Latitudes: Architecture in the Americas

In 2009, the “Latitudes: Architecture in the Americas” symposia were organized for the first time by The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture and the Center for American Architecture and Design, initiated by architects and UT Austin faculty Kevin Alter, Assoc. AIA; Michael Benedikt; Barbara Hoidn; and Wilfried Wang. Soon after, the symposia were supported by and organized in cooperation with the Teresa Lozano Long Institute for Latin American Studies (LLILAS) at UT Austin, represented by Fernando Lara, chair of the Brazil Center. 

The annual two-day event brings together a diverse group of innovative architects to explore the question of whether there is or ever will be an “American,” modern architecture that transcends the North, Central, and South American divide and that is in some way distinguishable from European, Asian, and other models. 

Latitudes serves as a platform to discuss construction techniques and technology in varying climatic conditions as urgent and essential forces behind architectural designs. The dialogue also focuses on how the many issues that fall under the umbrella of sustainability are manifest under different climatic, cultural, and economic conditions. 

Each architect presents one project detailing its development from the design concept phase through the completion of construction. The 

presentations encourage lively discussion about regional practices and distinct solutions to common problems. They are also guided journeys to remote contexts offering a global perspective that is both specific and broad. 

This year the conference itself travelled physically for the first time. On June 13 and 14, eight architects presented their work at the Faculty for Architecture and Urbanism (FAUUSP) at the University of São Paulo, in São Paulo, Brazil. 

Kevin Alter, Assoc. AIA, of Alterstudio Architecture in Austin and Carlos Jimenez of Carlos Jimenez Studio in Houston represented Texas. They were joined by Tod Williams of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects in New York; Luis Aldrete from Guadalajara, Mexico; Camilo Restrepo from Medellin, Colombia; Sandra Barclay and Jean Pierre Crousse of Barclay & Crousse Architecture in Lima, Peru; Carlos Alberto Maciel and Paula Zasnicoff of Arquitectos Associados in Belo Horizonte, Brazil; and Smiljan Radic from Santiago, Chile. 

As a result of the event’s success, invitations for future collaborations with schools in Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, and Peru are being explored. 

Barbara Hoidn is an adjunct associate professor at The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. 

The photo gallery for this article is expanded content for Texas Architect September/October 2013.