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.
'It’s legal, but is it legitimate?' and 'It’s legitimate, but is it legal?' These are questions rarely discussed in public concerning architecture and urban design. Yet architects have to deal with rules and regulations, and architecture is to a large extent defined by them. So the question is: how to deal with the law? Throughout the pages of this issue, we’ve explored different strategies for dealing with legal problems, whether that be through a direct fight or indirect action, through avoiding, subverting or changing the law. Because in the end law is too important to be left to lawyers.
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?
With the exponential growth of urban populations, thousands of new towns and city extensions will be needed in the near future. While governments are seemingly in retreat, the private sector has stepped in to fill the gap. Private-sector development is nothing new, but scale and ambition are on the rise. Single companies now vie to build entire cities, and package their services so that their product can be replicated elsewhere. To tackle this complexity – of building whole cities from scratch – new organizational models are being drafted, financial tools invented, and the dynamic between client, investor, developer, designer, builder, and end-user is fundamentally shifting.
For years, the interior played second fiddle to ‘proper’ architecture, but there are signs a shift is taking place. Stagnant economies, shrinking populations, environmental imperatives, all signal that there is less reason to build, and more reason to make better use of what we have. Digging deeper, we find the interior is a powerful marker of who we are and what we want to be; ‘lifestyle’ in other words. Political ideology, social norms and psychology all get played out on the inside. The interior relates intimately to the society we live in, and it’s up to us to understand this dynamic, to provoke it. Like the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’, let’s ‘open up’ architecture and take a closer look inside.
Centers are on the move — and so too peripheries. As the world grows more complex different systems are claiming different territories. Distribution networks, financial hubs, industrial zones, food belts, wind farms, data centers, they all develop their own logic and territorial claim, not necessarily overlapping in what was once called the center. And our traditionally conceived centers (downtown, the Western world, global cities) are slipping away. When assessing these claims, the question is forced: Are you in or are you out?
Guilt has been effectively used to control and manipulate the masses. But it can also be the start of a change for the better: awareness, concern, action. Engagement and guilt are never far apart. Engagement is sublimated guilt. We can build on guilt, but can we build with guilt? Is guilt a material to design with?
What used to be collective care is rapidly becoming private responsibility. At least in the West. Is privatization the one fits all solution to every (financial) problem? Can addressing collective needs be thought of as the sum total of numerous private initiatives? And will the ‘retreat’ of government and state be compensated by other ways to organize the complex organism called society?
The term ‘senior moment’ typically refers to an age-related lapse in memory, logical thinking, or sense of orientation. But appearing at a loss is merely a common trick to conceal actions that are part of a highly coordinated effort. Driven by deep-seated memories and using long-term spatial planning, the elderly have been conspiring to realize a surprising plan.
When things start talking back, you’ve become part of an Internet of Things. Auto-sensoring, basic intelligence, interaction, we’re increasingly part of a world were things and living souls are equally connected. The fridge is a node just as you are. Volume #28 dives into these new dimensions of reality, into the consequences for design and for our understanding of our own position in the world.
Mokum is an alternative travel guide to Amsterdam that explores the boundaries of freedom in this European capital. How free is Amsterdam in 2011? How are the hard-won rights of women and gays, the freedom of speech and sexual liberties being influenced by the political climate in The Netherlands? Are these rights still visible and tangible in the urban realm?
With the Western world heading towards a life expectancy of 100 years, the question is: with the realm of architectural invention ready for the taking, are you ready to face getting old?
“Architecture should put itself in the middle of the public debate on space.” With this ambition Indesem, the biennial International Design Seminar, explored challenges and potential of architecture. Curated by Winy Maas, the workshops focused on major issues, confronted these with specific locations in Rotterdam and presented these as billboards all over the city.
How do we materialize peace? On the level of fundamental and basic needs, global society more or less knows what is wrong, and what to do about it. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience in relief and first aid organizations, as there is with architects. We're ready to intervene in conflict areas, to fight for peace, but what are we to do next? Experts seem agreed on strategies, but are the architects and politicians ready for the long-haul?
While the Earth needs our utmost attention more than ever, we cannot ignore the fact that the Moon is re-entering the popular imagination. Space travel is on the verge of becoming a tourist option, and a whole industry is working towards lunar settlement as intermediate step to probe deep space. So we ask: where is architecture in this extreme adventure? What are the implications for the design practice of 'going there', for the idea of what is indeed human, or for what is essential to sustain life? And on the nearside, how does this affect our daily lives right here?
