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Critique and Affirmation: Navigating through the Paradox of Coalescence

Tue, May 17, 2016    6pm

This talk is about what Criticism in Architecture can accomplish, and what goes beyond its competency.

To become an architect means to accept the legacy of modernity. The idea to serve society is deeply rooted in modern architecture. So it is no surprise that in the face of unsustainable urban development, architects are urged to develop critical agency. But a number of established architects have come to vehemently reject this expectation. Frank Gehry flashing his middle finger to an audience of reporters being the most notorious one. It made the point that architectural criticism has been maneuvered into a cul de sac, where the involvement of architects in the construction market is moralized as capitalist agency.

Architects are increasingly expected to accept this moral duty and to get involved in what are believed to be subversive formats of practise. But so defined critical practise, for many architects is not longer a matter of choice, if they want to stay in business. Critical practise thrives on a hugely expanded Art Term, which has shifted Architecture from the businesss of building and construction into the realm of Culture and Arts. Here architects emerge as cultural entepreneurs and curators of critical discourse. The Design and Construction of real buildings on the other hand, comes secondary, if at all. Whether architecture can indeed be critical beyond the representation of critique is an obvious question. But being a question as old as modern architectural history, it can also become an intellectual trap, that conceals the expansion of the Art Sector, and the precarious working conditions this causes to architects. Is it still benefitial for architects to deal with this question for the good of architecture, or should it be posed in a different way in order to empower architects to take control over the new field of practise?

This talk is a starting point in the attempt of mapping out the reality of the architectural profession, in order to understand the room in which architects can manouver. The focus will initially be on the history of architectural criticism as public culture, followed by an example from Istanbul.