‘Radical Cities’: 3 lessons from Latin America’s activist architects

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'Radical Cities': 3 lessons from Latin America's activist architects
Justin McGuirk’s new book, “Radical Cities,” looks at the ways that architects in Latin America have tackled pressing urban problems. Seen here: Medellin’s Orquideorama structure, which has helped give the city a new profile / © Iwan Baan

Anyone following the architectural profession at the turn of the millennium might be forgiven for thinking that it was all about splashy icons: Frank Gehry’s undulating titanium sails in Bilbao and Los Angeles, Norman Foster’s naughty-looking Gherkin in London, and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill’s super-tall Burj Khalifa, known for being … super-tall.

But as some were rushing to plant icons all over the planet, a generation of architects and planners in Latin America were focused on other issues: affordable housing, transportation infrastructure, zoning issues, the creation of public amenities, cross-border relations — issues that don’t necessarily make for sexy buildings, but that are key to creating cities that function well.

British architecture writer Justin McGuirk tracks the phenomenon in his new book, “Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture” (Verso; $29.95), which he will present at the MAK Center for Art & Architecture in West Hollywood Friday evening.

Why Latin America? []