2 / 2018 - praxis, UU AA 2

What does it mean to be an architect today?

While the society and its discursive spaces are becoming fragmented, it is equally problematic to think of architecture as a unified culture. Different ways of practising architecture emerge, forming parallel architectures – even new praxis.

This issue takes a look at what architects on the fringes of architectural institutions and conventional ways of working are interested in today, in terms of design, research, critique, education and art. In a traditional society, the most established and the loudest occupy the media space. But does the stored and recorded architecture really represent everything that happens in the field.

UU AA, a project exploring the new form of our publication continues with explorations on visual identity of the magazine throughout the hundred years of its existence. We will report on the progress made in the project in all issues of the magazine throughout 2018.

Contents

Trojan Horse summer school creates a free environment for architecture and design students to discuss and question their discipline – detached from everyday routines.

We met each other for the first time in August 2015. Ida Kukkapuro was working as a design journalist, Kaisa Karvinen was about to graduate from the school of architecture, and Tommi Vasko had just completed his studies at the Sandberg Institute in the Netherlands. Each of us had been toying with the idea of setting up some kind of small and independent investigative body in the realm of design or architecture.

We all felt that there was a need in Finland for an actor that would encourage architecture and design students to enter more boldly into experimental projects combining academic research and reflections on everyday life. Already at our very first meeting, we hit on the obvious name for our summer school. The tale of the Trojan Horse, involving the infiltration and subversion of rigid structures, felt particularly apt. We wanted to infect the summer school participants with the virus of wondering and questioning, and thus to have an impact on Finnish architecture and design training from the inside.

Alternative realities

We were interested in trying out whether a summer school could try out future realities through the means of science fiction. Could a summer school be a context in which we could take a fresh look at things that we take for granted? Could we imagine new ways of approaching our mundane professions by distancing ourselves physically from our daily routines and exploring these issues with like-minded students? Could studying theory and exploring history change how we perceive the world around us? Could the summer school enable us to understand real but as yet unnamed phenomena that would otherwise be unnoticed?

We wanted debate and shared insights, undiluted and undistorted by conventions, common decency or the code of academia. We believed – firmly and naively – that by creating a context for a conversation we would make it conspicuous. Above all, we wanted to understand things that were important to us: the work of architects and designers, cities, libraries, archives, climate change, technological development and how all these relate to one another.

Read the rest of the article from the printed issue.

Architect Kaisa Karvinen and graphic designer Tommi Vasko host Trojan Horse summer school together with design journalist Ida Kukkapuro. The third summer school will be held in August 2018, with support from the Arts Promotion Centre Finland (Taike). 

Wirkkala & Bryk visible storage and exhibition space
architects Johanna Brummer, Heini-Emilia Saari
address Espoo museum of modern art EMMA, Espoo
gross area 1 000 m2
completion 2017
original building Aarno Ruusuvuori 1964

valokuvat Ari Karttunen

private residence
architect Martin Lukasczyk
address Laajasalo, Helsinki
gross area 230 m2
completion 2018

photos Marc Goodwin
commentary Philip Tidwell

university building
architects Teemu Toivio, Asmo Jaaksi
address Yliopistonkatu 4, Helsinki
gross area 13 332 m2
completion 2017
original building Toivo Korhonen 1977

photos Tuomas Uusheimo, Mika Huisman
commentary Tommy Kaj Lindgren

apartment block
architects Johanna Ojanlatva, Veikko Ojanlatva, Tuukka Vuori
address Koirasaarentie 32, Helsinki
gross area 6 200 m2
completion 2017

photos Tuomas Uusheimo
commentary Antti Auvinen

HI-gruppen och hantverkets återkomst. Svenska möbler och inredningar 1960–1966 | Susanna Aaltonen
Revisiting Postmodernism | Anni Vartola
The Other Architect. Another Way of Building Architecture | Iris Andersson

Following the traces. The Other Architect is based on an exhibition held by the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) from 2015 to 2016. The massive paperback book is literally a piece of the centre’s extensive archives. The first 350 grey pages are a visual arrangement of traces from 1960’s onwards – letters, action plans, reports, diagrams, magazines, posters, photographs, sketches, clothes and boats. The archival material compiled into the book encourages us to widen our perspective on what architecture is and what architects do. The red captions at the top of the pages link the individual documents to history and to the different phases the 20 groups introduced in the book have gone through. The carefully selected quotations encapsulate the groups’ intentions and only the black and white pages towards the end of the book clarify their more specific approaches and unconventional aims.

The abundance of material gives power to the anti-mainstream movement. As long as architecture has been serving society and industry with the aim of creating buildings, there have also been individuals who see architecture as a critical and innovative area of research. The aim is not to understand architecture as objects examined from the outside but rather as a way of thinking that observes and analyses contemporary society.

In addition to rethinking the role of an architect, the groups included in the book share a strong connection to the spirit of the times, a desire to better understand their time and a will to predict the future. They have presented new concepts, methods and tools for dealing with architecture and created new themes, approaches, organizations and financial models. According to the editor of the book, curator Giovanna Borasi, the phenomena brought about by the groups encourage one to consider what architecture could be – or what it already is if we could recognise it.

New ideas have not been developed by traditional firms but rather by groups, collectives, networks and “laboratories” brought together by collaboration and dialogue. The idea underlying the groups’ activities has been collective learning, whether it takes place between universities and the praxis, within artist communities or while sailing the Mediterranean Sea, like the Delos Symposion held from 1963 until 1975. The Delos participants believed that a change of scenery, an emotional environment and dramatization of conditions helped them come up with new solutions to existing problems.

The groups have been selected for the book on the basis of the available archival material and thus they mainly represent a North American viewpoint. Some of them were new to me, but there are also familiar names. Another way of working as an architect requires one to consider their own role and look in the mirror, like the architectural firm OMA and research studio AMO, established by Rem Koolhaas, define their relationship. They are part of the same system, but they observe the world from opposite perspectives – real and virtual. The division does not only reflect the working media but also the working context. While one stays strictly in the familiar field of architecture, the other can take architectural thinking and problem-solving to new areas. A functional office environment is counterbalanced by a laboratory that focuses on an experimental approach and the analysis of results.

The Other Architect encourages the readers to think outside the box and observe the traces left by active players so far – what kind of indications of an expanding architectural field could we find around our own generation? The book gives me pause for thought. It seems difficult to find similar traces from recent Finnish history. Nevertheless, the book offers aspects that a reader can identify with and brings courage to the present. When I was a student, I occasionally felt that the professional role offered by the university was narrow and deviating from it was a failure. The book addresses this seed of doubt and shows that there are also other types of architects. They have not lost their way; they have chosen their path. There is only one question left in my mind – what kind of reflections do we want to see in the mirror? ark

Rest of the book reviews in the printed issue.

Giovanna Borasi (ed.): The Other Architect – Another Way of Building Architecture, CCAA, Spector Books 2016, 420 p.

Iris Andersson is a Helsinki-based architect.

 

Näköislehti: Site Logic