Charlotte Malterre-Barthes is an architect, urban designer, and Assistant Professor of Urban Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Malterre-Barthes’ teaching and research interests are related to how design disciplines can critically engage with issues of resources, the mainstream economy, governance, and ecological/social justice. In 2021, she initiated with B+ a call for a moratorium on new construction. Principal of the urban design agency OMNIBUS, she holds a PhD from ETH Zürich on the effects of the political economy of commodities on the built environment. As guest professor at TU Berlin (2018-2019) she investigated and challenged the predatorily modus operandi of real estate in the German capital, and as program director of the Master of Advanced Studies in Urban Design at the chair of Marc Angélil (2014-2019) focused on informal housing, migration and inclusivity in Mediterranean cities, publishing awarded books Housing Cairo: The Informal Response (2017) and Migrant Marseille: Architectures of Social Segregation and Urban Inclusivity (2020). Co-curator of the 12th International Architecture Biennale of São Paulo (2019), she also co-authored Some Haunted Spaces in Singapore (Edition Patrick Frey) and Eileen Gray: A House under the Sun. Charlotte is a founding member of the Parity Group and Front, activist networks dedicated to improving gender equality and equity in architecture.
Statement Charlotte Malterre-Barthes:
Back in March 2020, Bruno Latour’s questionnaire was making the rounds, touting that “if everything is stopped, everything can be questioned, bent, selected, sorted, interrupted for good or accelerated.” But not everything stopped. Universities went online, construction sites largely kept operating. The pause offered to privileged societies to question our expansionist global enterprise of extraction, of production, and of exhaustion did not happen, despite loud calls to decenter knowledge, deconstruct gender and racial injustice, and combat the climate emergency. We need to pivot toward resource stewardship, to emancipate our practices, and to set the care of the living as the sole agenda. The disempowering current economic model of development needs to be put in question—everywhere. If new construction stops even for a short while, not only the current built stock shall be revalued (buildings, infrastructure, materials), but also all the values of its supporting care labor and of those who carry it.
An entirely new way of perceiving the world emerges, one that demands a careful assessment of present and vacant inventory, a new set of values, strong anti-demolition and preservation policies, occupancy and ownership models, densification plans and maintenance strategies, upgrading tactics and alternative economic systems—to be imagined, formulated, planned, implemented toward a new built and unbuilt environment.
Photo: Caroline Palla