Over the last weeks, I received three academic magazines that confirm that in the field of architecture too new publications are popping up as if unaware of the “end of print” – that celebrated motto set off by Raygun’s founder, David Carson, a couple of decades ago…
Of course, as all of these journals emanate from the restricted circle of the university domain –and curiously are all of them of German-speaking provenance– that might explain how their venture is supported without much intervention from the so-called market forces.
When I first heard of Generalist, I thought “what a wonderful name for an architecture magazine.” It sounded a little bit like the counterpart of that English practice that goes by the very apt and ironic designation of Studio Superniche…
As cast against a general tendency to embrace what Ortega y Gasset once called “the barbarism of specialization,” such bold label promised a return to the deeper cultural overtones of the architectural profession.
Alas, I was in for a deception, as with typical Germanic precision the magazine from Darmstadt precisely dedicates itself to dissect those tools of the trade that, precisely, make architects become specialists – and that make them sometimes forget about life and how to live it.
In this sense, in fact, I preferred the in-depth explorations of Architectural Papers #01 on and around a very specific pedagogical practice: that of Josep Lluis Mateo in his academic chair at the ETH architecture school in Zurich.
Started in 2005, and since 2007 at its provoking 4th issue, the opening edition was particularly imbalanced in favor of depicting Mateo’s pedagogical project, thus providing a rare and profound insight into a highly experimental method of teaching architecture and its surroundings – sound, nature, history and so on.
In one section that was to grow in weight within this ultra specialized magazine, the Found Papers, one could also find an early and quite interesting critique of what came to be generally called architecture’s star-system.
In this instance, Ernst Hubeli portrayed a so-called global architecture as against the stage set of a media hyperculture that, eventually, determined architecture’s virtual reality over the years to come.
Candide, named after Voltaire’s fictional character and well-known novella, is one of a surge of publications and events that swirls around the, uh, well, currently trendy notion of architectural knowledge.
Tightly separated into 5 different sections –Essay, Analysis, Project, Encounters, and Fiction – I guess Candide can be more alluring if in the future each of these parts features more than just one lonely, long essay. But maybe this is just my preference for the shorter, terser formats kicking in.
As it were, and as I was just saying earlier, I really happened to specially fancy the essay that was featured in the Fiction section. And this is not because the essay is a fiction, because it isn’t one, but because it is a curious take on how architectural “culture” gets passed onto the generalist public in primary school handbooks throughout German recent history.
More than scholarly, boring re-readings of Vitruvio, it is precisely such researches onto architectural mediation that today, more and more, are badly needed so that architects come to understand their failures and shortcomings in addressing their prosumers or, as they used to say, to serve the aspirations of their future buildings and urban spaces’ users.