The pandemic and all the other crises coinciding with it have been putting a halt to the pillars of our economic, social, and political frameworks. They have also led to an overall revision of architecture. Some say that it’s a matter of resilience, of simply waiting out the storm. Others believe it to be a question of technological adaptation, of finding new solutions for new times. And there are those who think that the only solution is a bona fide back-to-basics approach: a return to the essential.
Belonging to the latter group is Anna Heringer, an architect and activist trained in grassroots movements who has exemplarily demonstrated her mix of social commitment and poetic talent in catering to those most in need. Such dedication comes to the fore in ‘Anna Heringer: Essential Beauty,’ on view until 8 May at the Museo ICO in Madrid. In this exhibition, apart from textiles inspired by Bangladeshi traditions and a wall built with mud by students of the Madrid School of Architecture, the visitor has the chance – through a selection of plans, photographs, and models – to examine the German’s most representative works, from village projects in Bangladesh, expressly conceived to boost collective confidence and local economies, to buildings carried out in Europe, including the altar of rammed earth for the cathedral of Worms, in southern Germany. Every single one of them is characterized by a strong material stamp and exemplifies Heringer’s motto: “Architecture is a tool to improve lives.”