Welcome to the New World

No. This post is not yet another tribute to Terence Mallick – although I did offer The New World* dvd to my brother over Christmas. Neither is it a sardonic bienvenue into the harshest year the Old World is about to see in a long time. (Nor is it a self-congratulatory note on my new appointment at MoMA.)

The New World. Image via satyamshot.wordpress.com.

Nope. This is only a small reminder about paradigm shifts, and changes and opportunities provided by ideological crises and stagnant realities, and the way in which architecture may these days be finally metamorphing into something completely different – as the Monty Python would surely put it.

So, this is also about the last article I’ve published in 2011, as it just came out in a great issue of MAJA, the Estonian Architectural Review. Facing the theme of architecture as event, this was ultimately a reflection on the idea of networks vs. affiliations, of which I want to give you a new year’s gift of an excerpt:

Is architecture a technical service or a cultural production? Is it both? Or is the profession actually splitting to accommodate potentially contrasting positions? Such questions illuminate how, within a heavily mediated context, social networking and cultural exchange acquire a renewed relevance. Pierre Bourdieu has classically written on how the fields of cultural production – what he, in fact, called the economic world reversed – always contain two opposed sub-fields. In contrast with a sort of extended, middlebrow production that engulfs the majority, one of these sub-fields is a restricted territory to which only a few can belong, but which actually determines the effective symbolic values at play in the whole field. Still, he considers that the two sub-fields are magnetically united by permanent transactions, including players who, by ascension or declassification, move from one sub-field to another. But what if these two sub-fields are actually splitting into two entirely different professions? What if a part of the architectural profession, namely its restricted sub-field, is detaching itself into an autonomous sphere that, although it might still inform and produce reflection on the world of construction, is no longer tied with the dimension of architecture as technical service? This would mean that a section of the profession would acquire independence as a purer form of cultural production. And would thus be ruled by the thorny, uncertain laws of culture making. Intrinsically, more than formally, this world would then be inevitably closer to the functioning of the art world – with its galleries and museums, and its biennales and events, and its collectors and markets, its media and formats, and its power games and exquisite social networks. It would be as if the Moon stopped orbiting around the Earth and turned instead to Mars. Well, beware. The Moon is already making its way to Mars.

 In Architecture, Networked Cultures and How to Make the Most of Them, MAJA #70, Tallin, December 2011

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