February 16, 2008

The New Architectural Pragmatism.

What's the architects' role in broader cultural society? Should they be more utopian or rather pragmatic? The profession’s underlying idealism came under attack by factors like the broadening of turbo-capitalism, consumerism and shortsighted politics. Since the mid-90ies, young architects seemed to be bored by architectural theory - they simply want to build. "They wanted to (and could, with an improved economy) get to work on real projects, real conditions, real places; they wanted to be ambitious without being dreamy, to improve bits of the world without self-aggrandizing delusions." (The New Architectural Pragmatism, William S. Saunders, p. viii) Don’t think: build!

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The book brings up today's goals of architectural practices: efficacy, innovation and realism. While efficacy seems generic (for the author this means that architects are politically credible again), innovation and realism are clear: Innovation is the desire of being new and unexpected – not in technical aspects like durability or energy efficiency but in form (see "12 reasons to get back in shape" by Robert Somol, in Content, OMA / Rem Koolhaas, p. 86). Realism, however, results from architecture's production environment: architecture is rather a handcraft than a bourgeois, gentlemen's profession.

The book features articles by Alejandro Zaera-Ppolo, Robert Somol, Sarah Whiting, Philippe Stark, K. Michael Hays, Roemer van Toorn and more. Maybe architecture get’s meaty again!

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The New Architectural Pragmatism, William S. Saunders, Editor
A Harvard Design Magazine Reader, 2007