This fall, in a large meeting room located inside of the bowls of MVRDV’s orange monstrous staircase at TU Delft, you could hear a pin drop. The crowd of 20-something highly international postgrad architecture students collectively held their breath for an instant. In thinking about potential topics to review we were discussing contraposing in writing and devil’s advocacy when out of the blue one of the students seemed to suggest reviewing the positive sides of ISIS. It was one of many fruitful moments of doubt and tension in the preparation of this issue of VOLUME. (The other awkward moment briefly occurred a little earlier when I asked how many students still read magazines …only two…)
This issue is built around two landmines in our societal landscape: globalism and ambivalence. Much of the talk about ‘diversity and inclusion’ comes with uncomfortable cringes towards both. Discussions often end with well-intended attempts to find ‘solutions’ which quite quickly move toward the dullest of bureaucratic punitive measures: conducting sensitivity training and hiring coaches, requiring report cards cases with a lot of percentages and criteria, or which newspaper an add should be in. In many cases measures that easily trigger an unhealthy mechanism of new exclusion. This issue is about exploring, enjoying, and sharing the curiosities and interests that globalism brings. We celebrate 49 contributions from more than 20 countries scattered across 5 continents, making it probably the most diverse issue in recent architecture magazine history. We mix contributions of celebrated authors and contributors with less experienced but inspiring student submissions. It is a first of what we hope is a yearly and ever-expanding collaboration between VOLUME and the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, TU Delft’s Berlage Institute, and the University of Nairobi architecture department. Next year we hope to expand this issue with even more partners to increase our global range.
The students and contributors to this issue set out on a path to write postpandemic or post-Groundhog Day reviews of things they felt we urgently need to talk about: a free choice between buildings, books, exhibitions, movies, things in or close to your immediate context. As long as it had some spatial dimension and evoked a response – good or bad – that other people should know about. We also explore a multiplicity of feelings and concerns, not forthrightly deciding what or who is right or wrong, trying to go beyond the laziness of the polarizing double taps of social media, showing how feelings are never straightforward. Which all contributors bravely and superbly accepted and realized, for which I am extremely grateful. Some will think it’s too sprawling in its reach and topics. Others hopefully share in the openness to engage with a Wunderkammer of nations, cultures, and background, and pick up, the weird, quirky, inspiring, and the troublesome. Because it’s also what we want VOLUME to be: a level playing field connecting the globe to discuss the future of architecture, design, and its role in society at large.
I hope you enjoy the ride.