Category Archives: NEWS

topics whose value lies largely in the moment

The 2’nd Misfits’ Trienniale: WEEK 2

August 18, 2020 – August 18, 2021

This post covers the second week of The 2nd Misfits’ Triennale spaning the period including the Chicago Biennale, the Sharjah Bienalle, the Venice Bienalle and others, as well as Dubai Expo 2020. You won’t find any content about themes of pavilions and exhibitions, who was chosen to curate them or design them, or breathless updates on their design and construction. There’s so much content like this that it’d be possible to have a breakaway site called Bienalle Daily. This same period also spans the Omicron stage of the pandemic and the period when many people were housebound. ArchDaily must have provided many people with a continuity of daily routine. I can imagine its operations were hardly affected as receiving online information and broadcasting it worldwide doesn’t require the physical presence of either employees or buildings. Out of curiosity, I’d like to see what the ArchDaily headquarters looks like. I imagine it’s a building that exists only in images in our heads. Results of a competition to design a virtual headquarters for ArchDaily might provide some interesting data on the general state of education and the profession.

August-November 2020 was a dry patch. True, there was still a pandemic but, despite daily being part of the name, online content doesn’t track the world in real time. It’s just that I wasn’t interested in any private house of more than 100 sq.m, or anything about Foster+Partners inroads into the Saudi market, or OMA’s, BIG’s, ZHA’s or MVRDV’s considerable business development in China and elsewhere. Around the world, masterplanning for the revitalization of waterfronts and pretty much anywhere else is a thing, Henning Larsen and Snøhetta are a huge presence. I don’t think Kengo Kuma and SANAA are punching above their weight. It’s just that we still think of them as small practices. It’s still possible to tell a ZHA building from an MVRDV one but these global commercial practices are becoming more and more samey, even when they try to be different. The smaller and small practices are doing things more interesting and relevant.

[1] November 10, 2020: Jiading Mini Block, An Urban Experiment / Atelier FCJZ
This one made me think. It’s an attempt to design an R&D park as a walkable city, using city blocks of 50m x 50m (to the centre of the roads). All buildings have a covered arcade at ground level, food and beverage outlets are given desirable corner locations, and traffic is restricted although through traffic was never going to be a problem with canals on two sides of the site. It’s a decent attempt to think something through from scratch. I hope it’s worked. I’d like to go check it out one day.

Photograph :Fangfang Tian

[2] November 19, 2020: Housing Choices Australia Dandenon / Kennedy Nolan Architects
The architects have done something good here, showing that accommodation provided by a not-for-profit housing association can still be attractive, well-designed, durable, passive, and low-energy all at the same time. Nice job! Photographs: Derek Swalwell

[3] December 10, 2020: Dique Luján House / FRAM arquitectos
Not since the heyday of Danish modernism has a house simply been the result of the materials and processes by which it was constructed. I don’t know why this should be such a radical concept. The materials don’t all have to be perfect or expensive and the processes needn’t be difficult or contrived. I suspect it’s because it’s not possible to conceal shoddy materials or workmanship when every piece and how they are put together is revealed. Human thought, care and craft work (as opposed to robot and 3D printer thought, care and craft) all work against profits in the building industry. Photos: Fernando Schapochnik

[4] February 22, 2021: Arakawa Building / Nikken Sekkei
This is both office building and residence for the building owner. There’s a lot happening and not just with the structure. The fire escape stairs are used as bracing for earthquake resistance but also provide outdoor spaces for the office workers, as well as shading for many of the windows. The architects say ” The building has utilized the full potential of every building element, and now reveals the activities of the building users as an element of the building’s façade. Our intention is that the dynamic façade incorporating human activities would also create a new expression in the cityscape.” I think they’ve succeeded. The true test is whether or not it becomes a template for future buildings.

[5] April 28, 2020: TECLA Technology and Clay 3D Printed House / Mario Cucinella Architects
Mario Cucinella has history of exploring sustainable technologies so I’m interested in his take on 3D printed houses. The norm so far has been to print vertical walls with curved corners and to cap it with large overhanging flat roof that’s been transported in. Cuchinella’s design is driven by the limitations of 3D printers and the material which is clay in this case okay. The 3D printer-friendly plan is simple and has no sharp corners. The entrance opening is how 3D printers do corbelling. [There’s a nice door frame that might lend some support. This is not the time for frameless glass.] Where you’d expect a thicker wall or even buttresses, the walls corbel outwards to gain some height before corbelling inwards to form the roof. A vertical wall would also provide more headroom and would require less material but wouldn’t look so primitive-modern. It’s still possible to waste cheap materials such as clay, for aesthetic pursuit and to me, this proves the maxim that, with visual aesthetics, everything beautiful costs money. The adhesion strength and setting time of the chosen material make the near-horizontal surfaces the two most difficult for 3D printing and so the oculii off the two joined domes are capped by round windows. All in all, it’s not horrible, although the tree inside does make me wonder what kind of outside this house is built for. If we join many of them together we’d get a honeycomb with curvy corners. While you’re at it, and assuming the clay can cope, you could even add a second story using the three dimensional geometry and structure already perfected by bees. What we have is a house designed around the current strengths and weaknesses of a 3D printing system.

