How can architecture be presented as the ultimate medium of culture, with the potential to change it?

If you need to present the currents of contemporary architecture by the month, you can do three things: 1. You present what happened, publishing new projects. 2. You present how it happened, featuring techniques and methodologies. 3. You investigate why it happened. By doing so, you build a discourse of asking questions as the first step to understand and strengthen first the metaphorical power of architecture, then to use that for active proposals for change.

 

Archis/Volume, 1996-2007

How could architecture refind its inner strength?

Imagine what happens if architecture leaves its comfort zone by giving up on one or more of the cornerstones it has too long be based on: a site, a client, his (almost always his) program and his budget. This is about an architecture that rights the questions asked by posing its own. Imagine an action that is prompted by a conviction rather than an external (in-)convenience. Find here the story of an attempt to work from architecture’s own agenda to exert its sense of measure by unsolicited actions.

 

- Unsolicited Architecture, 2007

How could architecture repurpose itself?

Imagine what happens if architecture is no longer full of itself, but starts to actively (and perhaps humbly) address again what society needs. Suppose it sees itself as an answer aspiring to be relevant, hence in search of the most compelling questions. Find here the story of an attempt to re-measure a prestigious national institute. Physically and programmatically.

 

- Netherlands Architecture Institute, 2008-2012

How could architecture use its crisis to once again completely prove its point?

Imagine what happens if architecture gets rid of its rhetorical overdose and its being just the aesthetical opposition to the mundane output of the construction industry. In other words, stops being the exception to the rule. Suppose it radically addresses the urgent questions of our time to see if it can prove its indispensable qualities and undeniable relevance by helping to return the world to an ever later “overshoot”.

 

- Architecture of Consequence, 2010

How could architecture rescue and re-install hidden value?

 

Imagine what happens when architecture does not require resources from scratch to create value ex nihilo, but when it taps into the resources brought together a long time ago and recharge them with meaning and effect. See how architecture can manage to adjust a short time question into a long-term answer, proposing the transformation of fabrication into creation, by presenting a Value Factory.

 

- Value Factory, 2013-2014

How could we conceive of an architecture of time, that helps us to gain time and find each other?

Imagine a project that starts as an urban monument, designed by a world-famous architect, to house a design museum, then turning it into a civic monument, programmed by a multidisciplinary team as a comprehensive creative ecology, defined not as a place but as an agenda to Design Society? See how an ordinary question to build an institution, has been turned into an extraordinary one to represent and be a cross section a creative society.

 

- Battle for Time, 2003

How could architecture once again become a place for civic life?

 

Imagine a project that starts as an urban monument, designed by a world-famous architect, to house a design museum, then turning it into a civic monument, programmed by a multidisciplinary team as a comprehensive creative ecology, defined not as a place but as an agenda to Design Society? See how an ordinary question to build an institution, has been turned into an extraordinary one to represent and be a cross section a creative society.

 

- Design Society, 2015-Present

How can architecture bring back the sense of measure we so badly need?

What do these proposals show? They show architecture has all the potential to regain its original meaning as a unique symbol of our human agency, and an instrument for offering measure in our life. Reconnecting with society, repurposing as a discipline, proving its power in actual projects and allowing it to become a creative and healing time machine to overcome the present and find alternative futures.

To remain human, we have to act like humans.

With purpose, knowing why.

With agency, knowing how.

With courage, to actually doing it.

 

We need a completely different plan.

Architecture, whether we know it or not, will help us.

to beyond or not to be.

When life is too long to dwell in a lost cause, and the history of architecture is too rich to believe the present will forever determine its future, it’s time to focus on all the potential for alternative scripts and keep striving for it. If the practice of measure is in deep trouble, and the medium to implement it under severe pressure, we can improve the latter and hope for the effects to the first. The most important thing to do is to re-establish the relationship between the two. How can architecture be a measured response to a real need again? To begin with, here are some proposals, to remeasure.

We can propagate the power of architecture in a positive way, by words and actual results, hoping it will be leveraged to wider practice. But eventually it is more important to understand that, if only we start to realize to change the fundamentals of our society to reshape it and make it sustainable for the long term, we will have to rely on architecture much more profoundly than as a set of pilots and demonstrations. We can be inspired by examples, but we ultimately need to deal with necessity, and make the exceptions to the rule.

 

till July 29, 2020

To instill a sense of measure, one needs time. Time to obtain patience, oversight, determination, discipline, modesty, and reflexivity. In fact, this is a result of a lifelong striving to improve yourself. Perhaps it is better to say that

measure is the key attribute of character.

Sense of measure can express itself in many ways. But if there is one ultimate comprehensive and almost timeless modality of finding measure, it must be architecture – the art of organizing our life in space.

