March 02, 2008

Unsolicited Architecture.

Maybe no other professional sector is questioning its own legitimacy as frequently as architecture. Definitely, architects lose ground in today’s issues such as globalization, digitalization, ecology, consumerism and more. "The architect as a social engineer, as an organizer of social relationships, as the one who inspires political decisions as a professional power player in the game of spatial distribution appears to be a remarkable intermediate phase in architecture’s century long development." (Volume #14, p.3, Arjen Oosterman)


Currently, architect's creation is limited to designing esthetic spatial configurations. The project’s agenda, however, is already defined by the client: the program, the site, height restrictions, the budget, gross / net surface, energy values, etc.

Volume #14 – an architectural magazine by Archis + AMO + C-LAB + MIT … -presents the UNSOLICITED practice – an attempt to permit architects to reclaim their professional autonomy. How can architects switch from competent but powerless executors of assignments into entrepreneurs?


The magazine central part presents the Office for Unsolicited Architecture (OUA) founded by Ole Bouman and students of MIT. So what is “Unsolicited Architecture”? Think about architecture liberated from building:
  1. Find a new territory.
  2. Avoid clients, a site, a budget and a program.
  3. Design the architectural object, the marketing plan, the financing plan.
  4. Reflect.
  5. Action.
Is this approach an appropriate alternative to design competitions? According to Architect Matthijs Bouw there are three types of architectural practice: architects who have a characteristic handwriting and are hired for it (the signature practices), extra-large firms which can offer a large variety of services and finally the "new" design consultancy. "This architectural practices enlarges its field of play by intervening in the building process at a different moment, namely during the formation of the first idea and the formulation of a scenario or assignments." (Volume #14, Matthijs Bouw, p.10)

Although, Volume #14 features the portfolio of Unsolicited Architecture and a rich collection of examples (p.41-106), their implementation seems difficult. Do Unsolicited architects work out projects in advance? When there is no client - who will buy the designs? Maybe, the entrepreneurial architect has to be a risk-taker.