Away from Formalism – Towards Content: Annette Hillebrandt on Developments in 60 Years of Architecture

The limits to growth have been known about for a long time but what does this mean with regard to building within the limits of the earth's carrying capacity? Looking to the future of architecture, Annette Hillebrandt sees the recycling potential of buildings as decisive.    

What have 60 years of architecture left us?
Conducting architecture in 60 years of peace has been a great blessing – they have enabled so much creativity to emerge and find expression! When you consider the postmodern icons, the high-tech infatuation of Centre Pompidou , the sense of materials and form at a small field chapel between Cologne and Aachen, what a huge spectrum that's been. Architects have been able to experiment freely and discuss at great length, but unfortunately with a focus on formalism and in a merely self-centred way. For the most part vital issues such as building within the limits of the earth's carrying capacity have been ignored, despite the fact that the limits of growth been known about since 1972. 

Where do you think architecture will be in 60 years' time? 
I see this year's award of the Pritzker Prize to Lacaton & Vassal, the New European Bauhaus movement and above all the admirable commitment of A4F – Architects for Future as a good sign. Away from formalism – towards content. Construction has to finally become environmentally-compatible. It should not just destroy but compensate and create environmentally-related added value. Let's get going. Let's do our bit for coming generations!

When did you first come across Detail?
I'm not sure when that was but it feels like it was always there. It certainly began to play a greater role when I began my first structural design professorship. And it was a constant companion for the three years of drawing up the "Manual of Recycling ". I would again like to express my thanks to Detail for always having believed in the urgency of the topic and putting trust in us novice authors! As we can now see, the topic is red-hot!  

Annette Hillebrandt is an architect who has held professorships in Kaiserslautern and Münster and been Professor for Structural Design, Architectural Design and Materials Science at Bergische Universität Wuppertal since 2013. She conducts research on recycling potential in the building construction and is lead author of "Manual of Recycling – Buildings as Sources of Materials" (Edition DETAIL, 2019). In 2020 she received the Hans Sauer Award – Designing Circularity in Built Environments for her commitment to the Urban Mining Award, and is co-initiator of the Germany-wide, open competition for the Urban Mining Student Award.

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