The Model Architectures Festival backs radical empathy

Can architecture have empathy? Can it create spaces which, besides responding to users’ needs, take into account social, cultural and environmental matters? The second edition of the Barcelona Model Architectures Festival aims to explore the transformational power of design under the slogan of “Radical empathy”. The festival is being held from 20 to 30 April, again turning the city into a lab for experimentation and architectural dissemination, and in a new setting: the Parc de les Glòries.

07/03/2023 13:15 h

Ajuntament de Barcelona

Organised by Barcelona City Council through the Fundació Mies van der Rohe, the goal for the event is to make urban space a platform for people to engage with experimental architecture and draw new models which respond to the current challenges facing cities.

In other words, the event is intended as a big public festival where everybody can give their input on how architecture can improve people’s quality of life and imagine new ways of building and occupying space.

One of the main new aspects to the upcoming edition is that the festival is moving to the area in and around the Parc de les Glòries. This new epicentre will be able to offer temporary installations, debates, lectures, exhibitions, screenings, routes, workshops, concerts and performances. There will also be works by urban planners, landscape artists, artists and professionals from a range of spheres such as science, the economy, law and literature.

More than thinking about others

The festival regains the five main themes from the first edition (between cultures, between species, between generations, between materials and between classes), and this year also seeks to go further by backing radical empathy as its main theme. This concept is not one of a limited empathy and comprehension of other emotions and feelings, but rather about addressing the needs of others in a profound way.

It is about designing spaces and buildings which, besides addressing the particular wishes of users, broaden their vision to tackle social, cultural and environmental concerns. This means architecture which transcends immediate uses and which is geared towards the community, putting people at the centre.

The goal of radical empathy in architecture is to create spaces which not only fulfil practical functions, but which also have a positive impact on the communities around them to contribute to a fairer, more equitable, inclusive and sustainable world.

Driving participation

Besides driving public participation, Model seeks to state the case for the independent work of creators from home and abroad. To this end, the festival created the Model Award for Architectural Experimentation at the end of last year, as an open call for architects, cultural researchers and curators from around the world. The awards are given in three categories and have enabled a set of artists to be selected who will conceive and design the installations, augmented realities and curated projects for the upcoming edition of the festival. The winners for this first edition are:

Model Award for Installations:

– Equal Saree (Barcelona)
– Daryan Knoblauch (London/Cologne)
– H3o Architects + DFMD + Galantus Natura (Barcelona/Mexico City)
– Harrison Atelier (HAt) (New York)
– Kosmos and Parabase (Zurich/Graz/Barcelona/Basle)

Model Award for Digital Architecture:

– Besler & Sons (New York)
– Farah Michel (Dubai)
– Mathilde Marengo and Iacopo Neri, Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (Barcelona)
– Víctor Enrich (Barcelona)

Model Award for Curatorial Projects:

– Ethel Baraona (Barcelona)
– Noa Yarkoni, Mar Gené and Tiffany Whittaker (Barcelona)
– Oscar Guayabero and Daniele Porretta (Barcelona)
– Temporary Pleasure (Berlin/Brussels/Barcelona)

This first edition of the Model Award for Architectural Experimentation attracted 117 candidacies from 60 cities and 23 countries.

New call for +MODEL

Model is an integrating and inclusive city event, which is why it invites the entire architecture sector and all citizens to take part via the +MODEL call. This programme of parallel activities at the festival aims to enrich the debate on the impact of architecture in society and the recognition of architectural heritage.

Organisations and institutions from different social, cultural and artistic disciplines are invited to take part with projects that creatively respond to the theme for the festival. Projects can be submitted up until 20 March using the registration form.

The projects chosen to form part of this parallel programme will have the chance of winning one of the Model awards, each with a monetary prize of 1,000 euros.

As this year’s Model coincides with Sant Jordi there’s a full programme of book presentations and debates at the Mercat dels Encants on 23 April. In addition, throughout the festival, the Llibres Model initiative will again be presenting a selection of books by various international publishers which promote works and ideas in the realm of architecture.

Model was started last year by Barcelona City Council and the Architects’ Association of Catalonia (COAC), with a view to the city’s role as the UIA-UNESCO Word Capital of Architecture for 2026. This year’s edition is being organised under the artistic direction of Eva Franch i Gilabert.