Why has architecture lost its cultural prestige to demonstrate and leverage human agency and be the ultimate medium of human purpose?

Let’s see how it became intertwined with the human ego going wild.

- Egotecture, 1998

Egotecture was an exhibition at the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen in Rotterdam 1997. Invited by museum director Chris Dercon, I received access to the vast collection and prepared an exhibition essay about the last 500 years history of space concepts, intertwined with the history of human self-awareness, and their mutual influences. The exhibition was based on my doctoral thesis The Rise and Fall of the Self, which led to two degrees in Cultural History and Architectural History at the University of Amsterdam in 1990.

The exhibition was designed as a journey that began with the Renaissance, through half a millennium of discovering, mastering, reflecting and speculating the idea of personal space, and eventually losing oneself again in it. This story was intersecting with an equally long history of the self-portrait, showing how humans pursued the idea of a self from curiosity, mastery to alienation and even oblivion.

RealSpace in QuickTimes (and the ensuing articles series QuickTime in RealSpace), entailed a comprehensive project to investigate the subjugation (and possible resurrection) of architecture in the wake of ubiquitous digitization. In 1996, I curated the Dutch pavilion for the Triennale di Milano, showcasing the potential of integrating architectural craftsmanship with digital design and production techniques, as well as with digital art forms such as soundscaping and visual computer animations. A book featured a substantial essay to describe the many repercussions of digital technology for an art form still completely grounded in an analogue way of thinking. Another pavilion, designed for Cultural Capital of Europe, pioneered the new spatial experiences once architecture becomes entirely information- and time-based. The project concluded by stating the incapacity of architecture to absorb the digital, and its own inclination to be absorbed by cyberspace itself.

Why did architecture surrender to the digital, giving up the statute of truth to one of “information”?

Let’s see how it became usurped by the computer.

- RealSpace in QuickTimes, 1996

Why did architecture become star struck, losing its connection with the human project?

Let’s see how it fell into the abyss of rhetoric.

- The Invisible in Architecture, 1994

The Invisible in Architecture was a project started in 1984, when architect student Roemer van Toorn and myself as an architectural history student began to think about the course architecture had taken and started to prepare an international lecture series that eventually took place at the Faculty of Architecture at the TU Delft in the year 1987-1988. Its title The Invisible in Architecture was meant to be a call to keep paying attention to the mission of architecture to provide inspiration for the human agency, in a culture and a profession that increasingly tend to succumb to image effects, rather than taking care of life worlds. We continued to work out the theme for a book with the same title, that came out in 1994, scrutinizing the work of the most famous architects of their time for its cultural depth and relevance for society. Remarkably, most of these architects are, a quarter of a century later, still famous.

What do these losses show?

They show architecture as a discourse and a professional practice has now little to do with architecture as a profound human capacity to create balance. The lack of a cultural pursuit, a technological juggernaut and a bonfire of vanity, speak volumes not only about the predicament of architecture but more so about the weakening agency of humanity itself, to be his own guide and determine its own destiny.

So, our best medium to retain and exert a sense that measure is out of joint. And so are we. See what comes of it.

ARCHITECTURE

the measure of all

 

 

ole bouman

to beyond or not to be.

 

ole bouman

Every year there is this moment of temporary awakening: the Earth Overshoot Day. It marks the day humanity has used more natural resources as the planet can renew in a whole year. In 2017 it was August 2. In 2018 it was August 1. And this year it was July 29. Clearly, we are in ever bigger debt to our planet.

But the idea of an overshoot is not only relevant to the prospect of life on earth. Without the scientific precision, the same can be applied to the issue of what we do with this life. There are only 365 days in a year. There is only as much time to be good.

As anyone with a new year’s resolution knows, it’s hard to succeed but easy to fail. And although we may not know exactly our personal overshoot, we intuit there is such thing and we better stay on the right side of it. What helps, is our sense of measure.

There is no operation of the human mind that needs to accommodate more factors of life, or that allows more factors to be part of the equation, within the single creative act of creating situations and events to happen in our life. It is the most far-reaching medium to reconcile, combine and synthesize all there is. Most importantly perhaps: it galvanizes intention by result.

Architecture, defined this way, is not clearly not just the profession or the service to provide shelter. It is the way humanity touches base with itself. That’s why it has survived for thousands of years. As long as there are humans and their ventures, there will be architecture. Therefore, architecture is obviously too important to leave to only architects. It’s our meter and clock at once. We measure our life with architecture. From the toddler building a sand castle on the beach, to the last time to enjoy sunlight coming through a window, we measure life with architecture.

How can architecture as our profound human endeavor, help us to find our sense of measure? Surely not by taking for granted what today is claimed as architecture, or by the people who claim it to be their territory.

What are the reasons to look beyond this territory?

scroll up to see what we can propose

scroll to learn more about the thread