Beatrice Galilee is a London-born curator, writer, and cultural advisor with expertise in global contemporary architecture and design. She is the co-founder of The World Around, has curated international biennales, and is the author of Radical Architecture of the Future. Galilee provides public speaking opportunities and advisory support for architects, designers, and institutions. She was also the first curator of contemporary architecture and design at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as the architecture editor of Icon Magazine .

"The World Around" is a remarkable example of how to turn a vision into reality. It shows how being able to adapt to external changes and staying committed to your passions can pay off. This project has brought to life and given a voice to incredible architectural and design initiatives, providing exposure, networking opportunities, and mentorship to talented individuals across the globe.

Image © Marco Giannavola - Portrait of Beatrice Galilee

“Radical Architecture of the Future celebrates forward-thinking architecture, from a Tokyo commuter train to a Copenhagen power plant that doubles up as a ski slope.”_The Telegraph

Can you please describe “The Word Around” in one sentence for the people that do not know what it is?
It's an Institution that doesn't have a physical space.

The goal of The World Around is to champion the most exciting, progressive architecture in the world and bring it to a global audience.
That's really what we tried to do. And the way that we work - because we don't have a building or a space - is by collaborating with institutions that do have buildings and spaces. So it's almost more of a network than an institution.

We think of ourselves as a more like progressive institution for a digital world, that's kind of a hybrid between physical and digital at all times. So we're kind of evolved to be that thing that is super flexible, super collaborative, intuitive, that people know kind of what to expect and how to reach us and how to find the content..

© The World Around - Jeanne Gang - Reversing Obsolescence 

How did it all start? it was your idea and you're trying to put all the pieces together? And is it going?
It started because I was the curator of Architecture at the Metropolitan Museum, and while I was there, I organized a lot of public programs and an annual conference called “A year of architecture in a day” and that conference was extremely popular, more popular than I would have imagined the conference on contemporary architecture would be, but because of my approach about contemporary architecture is very inclusive, a very - you know - my background is very international -  so people would come to the Met and see a kind of architecture through the lens of the Met, which is very international that there was people speaking about architecture through the idea of grinder, as a form of urban infrastructure, people talking about architecture as Wolfgang Tilman's using his anti brexit campaign as a form of city architecture or communication architecture. We had Julie Moretto speaking about how architecture has impacted some of her large scale painting works and site specifics installations. 

We kind of integrated all of these alternative ways of thinking about what architecture could be today.
I decided to leave the Met and start my own project, and I wanted to take the idea of the conference into the new project and initiative and so The World Around started in a way with the idea of just a conference.

Then the first event was in January 2020 and yeah nobody knew what was going to happen…

The first event was super successful, really exciting time. And then the pandemic, just changed everything: basically I decided to turn The World Around into a non-profit institution and we created a board and worked really hard to create the online presence of The World Around, which was already integrated into it, because the first edition was live streamed, and all of the plans for the website were always to host the videos on the website permanently and always have our own Youtube channel. So yeah, all of the kind of plans that we intuitively thought would make sense, all happened  super fast. That all happened over that summer 2020

Image © Marco Giannavola - Portrait of Beatrice Galilee

Do you know what your audience is? In your project you are involving different kinds of people that are now more interested in architecture because you touch a lot of intersections with other cultural areas. So Did you notice a change of an audience or like people that you will not expect to be interested in?

I think one of the issues with architecture often is that it's just architects talking to architects because a lot of the architecture institutions are aimed at an architectural audience.
And because of my experience working at the Met and we worked at the Guggenheim, and it was a general public audience, who's interested in culture and what's going on in the world, so we found artists watching it, curators, directors of museums, authors, people's parents, people who are board members of museums, a lot of people involved in culture. It's great.

The first time we started to understand the breadth of people that should be interested in architecture. Yeah. And our interest in architecture but that's not that much programming available that shows that it's true to me.

I'm passionate about architecture, and I feel it's one of the most interesting and exciting forms of cultural practice in the world, but so inaccessible to so many people, so one of the goals of The World Around is help people to see what I see when I think that will cut out a check.

Pinault Collection, Tadao Ando at The World Around Summit 2022. Photo source: The World Around

Let's talk about the Young Climate Prize. The goal is to give an Award to young people that have great ideas. Can you describe one of the projects, that in the moment that you started reading about it or knowing about it, just blew your mind and you knew that was going to be it.What’s very important is that the Young Climate Prize is not an idea, it is a competition. It is real projects by real people all under 25 from all over the world.
Everything we do at The World Around is always real things happening because above all,

what I value is people that are able to execute ideas.
Architecture is about that transition between what is in your mind to actually in the world changing things, positively on the ground.

The Young Climate Prize is about the people who are under 25, who are doing that, and they're the ones who are facing real challenges in their local environment caused by climate change, and they're doing it.

They have their own projects. So we chose 25 people under 25, all of them have their own projects and we pair each of them with a mentor, that mentor is from the design and architecture community and their goal is to help accelerate that project. Not to make it happen but just give it extra resource, give it support, give it connections.

Yes, connecting people because that’s the thing about having a network. It's like, well, you should really talk to my friend who is looking for this type of material, or is looking for this type of solution, or you should meet this person who's an investor and so on. So it's all about that. Like,

how do we as a network help? We don't have financial resources but we can help with what we have, which is networks, influence, and access

And those are usually the things that these people  don't have. They have passion, they have intelligence, they have real commitment and ideas, and they're doing stuff, but they didn't go to Harvard. They didn't go to Yale, they didn’t grow up in New York, you know, they're all over the world. 

