The Invisible in Architecture
Architecture and engagement is a profoundly tedious subject. Especially when it is presented as something new. Unless of course a new legitimacy were really to be advanced, a new mission for a discipline that has for years bemoaned its loss of social relevance and its marginalization on the building site. Yes, in that case there really would be something worth talking about. It would mean that a profession which can be regarded as the embodiment of fifty centuries of civilization could continue to shoulder that role. That someone capable of giving architecture a reason for existing for a further span of time had come along. Someone of the calibre of Vitruvius, Abbot Suger, Alberti, Palladio, Durand, Le Corbusier. See elsewhere in this book?
The Rise and Fall of the Self
an architectural history
In this article I intend to focus on the parallel historical emergence, conceptualization, virtualization, and evaporation of both Self as a psycho-historical category and Space as an architectural formula. I shall concentrate on some specific historical periods that may demonstrate the intricate connections be-tween the development of introspective insights on the one hand and the notion of space as an autonomous architectural concept on the other. Starting with the 18th-century earliest explorations of the parallax effect, passing through the Modernist declaration of space as a positive value, and ending up with the hyperspace of VR, Smart-building, and digital networks produced by current computer technology, an architectural history can be considered as a full circle of consciousness of Self that took about 250 years.
Battle for Time
The Battle for Time (“Strijd om Tijd” in Dutch) is a 2003 essay investigating the ongoing fragmentation and subjectivization of our time experience and the resulting waning respect for debate, argument and the reality check of any public contestation. The essay proceeded to propose a series of measures to recapture human synchronicity as a political necessity for the future survival of a democratic order.
What Do You Want: Some Hope or Just Difference?
Architecture has a long tradition of giving birth to the future. For many – not the least of whom were architects – it was once the realm of hope, the domain of expectations, the facilitator of the world-to-come. It provided us with a forecast of tomorrowland, which would be, by definition, a better place. Architecture was the herald of the Next World.
Architecture, Liquid, Gas
Whereas time was once considered to be the fourth dimension, it is now the first. In understanding our place in this world, it has become increasingly important to answer the question of ‘when’ rather than the question of ‘where’. In order to comprehend what our time might be, it is essential to reverse the angle. This places emphasis on knowing or choosing your moments rather than topocentrically reeling off an address. In this age of globalisation of mind and matter, body and soul, and you and me, culture is not about being a fixed identity, but about acting, intervening, deciding, relating and transacting. Whether we like it or not, if even our genes are being negotiated by genetics and our chemical elements being transformed in nanotechnology, why should we stick to the idea that we can define ‘what’ and ‘where’? We had better concentrate on ‘how’ and ‘when’, and start all over again from there.
for an architecture without objectness
Many people think that the new media are pushing architecture into the role of helpless victim. It can only stand by and watch how millions of people are spending more and more of their valuable time in digital surroundings; they no longer need architecture as the backdrop to the important moments of their lives. On top of this, the role of permanent carrier of cultural meaning has lapsed. The mother of the arts is becoming a marginal phenomenon. Others take a more optimistic view of things. As far as they are concerned, the only interesting architecture is computer-generated architecture. In this essay I will explore the fertile area between these two extremes.
Attaining Immortality in 5 Steps
A young man who wants to be. A man with an insatiable appetite for life, work, and his own development. A man who believes his oeuvre can change the world. A man who aspires to become a personality. This is the man who personifies the Bonapartist worldview: that the ultimate challenge in life is to become a hero.
But ambition is not enough. More than to be, he wants to become. This is his audacity, courage, and even boldness. A careful campaign is set into motion, in order to attain the level of respect and acknowledgement he thinks he deserves. His profound willpower plays itself out. With relentless energy he enters the stage, occupies it and does not yield for decades to come.
There is no avoiding it: crossing borders is part of our daily life. We leave home, we enter our place of work, we return home. And then there’s everything in between: the public transport turnstiles, the motorway toll gates, customs, speed detectors, security checkpoints, electronic surveillance systems, the checkout. When you think about it, you realise that it is scarcely possible to move without crossing one or another visible or invisible dividing line. It is the spatial regime of the modern world, where life is subject to compartmentalisation and protocols as if it were a scientific experiment to be carried out under strictly controlled conditions.
