New-school academics are looking for ways to redefine the role of architects in society, beginning at university level

French-speaking architect and professor Jana Revedin was already giving the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, which she founded, at a time when “sustainable” had no direct French translation. Yet Revedin has remained one of the sustainable movement’s most outspoken advocates. In a recent Q&A with Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Revedin gave another challenging talk, urging young architects to stop building, and “start looking”.

Along with her multi-award winning architectural and urban design projects, Revedin’s teaching philosophy currently demands a paradigm shift in the way architectural students are considering their place in the world. And her message of building less, and engaging more, has an incredibly far-ranging reach as it informs much of her work at the teaching commission of the International Union of Architects (UIA) – a powerful, global body that has a lot of say in the way architectural students are taught.

The interviewer in her Q&A with DW asked what, if architecture students are not to build, should they be doing?

“Perhaps they first need to learn how to look and listen.” Revedin says, typically astute. “We don’t develop our master class projects through unreflective competition, we go into a community, whether it be a city neighborhood, a village or a slum. There we work together with the people to work out what their real needs are. We often realize that much of what is needed for a better quality of life is already there. What they need is to focus on self-development. Our planet is full of new or otherwise available buildings and infrastructure that, if we are smart, can be recycled.”

Her work with students and academia lead her to develop NPO The LOCUS Foundation, which ‘researches and transmits notions of Sustainable Design in the ecological, social, economic and cultural fields of urban development’, the group says on their website. Many of the Foundation’s alumni were curators of this year’s Venice Biennale, whose modus operandi was activism in architecture, themed Reporting from the Front.

“There is a real battle on the front against poverty, inequality, oppression, mass migration, terror and also blind bureaucracy and the stubborn grasp on power – naturally also with a demand for the highest quality.” She says in the interview. “Alejandro Aravena used this avant-garde fight as the motto for this year’s Biennale: “Reporting from the Front”. We are reporting from the front. We are at the front.”

Click here to read the full interview with this inspiring thinker.