The first Task was an open call. So we made an open pool, like “are you a young climate designer?” We didn't know what was going to happen. We're like, is anyone going to reply?

And then with first ones that came back I remember thinking, okay, this project's going to work.

There was a guy, an architecture student in Port Said in Egypt - his presentation was about he comes from three generations of fishermen, in Port Said, but father now cannot fish because, basically, all the waters are polluted, because all of the pollution that happens, but also the climate change that changes the temperature of the water. And so, there's all the impacts of climate change that have affected the community. And he was like, there's all his dead fish that we can't fish. They're all, you know, basically impossible to make a living, so he And his architecture friends found all these dead fish and skinned them, dried the skins and made fish leather, and are making bags and shoes using fish leather. And so he said, we can make a business.
We're starting to buy, we're asking the fisherman to fish the dead fish.
We're able to give them a little bit of money. And then we can sell this, we can give work to people, and we're able to create an economy.

It's really like a nice project on how to use the back consequences of climate change in a profitable way, pretty genius.

I remember getting goosebumps when we saw that video and just thinking this is the project no one will ever know about it
We found this guy and his friends and they're doing this project because they believe in it, they're doing it, they made it, they're doing it, you know. And Uh, we connected him with Nelly Ben Hayoun who's a French designer in London. She does a lot of stuff with fabrics materials and that was an amazing match. 

All of the mentors and mentees are all still in touch with each other. You know, Mohammed, he didn't win the final prize, but everybody won the mentorship.

Three people won the actual prize, which is to come to New York and present it at the Guggenheim. But that was the moment  I was like, it is so important to listen to young people. This is what we do as an institution. You know. This is our reparation to climate change.  

Image © Marco Giannavola - Portrait of Beatrice Galilee

It's a non-profit but do you have any sponsors or any institutions collaboration? And I know you are now collaborating with the Fondation Cartier. How did that start and how is the Foundation contributing to the work?
That started actually because they attended the first edition in January 2020. The Foundation Cartier team got tickets, 10 people got tickets. So I was like, oh wow, this is great and they wanted to work with us. 

And then of course pandemic,  and partnerships take a long time - especially good ones and so i'm really trying to, you know, work with them to think about what would be a successful partnership for the and for us.

What we're doing is co-curating, which means that we have programs where I work with the curator at The Fondation Cartier, and we do programs together. Which is amazing for me because otherwise I'm just creating everything on my own.

So it's perfect and they of course add this huge, you know network and visibility. They have their own network of institutions so they have Partners as the Milan Triennale, with Power Station of Art in Shanghai. They already have a similar model that we have,  which is that they go outside of their home into other homes.

So it works really well. We've just done one event. They are what we call the Global Cultural Partner, they will be with us all through 2024 and maybe beyond, and we're working with other partners but that's our big.

I saw that you guys were actually in Milan recently at the Triennale - Can you reveal what it's going to be next? Next we'll have a program in London at the Design Museum and then we will have a program at the Guggenheim in New York in May and then I'll have to let you know…
Casa del Pensamiento, Bogota by Organizmo at The World Around Summit 2023 - Photo Source: The World Around.

The last point that I want to touch on is the relationship between technology and architecture...I think in everything, there's always balance. I think technology is going to be able to do amazing things for architecture, because it's going to be able to Inform how to build in the most effective and efficient way. We need to build using electricity, you know, if we're going to have an ecological world in the US, everything needs to be electric. And then the electricity comes from wind power and solar power. And that's the way that we can reduce the common emissions by going to sort of green-powered electricity. So a lot of buildings do need efficient use of electricity and a lot of that comes through technology, very smart technology and smart use of batteries. 

There's a lot of climate change innovation that is going to come from technology space. That's just the way it is. The same time, there's a lot of knowledge that's coming from how we can use passive ventilation and how we can build sustainably using reuse of buildings, very thoughtful use of materials, local materials innovations that are looking at indigenous practices or like in Africa people looking at how do people build before the colonial times - like why we are building like these white people - we need to look at the original way that we used to live here, the original way that we solved having, you know, intense weather and we need to have this type of shading and we need to have this type of cross ventilationI always think that any kind of yes or no answer is going to be a problem. Like it's kind of extreme, it’s bad and not unsustainable. So I think there is always a balance using technology.

We showed this project that was so beautiful at The World Around which was a an app that was designed to help homeless people in England - 

In England, like in many other places, if you're homeless you can't have a bank account and you basically can't get a job without a bank account as they do not pay in cash, most places don't pay you cash anymore. So you can't get a bank account because you don't have an address and you can't get a job because you don't have a bank account.

So all people’s ability to get out of homelessness, is often this very technical bureaucratic problem. So this designer from London that went to the RCA (Royal College of Art) found a way to use technology to map all of the available buildings that are not being used in a certain city, not that people would move into them, but that the address could be found and applied as a proxy address and then that address could be rerouted to the job center where the homeless person could pick up mail

So it looks like they have an address, and the banks can send letters, they can get their checks, they can get paid and that starts to get people lifted out of poverty and starting to get on the right footing.

So, those types of projects are technology projects, but they're also city projects, and they're also architecture projects, and they solve problems that can't be solved with four walls.

I think these types of intelligence solutions, it's never about technologies about the person that's using the technology so how do you really think smart about it applying technology 

Images © Marco Giannavola - Portraits of Beatrice Galilee

Interview by Francesca Valente  102 NYC