For the first time, a general theme was given to the national pavilions at this year’s Architecture Biennale in Venice. They were to be historical shows, focused on the impact of modernity on a country’s architecture. What it produced was not just a global survey of twentieth century construction, but also heroic stories of nation-building. Yes, architecture can build nations. Today, we seem far from that notion. The nation-state is either giving up on itself, or exploited through tyrannical regimes. Meanwhile architects are hardly taking up the cause.
Four years ago we published Volume #26: Architecture of Peace to explore the agency of architecture in post-conflict environments. It was clear we had only scratched the surface of a tense and complex issue. So now we’ve tightened our focus and zoomed in on the period directly after peacekeeping forces have arrived. Our goal: to see what a ‘reconstruction mission’ actually is, how peacekeeping can anticipate its legacy, and how different cultures come with quite different solutions to build or maintain peace. Re-building after war, it would seem, is another battle altogether.
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The 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism\Architecture in Shenzhen took ‘urban border’ as its theme. For good reason. If there is a place to study ‘border’ as condition, it is Shenzhen. Demographic, territorial, economic, political, social, and legal borders created this fifteen million city in less than thirty-five years, and drive its further development. The transformation of this ‘factory of the world’ into a post-industrial economy and society, the disappearance of the Hong Kong-Shenzhen divide in 2047, and the reconciliation of state capitalism and communist rule, are but three of the challenges Shenzhen is facing, to which its role and position in the larger-scale development of the Pearl River Delta can be added.
We cannot beat Banham, but we can update you on what happened since 1972, when Rayner Banham published his seminal The Architecture of the Well Tempered Environment. C-Lab did extensive new research on the relation between installations, buildings and architecture…
The critic is dead. Long live the network! So it goes in our world of diffuse and shared knowledge. But if criticism has evolved into criticisms, how can we interpret and learn from the babble of opinions? This dilemma comes in tandem with another: the crisis of publishing. With declining print sales and slashed subsidies, many critics are out of work. Two fundamental tasks lie ahead: reviving the productive value of criticism, and finding new profitable ways to broadcast it to the world.
We have seen the future, and it’s biosynthetic. More precisely it’s a future where biological systems are twisted, spliced, and altered, to such an extent that any distinction between synthetic and organic is lost. Gone are the days of blunt engineering as a means of total control – concrete dams and electro-shock therapy. Today science is moving us deeper into the nano-world of microchips and molecules, where new more refined forms of control are possible, where organic processes can be mimicked, modified, and augmented. In this new biosynthetic world, luminescent trees will light our sidewalks, massive oyster beds will defend us from the floods, and hacked Lyre birds will broadcast the radio. But with new powers comes new responsibilities. We’ve seen a thousand TED talks promising us these new wonders, but we’ve rarely discussed the human element. What does it all require of us? What are the new produced? The skill sets, knowledge, and codes of ethics required to maneuver in this brave new biosynthetic world?