Droppers, trippers, hippies, hackers. The Counterculture issue of Volume goes beyond the boundaries of architecture to tap into a monad of history – the US in the 1960s – and how it has influenced our beliefs today. With the aid of countercultural leaders, historians and architects, Volume identifies three strands of counterculture – technology, environment and community – and looks at its legacy in relation to contemporary practice.
In a world buzzing with satellite aerials, news flashes and status updates, this second Al Manakh – a special issue of Volume Magazine – provides an essential and comprehensive guide to the Gulf region during turbulent times: the worldwide financial crisis.
As a supplement to Volume #22, we also present the separate publication Beyroutes, a guidebook to Beirut, one of the grand capitals of the Middle East. Beyroutes presents an exploded view of a city which lives so many double lives and figures in so many truths, myths and historical falsifications. Visiting the city with this intimate book as your guide makes you feel disoriented, appreciative, judgmental and perhaps eventually reconciliatory. Beyroutes is the field manual for 21st century urban explorer.
Guiding – as it is commonly understood – is not about creating; it’s about helping. The guide has no goal other than to lead someone safely to the destiny of their choice. The guide is skilled; he or she actually can lead the way, but does so without ambition beyond delivering quality service. The guide sells safety where risk is involved.
Vast urbanizations in developed, developing and under-development countries have one common denominator: an immediate need for quality housing. Housing the billions: never before were those involved in architecture and construction confronted with such a challenge.
This past year numerous dramas have competed for our attention: sub-prime mortgages, banking meltdown, bailout, stimulus, pandemic, bankruptcy. The all-consuming effort to follow these events seldom leaves a moment to contemplate the explanations themselves. What is the stated dilemma, context or motive for any one of these problems? And most importantly, how does a problem’s formulation determine its proposed solution?
‘Main Street is almost all right’ wrote Robert Venturi promoting the messy vitality of the built environment of the ordinary. The ambiguity of society, its causality and its improvisations meant the acknowledgement of a diversity of practices: top-down interventions + subcultures + minority expressions + subversive acts + … Redefining the common goods, their ethics, their aesthetics and their economics start with writing stories of architecture that encapsulate the manifold experiences of the city. Thus, an architectural task in which space design and design of a new collective dream, myth or scenario about who we are and what we desire to be is interrelated. Volume 19: Is identity the issue?
Originally a wacko, hippy-esque ideology, ‘sustainability’ – aka ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ – has now become globally accepted. But as what – an environmental urgency, a political issue, a technical problem, a historic destiny, a new world order? And what are the consequences of this acceptance?
At the close of this era of expansion and surplus Volume speculates on one of the period’s emblematic inventions: Content Management, or the collecting, organizing and sharing of digital information. Our retrospective appraisal of recent developments in the managing of information offers inside into the ability of Content Management to serve the current realities of digital abundance and material shortage, and to protect both vast and extremely limited quantities.
Our society seems to be locked into a position in which the user’s and voter’s choices determine how we shall live in the future. A disturbing collective urban life in a giant Big Brother House looms, a material and social world in which sensationalistic media and its commercial translation dominate. Our sense of what is real and what is quality is on the verge of collapse. The practice and education of the engineers of this society is determined by short-term effect instead of long-term social responsibility. Culture becomes little more than a market, politics its façade and the city its stage. Instead of reviving old school high modernist social engineering or claiming the need for an intellectual junta, we solicit new forms of social engineering. Where shall this lead?
Once there was life without books. It's hard to imagine what that must have been like: an age of stories and knowledge of the world which stretched no farther than a day's walk. The introduction of the written source constituted nothing less than the creation of a time and space capsule. The story, the idea, insight, knowledge were suddenly free of their messenger and were all able to bridge distances, able to surface, vanish and reappear.
In order to actively grapple with the challenges of our age, architects have to transform themselves from extremely competent executors of assignments into entrepreneurs and producers. This issue of Volume discusses essential tools to reclaim professional autonomy. In the first part, Volume sits ‘Around the table’ with forward-thinking practitioners who see a different role and responsibility for architects. The central part presents the portfolio of the Office for Unsolicited Architecture founded by Ole Bouman and students of MIT. The third part marks the unsolicited world according to young architects and artists from around the globe.
Our field, and perhaps every field, is defined by ambition. To know ourselves we have to know ambition. But ambition is far from simple. It is never straightforward, never the singular drive it appears to be. Rather, it is a set of interacting forces in which often the means are mistaken for ends. This issue of Volume on Ambition offers a preliminary map of what has become a landscape of misguided purpose.
