Fictional Whims

One month away from the Once Upon a Place conference on architecture and fiction – with early bird registration at reduced rates closing tomorrow – it is more than about time to ask why the connection between these particular ways of world-making is becoming so big.

Is it because, as I was wondering in one of the conference’s presentation texts, fiction has become the appropriate tool to investigate a reality that is itself… stranger than fiction?

Image via  Waxin’ And Milkin’.

At the recent International Campus Ultzama, people asked why do architects now show a tendency to escape the traditional limits of architectural practice.      I advanced the modest contribution that maybe young practitioners are not really trying to escape anything, but just rather trying to find a way out

A way out of unemployment, that is, or out of a lack of prospects of a profession which in recent times was wrongly taken as a sure path to stardom and celebrity… As Juan Herreros added, architects have now to invent what they want to do – as artists always have done.

And this is perhaps one of the reasons why fiction in architecture is suddenly enjoying such a revival, and is popping up in revisions that range from Bruce Sterling’s hypothesis of an architecture fiction to the likes of Beyond or the contents of blogs – and projects – like that of Geoff Manaugh and Liam Young.

If fiction was always a vague source of inspiration for architects, now it’s presenting itself as a concrete model for knowledge production or, as it turns, a device for justifying architectural invention – such as in the recently published work of John Becker, in which the fictive narrative of an inexistent client plays as decisive a role as the creation of forms and programs itself.

What the Once Upon a Place conference will decisively show this next October is that the takes on fiction coming from the architectural world are now many-sided – either allowing for a rereading of architecture fictions of the past, questioning the role of utopia and dystopia, creating architectural and urban narratives, or finding in fiction an impulse for pedagogical experimentation.

Haunted Houses & Imaginary Cities, as we also like to call it, will bring forward the thoughts of more than 30 authors, artists, architects and researchers – out of the 250 papers submitted and including key-note speakers such as Alberto ManguelSchuiten and Peeters or Kazys Varnelis.

So, if you are planning to visit the last of Europe’s fictional capitals in the near future, maybe this will be a nice leit-motif to enter the pretty unchanged townscapes of Fernando Pessoa’s original whereabouts, Alain Tanner’s Ville Blanche’s settings and Wim Wenders’ locations for Lisbon Story.

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