Co-created with China
The last time I made an explicit written statement about the current state of urban and architectural affairs in China (Volume 6, 2006), I stated that “We can no longer call the global advance of China a matter of ‘expansion’, a stage of its diasporas, or even a conquest”. I suggested to start talking “about a cultural mutation, a dimension of globalization, a world-historical fatality. With China modernity as begun a new phase that the west will not financially substantiate (as it has done in the eighties and nineties), but that, at best, it will only serve and witness”. Now, four years, a Chinese Olympics and a dramatic global economic crisis later, this observation could be dramatized by saying that the world is not only witnessing, but also deepening on the Chinese capacity to resume growth, to redeem the global economic system, and to bail out the troubled international monetary system with its vast savings and its ever growing productivity which, as Karl Marx already knew, is the only creator of value that can really last.
When do you discover that you want to dedicate your life to architecture? Is it when you decide to pursue architecture as a profession and for a livelihood? When you opt to study architecture at college? When you enjoy the pleasure to create as a boy or girl, while playing with some building blocks?
All of those are possible. But there is another, even earlier moment when you realize that no other power in life can match the power of architecture: the moment when, as an infant, you begin to distinguish between space and matter, between stillness and movement, and between light and shadow. For some, this is an event they can never let go - an experience so intense that it defines the rest of life. A revelation. For those, architecture is never simply a profession, It is a confession: here I stand, I can be nothing else.
Dutch Architecture at the Crossroads
It is an honor to introduce a special issue of this most respectable magazine, that I had the privilege to follow for many years now. As former editor of Archis magazine for instance, I enjoyed an exchange subscription for more than a decade, allowing me to follow the way Japanese architectural culture has seen global architecture. A+U made me see western architecture with eastern eyes. A gaze I would first of all call pretty aesthetical. But thinking about it more reflexively, I would perhaps call it most of all poetical. Thinking back of those moments receiving A+U and browsing through it, I remember the delight in perceiving architecture in the most self-confident way possible. As if no ordinary life could affect it; as if no realism could spoil it. Architecture, as the Gods would have meant it. No wonder that this magazine helped so many people to keep the faith in this beloved discipline. Or even helped them to make architecture absolute.
For Love, Or Other Reasons
One skill may be the essence of the amateur spirit: the skill of improvisation. It is never mentioned in any profession’s playbook. Those books are always full of rules, protocols and things you need to know. They require study, preparation and obedience. Professionalism is about making things predictable, manageable and, most of all, correct. But what about when doing things properly does not work? There are choices to make: You can impose your rules, do whatever it takes and become a tyrant. You can abandon the case and become a deserter. Or, you can improvise.
It's Not Easy to Copy China Not Even for China Itself
One of my degrees is in architectural history. This is not only a discipline that studies the history of architecture, but also the study of architecture as a factor of history. About twenty years ago, when I was at the beginning of my career in the Netherlands working asan architecture magazine editor, I had to make decisions about what to publish. I was fully aware of the need to cover Chinese architecture. Not only a need to shed light on the phenomenal urban revolution that was taking place at the time, as exemplified by the famous Harvard Design School Project on the City on this topic, but also by paying attention to the work of individual Chinese architects, presenting their built work to our international audience.
The Solipsism of Architecture
Imagine, the revolution has broken out and architecture has nailed its colours to the mast. It has opted for change.
Architects have laid out the facts about the inequality in landownership, inheritance law, capital accumulation, and the resulting segregation, an inequality they have observed first-hand for many years, have helped shape or even profited from. These experiences from direct spatial practice now lend legitimacy to the revolution.
Architects have demonstrated remorse for their part in global heating, the depletion of raw materials, the decline in biodiversity, the excessive mobility of people and goods and the
failing energy transition. They have introduced a professional oath “to do no harm, any longer” and “to respect life above matter”.
Architecture as a Medium of Change :
Exploring Africa as the Laboratory of the Future
The Venice Architecture Biennale is perhaps globally the most important platform for new ideas in architecture. In 2023, the Biennale will be curated by Lesley Lokko, architectural academic, educator and novelist. She is the founder and director of the African Futures Institute, established in Accra, Ghana, in 2020 as a postgraduate school of architecture and public events platform. She is the first ever African to curate the Biennale.