportunity to pay a visit to the Barbican Centre in London until May 2020 (Later also in Berlin). Perfect choice of a location as the Barbican Centre represents a fine example of “brutal architecture” in London. This is already worth a visit for those not familiar with such concepts. Prepare to get lost somewhere in the multitude of cultural offerings. It feels like Centre Pompidou in Paris, but has additionally a splendid concert hall.
Depending on the time and location of our upbringing we are subject to different social constructions of masculinity. Browse through family collections of photos from grand fathers, fathers and your own youth and maybe your children. From the perspective of how masculinity has been framed at different epochs and across continents, it is obvious that masculinity just as feminity are constructed by social discourse, social choices and media representations. Make it a choice – nowadays – yes we can !
Read on with a critic published in “The Guardian” or “The Sunday Times“.