Remix to the vision

Words:
Maria Smith

There’s a subtext from the AA directorship candidates

Amid the politics and excitement surrounding the search for a new director for the Architectural Association – the chosen one being Eva Franch i Gilabert – the vision statements of the three shortlisted candidates provide a fascinating status report on the current architectural culture. 

They were not written for this purpose of course, and I acknowledge that had that been the brief, the three candidates would have likely put forward different agendas, though perhaps not. Nevertheless, in their propositions for how the AA should be led, they all of course comment on how the AA should be led given our current architectural context.

The individual approaches inevitably vary, but there is also strong commonality and it is here that we can deduce that they’re speaking to a wider consciousness, and as Robert Mull writes in his statement, ‘in the face of pressing social, environment and human issues… we must define, articulate and defend common values and beliefs.’

So what can we learn from this litmus test of the mood in architecture today? Or perhaps more interestingly, what can we learn from the language used to describe the mood in architecture today?

‘We are living in a time’ of ‘seminal ­urgency’. ‘As a result of new forms of’ ‘almost everything’, ‘the challenges that we all face today’ ‘are growing in scale and complexity’. ‘We are in more need’ ‘than ever’ and yet our ‘intellectual wealth’ is ‘becoming less and less accessible’ as ‘architecture’s power and agency’ ‘is narrowing’. 

‘Local and global society’ is ‘undergoing radical changes’. We have seen an ‘acceleration of hyper-capitalism’ bring forth ­‘omnipresent market forces’. ‘Increased global mobility’, ‘the expansion of the so-called culture industry’ and ‘so much privilege and freedom’ has ‘been used, abused’ and has left ‘a younger generation disenfranchised by the carelessness of ours’.

‘So much privilege and freedom’ has ‘been used, abused’ and has left ‘a younger generation disenfranchised by the carelessness of ours’

We have ‘a role to play now more vital than at any moment’ ‘to be caring citizens and effective professionals’ and ‘to advocate for those who are unable’ but we ‘too often fail’ ‘to engage with the most pressing issues affecting the planet today’. We have become ‘too satisfied’ and ‘too hermetic’ ‘over the last decade, and as a result’ ‘architecture’s culture and knowledge production’ ‘has languished’.

‘Commonplace formulations such as sustainability, participation and bottom-up practices’, ‘survival instinct’ ‘in the face of’ ‘market processes’, and ‘pressing aesthetic, social, political and environmental realities’, ‘push architecture graduates towards the very opposite roles’ ‘on one hand’ ‘neutral agents’ ‘devoid of any social or political ­currency’ or ‘on the other’ figures of ‘self-proclaimed avant-gardism and meta-discursive narrative’ ‘devoid of any social or political currency’.

‘Architecture has been slow, very slow’ ‘to react to such challenges’. ‘Very well managed’ ‘professionals who are very successful in the market’ do not ‘depend very much’ on ‘very limited budgets’. ‘Very few organisations’ have ‘a freedom that results in the bravery and independence to change things for the better’ on ‘very limited budgets’. ‘Very few organisations’ on ‘very limited budgets’ ‘match student’s bravery and creativity’ ‘without self-interest or slavery’. ‘It is very likely that’ ‘very few organisations’ ‘very successful in the market’ have ‘very well managed’ ‘very limited budgets’ and ‘very diverse students’ who have the ‘bravery to insist that the system works’ ‘without self-interest or slavery’.

‘It is now time’ ‘to start a new habit.’ ‘It is now time’ ‘to assess and examine’, ‘to reform and evolve’, ‘to review and adjust’, ‘to ­redesign and deliver’. ‘It is now time’ ‘to fuel dialogue’, ‘to enable productive disagreements’, ‘to convey the full spectrum’, ‘to ­further the mission’, ‘to set a new paradigm’. ‘It is now time’ ‘to know what to do’.

‘It is now time’ ‘to articulate what architecture can contribute to the world we live in’, ‘to make evident the important role that architecture plays within culture’, ‘to regain momentum and communication power’, ‘to envision new forms of governance’, ‘to push the boundaries and the status quo’, ‘to ignite a productive forum for debate, discussion and action’, ‘to preserve the subversive, public role of architecture’. ‘We live in a time that works in seconds’ and ‘these are ‘the tasks of our time’.

‘It is now time’ ‘to be relaunched, strengthened and supported’, ‘to be celebrated and recognised’, ‘to be constantly redefined’, ‘to be background and foreground, to be strident and quiet’, ‘to be a ‘citizen of the world’. 

‘It is now time’ ‘to produce’ ‘to produce’ ‘to produce’ ‘to produce’ ‘to produce’ ‘to produce’ ‘to the benefit of all’.

‘It is now time’ ‘to start a new habit.’ ‘The issues are urgent and time is short.’ 


Maria Smith is a director at Interrobang architecture and engineering and Webb Yates Engineers, and is co-chief curator of the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019

 

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