The hexagon comment proved apt, but not in the way I expected. A February 18, 2021 article described the process of construction and how the 3D printers were configured on a reconfigurable frame structure. It was interesting reading. Could it have been hand made with mud bricks? Probably, but probably not in 200 hours.

TECLA, 3D Printed Habitat by WASP and Mario Cucinella Architects. Image Cortesía de WASP

[6] May 26, 2021: La Bourse de Commerce / Tadao Ando Architect & Associates + NeM Architectes + Pierre-Antoine Gatier
This is fundamentally a restoration project but the concrete part that looks like Tadao Ando’s contribution is curious because its only purpose seems to be to get people closer to the frieze so they can have a better look. Is this the best way to do it, I wonder? And what about the three floors of building supporting that frieze? Times change, I guess, and what people thought important in one era is not what they’ll pay to see in another.If you want a look, a single-entry exhibitions ticket posts 14€ with reduced rate entry of 10€ according to the conditions for reduced price and free admission.

[7] June 8, 2021: “Habitare” Home Without a House / Bayona Studio
This installation in Spain does something easily understandable yet is more effective because of what looks like its end-of-terrace site. We could talk about the plan but that’s not the point. It might have been more interesting with stairs that can be as much furniture or part of a building as you like, although perhaps not in Spain. Apart from looking a bit like a sou Fujimoto house, this is what the transparent concrete would actually look like. I’ve never understood the rush to develop it or the illusion of it.

©Pep Sau

[8] June 15, 2021: Around the Corner Grain / Eureka + MARU。architecture
This building contains seven non-identical apartments. It could have gone on forever but what’s here is sufficient to describe the principle. The seven apartments each have a different arrangement expressed through the entrances rather than the pattern of window openings. It’s a design-intensive design designed by people who enjoy designing. Photographs: Ookura Hideki

[9] June 19, 2021: Does Automation Take Away From the Individuality of Design?
It’s a provocative question, and a curious one when juxtaposed with a photograph of Kenzo Tange’s 1995 Fuji Television building in Tokyo. Whatever automation in architectural offices meant in 1995 it’s almost certainly not the same as it does today. What I’m not sure about is whether the Fuji Television building is there as an example of an abundance of individuality or a dearth of it. I suspect it’s supposed to illustrate the lack of, because it has almost no curves apart from that simple sphere.

© Jacopo Gennari Feslikenian

“Gramazio Kohler Research’s Rock Print Pavilion is also another example of how automation can create a distinct design. Built by a mobile robot, the house is made out of aggregates and twine – automation does not in any way curb the individuality of its design, and instead enhances it. Its design is a good example of how unique craftsmanship can be achieved even with the use of automated technology.” I don’t think we can blame the robot unless it had a robot hand in the roof.

© Michael Lyrenmann

[10] July 24, 2021: 24-mm Plywood House
This house is in line with my new policy of refusing to look at houses of more than 100 sq.m (and ideally no more than 50 sq.m) and that aren’t designed for urban situations. If there is some quality about it that was thought important despite the size of house then so much the better. This seems a better say to describe my new policy rather than say architecturally pretentious or audacious as both reinforce the mindset that small houses aren’t supposed to have aspirations to architecture lest they become mainstream. This house is about 45 sq.m. The main idea is an x-axis void on the ground floor intersecting a y-axis one on the upper floor to create a z-axis void for stairs and light. It’s a big idea for a small house, but not a complicated one. Photographs: Toshiyuki Yano


Out-takes and take-aways

In my quick scan through these past three years of ArchDaily at a rate of approximately one day per four months, I’d also pause at the superficially eye-catching projects like many a bored office worker on a Friday afternoon so you can’t say I’m using ArchDaily in a manner for which it was not designed. But for the period from August 2021to August 2022, the sheer volume of content from the Far East was apparent. It’s probably a function of volume of construction and the usual economic indicators. Also apparent was the inroads high-profile practices are making into the Saudi market. It’s always been true that the global commercial practices follow the money.

The faith in technology is limitless.

The continuing promotion of techniques and technologies with the potential to decimate the architectural workplace is now standard.

The ArchDaily history lessons are always enjoyable.

As are their top tips for the home.

I saw many sensitive houses from India to Argentina, from St. Louis to Bordeaux to Kyoto. I saw culture centres and art galleries and museums galore, mostly in China. There were some notable examples of affordable housing (most notably, MAD’s Baiziwan Housing in Beijing) but not that many. There’s much good work out there and much invention that’s often the result of having to deal with adverse circumstances be they site or economic or resource limitations. As it should be.

The third and final week of the 2nd Misfits’ Triennale, covering the period from August 18, 2021 to August 18, 2022, will follow next week’s post.

