Yearly Balance

You know what they say about broken clocks: twice a day they tell the time correctly. I remembered this when I realized that the image on this blog’s header portrays the now unfortunately polemical architecture typology of minarets – in this case photographed in Maputo, Mozambique.

I chose the image, I guess, because I liked the stark opposition between the decay of sixties’ colonial modernism and the rise of those two minarets, portrayed as a symbol of the inevitable miscegenation of today’s growing metropolises.

Little did I know that this would end up being symptomatic of one sign ‘o’ the times of the current year, if in the worse sense: one of Europeans growing ever more fearful and letting go of their supposedly intrinsic cultural openness.

Image via Open Salon

That architecture itself was brought to the foreground as an ideological excuse for racism and cultural regression – on the argument that some architectural forms don’t “belong” in certain cultural landscapes! – was surely the architectural non-event of the year.

And as critics like Jonathan Glancey went to great efforts to make the noughties sound interesting, architectural excess also had its symbolic counterparts in 2009, somehow welcoming the definitive ideological crisis of starchitecture

As for myself, I’ve enjoyed what can only be deemed as an excellent year. Not being a pessimist, I do think reality checks are needed for a healthy optimism to be possible – and this is even more evident in times of instability.

One year of blogging has hopefully proven that critical dissent is still a value to be cherished, if only to slightly shift the perspective to which one grows quickly accustomed amidst the hypnotic information overload of the web…

The Beyond book series was also launched this year to a discrete but decidedly growing acclaim. It proposes, somewhat similarly, that “fictional techniques” are a useful tool to provoke a necessary shift in the way we look at architecture and the city today.

Bruce Sterling in Beyond the Beyond, Léopold Lambert in Boiteaoutils, Sam Jacob in Strange Harvest, and, more recently, Pietro Valle in Arch’IT, were some of the people who wrote about it. Icon magazine and Abitare are coming up next.

The other book I edited this year leaves me equally happy.

HP 06/08 started as the catalogue for an institutional exhibition of 80 buildings finished by Portuguese architects during the last three years, but turned out to be a book to remain on its own right.

Ultimately, this was the first time in many years in which seven rather young critics were given the freedom to survey the current state of an architecture only usually known and recognised for a few of its highlights and exceptions.

While I can announce the show organized by Ordem dos Arquitectos will reappear in the London Festival of Architecture in June 2010, the book itself will be there for the years to come for anybody who may be interested in understanding what’s changin’ in Portuguese architecture after Siza Vieira.

Ready for 2010? 3,2,1… go!


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