Volume likes to think of itself as a critical magazine. Not in that it reviews and criticizes production, but in that it has a critical relation with architecture as practice and as notion. No problem up to now. Different worlds, different attitudes, the twain shall never meet, and they lived apart happily ever after…
… until yesterday’s counter-culture became today’s accepted practice. To work unsolicited as office, to develop as architect (anathema in most western countries only a decade ago), to create social projects, to see potential for all kinds of products and outcomes next to making buildings, to have hybrid and networked offices, understand design as just another way of experimenting and challenging, of helping and reformulating, it all is normal practice these days. Maybe not in quantity, but certainly in mentality. Architecture schools have a hard time adjusting to these realities, to search for a new balance between hardcore design skills and other faculties that are equally needed.
But that is not the subject of this issue. The interest in criticality and the practice of criticism had more to do with a felt uneasiness that the emerging practices just mentioned escaped our evaluative attention. Going beyond doesn’t include reviewing, right? Well, maybe it does and the time is right to combine an explorative and proactive approach with a responsive one, to include reality checks in the process and also to contextualize.
This issue started under the working title ‘anything goes’, but its nihilist overtone became oppressive. So ‘ways to be critical’ was the more polite, more optimistic and neutral alternative, tying this issue into wider research on the potential of criticism nowadays and its different modes of operation.
To come to grips, we had to revisit places like New York, Milan, Paris and London, to see were trajectories started deviating. To understand what the actual relation between architecture criticism and architectural production had been until recently, and to see what kind of relations are emerging. That quest is far from complete. What we present here is an interim report, at best suggesting ways to go about. But it all starts with ‘who cares?’ And ‘why care at all’? So, to find out if there is still vitality in this old body called architecture, we’ll have to kick it as hard as we can.