‘Guilty landscape’ is a notion borrowed from the Dutch painter, sculptor, writer, and musician Armando, who wrote about such landscapes more than once. Living in Amersfoort before, during, and after the Second World War, close to a concentration camp situated in the woods, he was very aware that the innocent forest of his youth had witnessed the horrors of war and the Holocaust.
Two decades ago, an architecture magazine would be swamped with invitations for previews, tours and photo opportunities for projects ‘just finished’. A decade ago more and more press releases on prize winning competition entries would be added as part of the info mix. A little later the special mentions would get circulation; even entering a competition was seen as a publicity opportunity. It seemed only a matter of time before press releases announcing “we’ve started in the office this morning at 8.30 am, another great day in front of us, full of promise and opportunity” would surface. Publicity equaled economy. Maybe it still does, but not in the form where profiling projects, clearly identifiable as ‘someone’s’ work will necessarily result in a direct connection to new assignment. We know it is not like that anymore, not in most western countries, not for a lot of offices. In the late 90s, shrinkage was discovered as an interesting urban phenomenon, a new challenge for the profession; today this theme has reached the profession in the most unexpected way: no clients what so ever.
When the credit crisis struck, the general response was one of sheer amazement. Fascinating to see billions and trillions of dollars evaporate at such speed. Despite experts´ warnings that things would never be the same, expectation in general was that normality would be restored soon. In our spectacle society we are used to the excitement of sudden change. We respond to these events like we’re watching a magician.
Volume #24: Counterculture
Few people are out protesting in the street or tripping on acid in America these days, yet many of the social principles of its hippie generation are now mainstream. The most celebrated example of the continuing influence of 60s alternative values is in the world of technology. In his book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, media historian Fred Turner describes a group of 60s figures who did not revolt against a menacing, out of touch ‘establishment’ as the familiar narrative tells us, but took a seemingly contradictory interest in defense technologies developing within the militaryindustrial complex. Turner observes that the countercultural ethos of demanding access to knowledge invoked by Stewart Brand and others influenced the development of the personal computer products and network tools that popularized the web and initiated our shift to a society that thrives on information.
Storytelling communicates facts, but it also builds upon real-life accounts to enrich public expectations and elevate beliefs. To these ends, it is worthwhile to get reacquainted with the children’s story. Although regarded as a vehicle to escape reality, the children’s story, and in particular the fairy tale, could again help to elucidate larger social and political storylines. This issue of Volume responds to the global crisis, continuing a series of inquiries started in Volume #9, Urban China 31, Urban China Bootlegged by C-Lab and Volume #19. Here, we present storytelling as a means of understanding our time and constructing a narrative of response.
‘A precondition for starting a significant architectural intervention is to define a project in consultation with those parties involved in its implementation (the government, the local municipality, private investors, developers, construction companies, planners, designers and architects).’ This preamble to a recent international conference on ‘architectural interventions and transformations’ is typical for an ‘all-inclusive’ way of thinking about processes these days. Plans and policies are no longer defined and implemented by a few specialists;they are developed with all stakeholders (another popular contemporary notion). All parties? The user/consumer/resident, usually the subject and victim of intervention, is conspicuously missing from this description.
Unsolicited architecture is not a totally new practice. Recent years have seen a number of initiatives by architects and artists which could easily be gathered under the moniker of ‘unsolicited architecture’. Yet it does indeed need argumentation, explanation and active publicity.
Maybe it is different in your part of the world, but in the US there is currently an agitation shortage. There is not much work that incites discord with the prevalent views held by the profession. There are few agitators, or figures who rattle the bones of our institutions by challenging established values. And there are few that feel agitated, or irritated, about this as the overall state of today’s situation.
Few things are as driven by maximalism as architecture. The craft stands out for its almost boundless urge to prove itself. If you want to become a thinking, creative architect, not only must you be capable of doing anything, you also have to do it. Work, work, work: that’s the motto