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Bienal Internacional de Arquitectura

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Stephen Bates: “To fight climate change, we must adapt our way of thinking, working and building”

  • The British architect, founding partner at one of the UK's leading practices, will hold a lecture at MUGAK on 4 November 2019 on architecture as the search for “intelligent ruins”.          
  • Bates defends approaching architectural projects from a cultural and environmental sustainability point of view.

One of the leading figures in present day British architecture, Stephen Bates, from the architectural practice Sergison Bates Architects, will hold a lecture this Monday, 4 November 2019 within the framework of MUGAK, the Basque Country International Architecture Biennial, on architecture as the search for “intelligent ruins”. The lecture will take place at the Architecture Institute of the Basque Country in San Sebastián at 6:30 p.m. Bates believes one of the main challenges of architecture is “adapting the way of thinking, working and building” in order to fight climate change, a reality that is becoming more and more present among professionals.   

The British architect and his partners are at the helm of one of the top London practices leading the 21st century generational turnover in British architecture. They defend “the need to explore shapes so that the past and present can coexist at an urban level on the premise of cultural and environmental sustainability.” Bates highlights the need to approach sustainability from different angles on account of its interconnectivity. In this respect, he points out how social and cultural habits have a direct impact on environmental sustainability. 

“Bob Van Reeth reminded us of the importance of designing buildings for an unknown future. In an age of rapidly changing demographics and continuous innovation in our home and work environments, it’s important to have this debate,” underscored Bates.  He proposes buildings with “a series of layers, each one with a specific, temporal dimension: buildings and urban components must be built to last several centuries, while the lifetime of facilities, design and internal finishes can be much shorter.”

This is one of the issues they are tackling from their studios in London and Zurich – the latter was opened a little over a decade ago. Their work includes housing projects for European cities based on the pillars of simplicity, detail, context and functionality to meet the needs of residents. 

The studio is well aware of the “issues modern-day European cities face, including the need to assimilate the changing demands of housing and lifestyles.” In this vein, Bates seeks “strategies for the cities of the future, while taking into account the profound mark European cities has left throughout history.”

Bates is one of the speakers participating in the conferences hosted by MUGAK. Álvaro Siza kicked off the programme last week and it will come to an end with an interview between the journalist Iñaki Gabilondo and the Pritzker Prize winner Rafael Moneo, in the very-same building he designed, the Kursaal in San Sebastián. It celebrates its 20th anniversary this year.


The Basque Country International Architecture Biennial (MUGAK, the Basque word for boundaries) hosts its second edition with more than 100 activities with the aim of bringing architecture closer to the general public and those who already have a relationship with the discipline. This event is organised by the Department for the Environment, Land Planning and Housing of the Basque Country and seeks to act as a pluralistic, transversal and multicultural meeting point to promote and rekindle dialogue and discussion to redefine new boundaries and shape a more ethical, fair and balanced society.

The Programme is being prepared