After Singapore in the 1980s and China in the 1990s, the next large-scale urbanisation is going ahead at full steam. Al Manakh, a special publication by the periodical Volume, offers a detailed analysis of the history, culture and architecture of the following breeding-ground of modernisation: the coast of the Persian Gulf, and in particular of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Ras al Khaimah.
It seems an eternal distinction: sometimes people build, sometimes they destroy. However, since we have a concept of modernity, we also understand that building is very often based on sheer destruction. It is ‘the price of progress’. A new insight is now emerging: much destruction also has an agenda. It has a precision that reminds us of architecture. It has a formal dimension that reminds us of design. In this issue: explore the sinister creativity of Cities Unbuilt.
Experience the wholesome effects of agitation in its political, physical and emotional dimensions. Meet agitators René Daalder, François Roche, Peter Cook, Hernan Diaz Alonso, Philippe Parreno, and Cesar Millan; check the realities of Beirut and Prishtina, visit informal Rio de Janeiro, be inspired by ‘Gum Pics architecture’, see the hidden persuaders in car design, discover the history of alternative architecture magazines, read…
If a crisis is imminent, we need strong policies to cope with it. If the world is facing a crisis of debt, a crisis of truth, a crisis of sprawl and a crisis of purpose, what can design do? This issue of Volume is your survival kit to take responsability and curb the lie that gives a dream to the millions but will be their predicament when they really need a home.
See how this issue of Volume can help you craft the agenda for Ubiquitous China, Covering: the Confucian-Taoist nexus, Utopianism, the new empire, Google.cn, heritage & preservation, CCTV, publishing industry, education, urban practice, architectural design, architects as businessmen, criticism, chaos as control, and much more (not necessarily in hierarchical order). In China everywhere...
In the previous two issues we emphasized how power takes shape and acquires form. How it can be recognized. We're now taking it one step further in our Volume research campaign on the architecture of (a countervailing) power. This time we will show you how power is using architecture not simply to express itself, but to organize itself. Power structures and relations think architecturally in order to be successful. And if you hope to challenge these structures and relations, you better do the same. A true Macchiavelli is always an architect.
Volume 6 discusses power at the scale of the building. Francesco Bonami, Ole Bouman, Zvi Efrat, Jeffrey Inaba, Jeannie Kim, Rem Koolhaas, Brendan McGetrick, Markus Miessen, Lina Stergiou, Robert Stern and many more on superchurches in the USA, the palaces of Saddam Hussein, penthouses taking over whole skyscrapers, entrance lobbies, detention centres, security fences, the perseverance of modernist utopias, and much more. Including a dossier on desperately decadent megalo projects in the Gulf region.
The first part of 'Architecture of Power,', 'Power is in the Details', zooms in on how seemingly minor details can incubate a new kind of sensitivity to the mechanics of power. Volume #5 is the first issue of a series of Volume issues dealing with ‘The Architecture of Power’, enabling buildings to be seen in a new way in Volume 6, before widening the scope even further in Volume 7 and forthcoming Volume events.
The isolation of the self; the sacrosanct object; the solitude of ‘outstanding’ architecture. Are these signs of a moribund culture? If so, where did our vitality go? Can we find it in other domains? Can we re-animate, re-infuse ourselves with energy? Read how reality seeps through our unassailable myths and penetrates our splendid isolation.
Architecture presupposes inhabitants. Literature depends on readers. Art requires the viewer. Music demands listeners. But beyond these truths, culture today must touch a general audience to maintain its legitimacy. Make yourself heard or perish! This issue of Volume provides you with the tools you need to understand your failures and the strategies you require to succeed. In this 3rd issue of Volume the box contains Volume magazine and an 'Extra Edition! Read all about it!' newspaper brought to you by C-LAB. Of course there is another AMO Bulletin. Finally, the long awaited interactive documentary 'On the Borderline' on CD-ROM, based on the past nine ARCHIS RSVP events.
Can we do something by doing (almost) nothing? Can we achieve anything by doing too much? Can we do what we need to do, by doing just what is needed? How do we define doing too much, too little? How to think through doing anyway?
The first issue of Volume is a tour d'horizon of the new possibilities of architecture beyond itself. There is a growing awareness of a potential that may ultimately challenge the very character of architecture as we know it. For some this means anxiety or even pessimism about a profession in deep trouble; the aim of Volume, however, is to face this challenge with the confidence and intellectual curiosity needed to explore the implications for architectural intelligence.