Read the full interview here.

Excerpt from Iñaki Alday’s interview on ArchDaily by Fabian Dejtiar:

First, start by rethinking our footprint. In this sense, we have to stop expansion that generates more impermeable soil, forces more displacements, and increases the energy expenditure of buildings with little occupancy and much exterior surface that lose heat or cold. Then densify our cities to be more energy-efficient and socially more diverse and rich. We have known this for a long time, but now the urgency converges with the habits of the new generations that return to the city, they do not want to own cars and value urban social life. In the great crisis of 2008, for example, in the United States, city centers did not lose value or population while many suburbs sank.

Both society and architects must accept the change, instead of pretending that the rivers are stable, that the temperature is constant throughout the year or that the gardens look like static photographs that comfort us with a sense of false naturalness. In the construction of the urban space, the inclusion of different users, the “in situ” management of energy and the control of excess and shortage of river water must prevail.

Second, we have to innovate in the design of public spaces and buildings. We need public spaces that absorb water from rain and floods, created ecological wealth and recharging the water table. Spaces that change during the seasons and adapt to the weather; that is, the opposite of the artificial grass gardens that we find today in dry climates, or the large paved or concreted pavements that raise the air temperature and generate floods during storms. As for buildings, innovation should seek air conditioning solutions, for example, by absorbing the sun in cold climates or absorbing shade in hot ones; the opposite of the generic glass buildings that we see today in any city on the planet that aspires to ‘be modern’.

Climate change is the great urgency for humanity. How and who it will affect first is the next issue. The answer is: to the most vulnerable populations socially and economically. The fight for social justice is becoming social-environmental justice for populations that are suffering from floods, droughts, pollution and other effects. This population does not have the resources to adapt their homes to the new weather conditions, to migrate or to have a decent life in a new place if they move. There are already places in the world with extreme pollution levels where only those who cannot live elsewhere live, and this effect will be extended including ‘mega capitals’ like New Delhi, in India. We are creating black holes where life expectancy and infant mortality have medieval ratios. These are real problems.

Architecture has two unique qualities: on the one hand, it places in the space all the complexity of the disciplines mentioned before, overlapping them and making them interact. On the other hand, it is the only field capable of creating alternative scenarios, which can be evaluated and towards which society as a whole can go.