For readers who turn to architecture in search of tools for improving the way of living –and who feel limited by the tools on offer– this blog explores further tools from related fields such as sustainable urban development, regenerative agriculture, global warming mitigation, and especially the art world.
Not Only About Architecture –NOAA– blog author is Patricia Sendin, architect and urban planner with a 20-year career at practices in London, Frankfurt, Florence and Paris, and co-founder at Frontline Waste.
Patricia holds a Diplom-Ingenieur degree in architecture and urban planning from the TU Darmstadt, Germany, with further studies on design (University of Florence), global poverty (MIT), soil science (University of Dundee) and entrepreneurship (IESE Business School).
She tries to contribute as best she can to the sustainability agenda with her work –in 5 languages– in the larger architecture field including in the afore- and undermentioned areas. For inquiries please reach out here.
For her buildings, she doesn't specifically pursue beauty but believes that it emerges naturally by maximising a building's exposure to natural light, nature and social interaction, which also leads to low-impact
buildings and especially, happier users able to interact more with each other. More formal accolades include a BREEAM excellent score, one RIBA Stirling Prize and two RIBA Awards, achieved with buildings she co-designed during her time at Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP now RHSP) in London.
Patricia's sustainability knowhow and building standards derive from her 11-year work at environmentally-minded, Pritzker-Prize-winning practice RRP with whom she has built all sorts of high-performance buildings from skyscrapers to airports, offices and mixed developments; and from her formative years in Darmstadt, the cradle of the passive house standard. Anecdotally, it was beloved environmentalist and artist-architect César Manrique, whom she asked for career advice as she looked up to him as a teenager, who tipped her off about Darmstadt.
For the past decade, Patricia has been interested in rural areas and has strongly advocated in all sorts of international fora for their inclusion to the Urban Agenda. Now that it is widely accepted that urban and rural areas are inextricably linked, she looks forward to the implementation of rural policies and solutions.
She has looked at ways to bridge the rural infrastructure gap and to address the incipient urban-rural migration trend –with more city dwellers relocating to the countryside– with Send a City (SaC), a project seeking to develop new rural communities and to retrofit existing ones.
Patricia believes that for rural and urban communities to be on par in terms of quality of life, rural communities need to have access to the same infrastructure systems present in cities, albeit with revised formats and standards more suitable to the rural context and budget. SaC has developed an Integrated Basic Framework to assess community deprivations, correlate them to infrastructure systems and draft a profitable action plan.
SaC has also a plan to deliver new communities in a compact form –based on the premise that living remotely requires an optimal use of
resources– and with decentralised infrastructure available even for the smallest of communities (see sketches above). The project distills the raw basics of a community (public / private space and infrastructure), packs them into a scalable module and sets out a path for combining the modules into a larger community. Each module includes housing, a communal garden and a service core with essential infrastructure, such as energy microgeneration, water pumps/collection/storage, communal facilities and social & IT services.
SaC's work has been a hit among local governments and communities. It is award recipient at SOCAP San Francisco; portfolio project at R20 and DiCaprio foundations; member at Uraia Platform; featured project at Global Infrastructure Basel, at Geodesign Summit TU Delft, and at main Spanish newspapers and cultural institutions. Patricia is a regular at the UN World Urban Forum.
Frontline Waste's patented JF Pyrolysis System diverts waste from dumps and landfills and converts it into biofuels – biochar/biocoal, bio-oil & biogas – to use directly as soil amendment and fossil fuels replacement; to produce secondary products; or to generate electricity. In addition to avoiding environmental degradation, the System mitigates climate change by avoiding methane emissions from the decomposition of waste in disposal sites; by offsetting fossil fuel emissions from electricity generation; and by sequestering carbon in products.
For its contribution to help limit global warming to 1.5ºC in the near term and its payback in <5 years, the JF System has been awarded in 2021 the Swiss Solar Impulse Efficient Solution Label, a proof of high standards in profitability and sustainability.
Patricia complements her work on sustainable living and global warming mitigation with a commitment to healthy soils. On a small scale, she turns lawns into regenerative food gardens that require minimal external inputs as she has learnt from farmer and researcher Ernst Götsch. On a larger scale, the company she has co-founded, Frontline Waste, generates biochar from biomass to apply to depleted soils and speed up regeneration.
Healthy soils are essential for supporting landscapes and biodiversity, food and water cycles, as well as for global cooling and carbon storing. The way we eat has a massive impact on soil health. On a personal level, her choices of eating a seasonal, plant-based and frugal diet, and of growing some of her food, are also a contribution to healthy soils, food waste reduction and food sovereignty.
Her work on soil regeneration (pictured above) was award winner at the 2018 Rural Women Challenge convened by the Spanish Ministry for Equal Opportunities. Patricia is currently a member of the Urban Growers Initiative at the historical Retiro Gardens Madrid.
Patricia is interested in art as a medium to convey challenging topics. A decade ago she explored the possibilities of repurposed waste materials and their effect on local life with RePlace, a project with the contribution of seven architects for the exhibition Eleventh Plateau in Hydra Island, Greece. The architects used locally reclaimed waste materials to create objects that somehow reshaped public space.