Saturday, 30 August 2014

Failed Architecture

This is one of my most painful posts. Painful because my main emotion is that I wish I could be running a website like this.

Failed Architecture isn't the kind of short form, slightly smug random sniping, in which arguably I indulge. It is instead an extraordinary collection of things a passionate architect should know about, but may well avoid. Yes, it is about failed architecture, but what it really is, is that a rarity in architecture sites, a vehicle for long form essays with excellent illustrations.
Current headlines range from a review article on the work of Amsterdam-based studio RAAAF [Rietveld Architecture-Art-Affordances], and their newly published book Vacancy Studies: Experiments and Strategic Interventions in Architecture to a critical article by Margaret McCormick
on The ironic loss of the post modern Best facades.  And many more fascinating pieces.

Quoting from their information page:
Failed Architecture (FA) is a research platform that aims to open up new perspectives on urban failure – from what it’s perceived to be, what’s actually happening and how it’s represented to the public. Supported by a website, travelling workshops and a series of lectures, FA seeks to develop ongoing and open conversations with experts and the public at large.
We find it crucial to examine architecture not just from an architectural discourse. Since architecture is a product of the political, economic and social conditions of its time, it should be scrutinized as such.
Observing and living in a time of crises, speculations, vacancy, mega developments and the inflation of the architectural profession, we are often astonished by what is happening to our built environment – both physically and ‘behind the scenes’. Simultaneously, the best visited online architectural media are preoccupied with the eye candy produced by architects, without being critical about current or future developments. Nevertheless, we feel that there is a demand for more holistic, 360-degree observations that lay bare the downsides of urban development and architecture in order to learn from past and contemporary failures.
The essays are not of a uniform quality, but taken together, they are a rewarding regular read.  The problem with the uneven quality of the essays seems to stem from the ambiguous but entirely honourable intention of the group to be a genuine research and teaching project.  That means they invite and give space to authors who are as likely as not higher degree research students, and whose analysis and writing are still developing.  But the advantage of mining that trove of writing is that almost by definition, the authors are trying to discover new important things to talk about, and sometimes, in new ways. 

I found that on balance, I could forgive the sometimes limp conclusions because I am grateful for the opportunity to look at such a diversity of topics and projects under the site's theoretical umbrella.  They seem to be adding topics at a relatively energetic rate, so I expect to be a regular visitor.  This is an unashamed recommendation.  Go, read.

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