“Stop Building! A Moratorium on New Construction” – Charlotte Malterre-Barthes (EPFL)
To pause new construction—even if momentarily, creates a radical thinking framework for alternatives to the current regime of space production and its suspect growth imperative. Engaging with unsettling questions, A Moratorium on New Construction envisions a massive value shift for existing buildings, infrastructure, materials, unbuilt land, earth, and the labor that holds our world together. From housing redistribution to reinviting value generation, from anti-extractive measures to profound structural changes, from curricula reforms to purging the exploitative culture of the office, from respecting soil to embracing repair, reuse, and dismantling, an entire rewiring of design processes and construction lays ahead. The task is immense: it demands an alternative way of making worlds, one that demands a careful inventory of actual and vacant stock, the revaluation of caretaking tasks, a global demolition ban, state commitment to public housing, just zoning plans, robust rent control, anti-vacancy policies and ownership reforms, but also materials end-of-life etiquette and maintenance protocols, to be imagined, designed, formulated, planned, implemented according to context.
Somewhere between a thought experiment and a call for action, A Moratorium on New Construction is a leap of faith to envision a less extractive future, made of what we have:
Not demolishing, not building new, building less, building with what exists, inhabiting it differently, and caring for it.
Charlotte Malterre-Barthes is an architect, urban designer, and Assistant Professor of Architectural and Urban Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL), where she leads the laboratory RIOT.
Most recently Assistant Professor of Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design where she taught studios and seminars, she launched in 2021 the initiative ‘A Global Moratorium on New Construction‘ interrogating current protocols of development and urging for a profound reform of planning disciplines to face the climate and social emergency.
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