Dezeen Magazine

Watch a talk with Stefano Boeri and Joseph Grima about creating cities in symbiosis with nature

Dezeen promotion: in this Venice Biennale talk by Therme Art and V–A–C, 11 experts from the fields of architecture, design and technology discuss how we can reimagine our cities while giving back to nature.

The panel, which took place at the biennale in May and is now being broadcast exclusively by Dezeen, features architects Stefano Boeri and Joseph Grima as well as indigenous and environmental rights activist Nina Gualinga.

It was held as part of Therme's Wellbeing Culture Forum, an ongoing programme of online and offline discussions that explores how design and architecture can promote the wellbeing of both people and nature in the urban context.

Titled From Non-Extractive to Re-Generative Architectures: Growing a Symbiotic City, the talk expands on the Non-Extractive Architecture manifesto, which was launched by Grima's studio Space Caviar in April and advocates for a new kind of architecture that does not exploit the planet.

Therme's talk intended to expand on this idea by looking at how cities can instead enter a reciprocal relationship with nature, in which we replenish what resources we extract in order to generate abundance in a sustainable way.

Stefano Boeri at Therme Art talk in Venice
Architect Stefano Boeri discussed his vertical forest project

"Extraction could be part of connection," said Boeri, who has designed vertical forest apartment blocks in cities around the world in the hope of reconnecting their residents with local wildlife.

"I'm not totally against the idea of extracting because when we enter into a relationship with the other, we extract something from it and it extracts something from us."

Nina Gualinga at wellbeing culture forum talk
Nina Gualinga is an indigenous and environmental rights activist

Therme Art's CEO, co-founder and co-moderator Mikolaj Sekutowicz added that cities should be designed to replicate the inherent symbiosis of our planet's ecosystem. This is similar to how trees extract nutrients from the soil to grow, eventually returning the nutrients to the earth through their fallen leaves.

"We need to move from 'building' cities to 'growing' them," Sekutowicz said. "This will require the same radical shift in our cultural adaptation and perspective as was provided in the 1920s through the Bauhaus movement."

Gualinga, who is a member of the Kichwa people native to the Ecuadorian Amazon, argued that to achieve this, architects should learn from the way that indigenous communities have been living for centuries.

"We as indigenous people know what non-extraction and regeneration is," she said. "That is our way of life, that is how we live and coexist in balance with Mother Earth and the forest."

Joseph Grima at Therme Art talk
Joseph Grima of Space Caviar helped to guide the discussion

Therme Group founder and CEO, Robert C Hanea expanded on the importance of placing architecture as the pillar for reshaping the world’s economy, urban and societal infrastructure developments.

"In the end, we come down to economics. In the end, architects respond to the economical call, respond to an environment that finances, extracts, impacts, shapes the world that we have ended up with. We all agree that this is broken and we know that this won't go for a long time."

Previous talks in Therme's Wellbeing Culture Forum series include a discussion on how creatives can be environmental activists featuring Maja Hoffman and Sissel Tolaas.

Therme Art is the cultural incubator of Therme Group. It aims to challenge the limitations of conventional exhibition spaces to redefine contemporary art viewing worldwide.

Partnership content

This article was written by Dezeen for Therme Art as part of a partnership. Find out more about Dezeen partnership content here.