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Building Inclusive Communities: Giancarlo Mazzanti's Vision of Inclusive and Transformative Architecture

Building Inclusive Communities: Giancarlo Mazzanti's Vision of Inclusive and Transformative Architecture by Nicole Grima and Jasmine Hodgson


Following a fascinating lecture with architect Giancarlo Mazzanti, where he introduced and spoke about a variety of his projects, we had the pleasure of having a chat with the architect and delve into the domain of inclusive architecture and its relation to building stronger communities. Mazzanti, who has extensive experience in public architecture and working with communities, discusses his use of modular architecture and how it allows for transformation and adaptability over time. His philosophy stands firmly rooted in crafting public buildings that are more than mere structures, instead emphasising on adaptability, transformation, and profound connections with the community. 

Mazzanti's distinctive approach to architecture diverges from conventional practices often dictated by profit-driven private clients. Rather, his focus gravitates towards public architecture, where community impact drives his approach.

‘...the word “we” with the meaning of an inclusive act. We’re used to saying “we/us” in juxtaposition with “you”,but when I say “we/us”, I mean everyone.’

The conversation delved into Mazzanti's innovative use of modular architecture, which, contrary to the common perception of uniform repetition, integrates playful and dynamic forms. This approach aims not only for aesthetic success but primarily prioritizes adaptability, responding to Colombia's ever-evolving conditions. Mazzanti advocates for an architecture of transformation, challenging the notion of permanence in built environments. The modules serve not as static entities but as evolving elements that shape themselves over time, in tandem with the evolving community they serve.

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21 Atlantico Kindergartens, Atlantico, Colombia, 2016

One of the pivotal aspects discussed was the idea of creating iconic architecture while maintaining humility and resonance within the community. Mazzanti discredits the notion of deliberately crafting icons, emphasizing that true icons emerge organically through community resonance and memory. The architect's role, in this context, lies in becoming part of the geography and topography, ensuring the building integrates seamlessly with its surroundings, embodying a landscape rather than standing as a detached icon. The projects, as Mazzanti asserts, exist not for architects but for the community they serve. 

“I do not believe much in iconic architecture. One doesn’t make an icon; the community and its memory build an icon.”

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Spain Library Park - Santo Domingo Savio, Medellin, Colombia, 2005

The interview also highlighted Mazzanti's core philosophy of creating a common, shared space, not just constructing buildings. This vision aims to foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity within diverse communities. The architect underlines the importance of erasing boundaries, physical and metaphorical, by employing transparent materials and designs that encourage openness. In Colombia's tropical climate, the use of porous and open structures not only complements the weather  conditions but also fosters a sense of unity and shared experiences. 

‘For example, public sports facilities are usually closed and no one has a relationship with the inside. So, how do we make them so that they’re open and everyone can see what’s going on inside?’

Our chat concluded with an emphasis on making public spaces open and accessible, transcending the closed-off nature of conventional facilities. Mazzanti advocates for architectures that blur boundaries, allowing passersby to engage with and feel part of the activities within, nurturing a collective experience.

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Four Sport Scenarios for the 2010 Southamerican Games, Medellin, Colombia, 2009

In essence, Mazzanti’s approach stands as a testament to a transformative vision of architecture—one that prioritizes adaptability, inclusivity, and community resonance. His work challenges the traditional paradigms of architecture, demonstrating that buildings are not just structures; they are integral parts of a living, breathing community.

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