12 Months

June to December last year was a golden time for the blog. Visitor and page view numbers were rising to approach what they’d been in 2018 before I tired of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the treadmill of promoting. I continued to announce new posts on LinkedIn though.

American reader numbers have always been the largest but I took pleasure in watching the number of readers in China grow steadily even though, in December last year, they were still only one third (2,354) of those in the US (7,792). I felt good, and the blog was growing organically by person-to-person recommendations as it should.

But come this year, view numbers flatlined while visitor numbers stayed approximately the same. There are now few or no visitors or views from China. Instead of being the country with the second highest numbers of views, only once every ten days or so will China appear near the bottom of the top ten list of countries. The net effect is as if access to the site is somehow being throttled to approx. 40%. It’s easy to say “Ahh it’s obviously The Great Firewall of China!” but the loss is greater than what the number of Chinese visitors and views had been. Something is happening and I’m trying to get to the bottom of it. If anyone has any thoughts, then I’d be grateful if you could share. misfitsarchitecture is currently hosted by the US web hosting company Bluehost.

While that has been happening, the blog continues and each Sunday grows by one post even if all of them aren’t pearls.

Of the blog’s 16 categories, this past year had no new posts for the CAREERS category even though there are architects like Jean Prouvé who would make a fascinating career case study. I discovered no new MISFITS in the past twelve months, even though there must still be many more little known architects from whom we can learn. There was nothing new in NEWS, even though there must have been items that I might have had some thoughts on had I known of them. However, in the past 12 months either no such thoughts crossed my mind or, if they did, they then went somewhere else.

The categories of MEDIA and FOOD each had one new post in the past 12 months. The one in MEDIA was the relatively recent one reflecting upon the generally perfunctory media coverage of the death of Ricardo Bofill. The one in FOOD reflected on continuing attempts to make the countryside more like the city.

I’m currently reading James C. Scott’s Against The Grain that makes a case for agriculture being used as a means for the formation of this thing called The State and its subsequent enslavement of populations via taxation. Extending this reasoning, rather than seeing the countryside as the new urbanism, cities are more correctly called the new ruralism in that they’re machines for faming people.

These past 12 months I’ve been fortunate to have been able to travel to Shanghai, Tianjin and Nantong. I thought Tianjin and Nantong were both extremely comfortable cities but Shanghai defies easy labels. All I can do is write about what it makes me think about. My first visit to Shanghai led to Misfits Guide to Shanghai, The Gardened City, and ZHA@MAM Shanghai that led to Automatic Design

My second visit to Shanghai led to The Elevated Road and three new posts in the HISTORY category, pondering the various ways the life of building stock is extended.

There were five new posts in the AESTHETICS category. Even re-reading the Aesthetic Efficiency post just then took me back to Fang Ta Yuan/方塔园/Square Pagoda Garden in Songjiang in outer Shanghai. I’m not normally moved by gardens but this was a totally contrived miniature universe of calm. Questions of natural and artificial didn’t apply, and that too was relaxing. Maybe my calmness came from the lack of display of authorship. It just was.

Someone once pointed out that my use of the word myths was incorrect but I think waht’s happening is that the word myth now has a touch of myth about it. I use it to mean those things we believe anyway despite the basis for that belief being rather shaky. Flexibility, Individuality and, only last week, Self-Sufficiency were three typical posts for this category. There’s a book there somewhere.

With eleven and ten posts each, EDUCATION and TYPOLOGIES were the categories with the largest number of posts although three of the Architectural Myths posts also appeared in MYTHS. I try to keep the categories separate but overlap between education and the continuation of architectural myths is no surprise.

Eight of the eleven EDUCATION posts dealt with various ways of having, generating or otherwise prompting an architectural idea. This is something of a preoccupation of mine. They’re all different ways of generating what it’s been fashionable for a while now to call “mutations”. An intern farm is the infinite monkey metaphor applied to the generation of an artificial diversity of architectural ideas.

If you give a monkey a typewriter and an infinite amount of time then sooner or [much, much] later it will type Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s a disingenuous metaphor because 1) it assumes we all think Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the pinnacle of human creativity, 2) it wants us to ignore the fact the monkey will also reproduce every piece of crap writing that has ever existed, and 3) it also wants us to ignore the fact that, should it succeed in typing Hamlet, it’d be a chance occurrence and not creativity at all. (“Hey monkey – somebody’s already written this!”) The random generation of mutations simulates the appearance of architectural ideas but design as a creative endeavour only exists when a process of selection is applied and decisions made.

Because infinite numbers of typewriters, time, and monkeys (and infinite bananas to incentivize them) are hard to come by, we have algorithmic design but somebody still has to sift through all those possibilities and find something that can be used to make design decisions. It’s just another way of arriving at an idea and not a way of designing. In Formative Houses I recalled some buildings that made a huge impression on me, and became aware of how much I was still referring to them. Knowledge in the form of a library of images and memories is just one more (traditional? conventional? archaic? inexpensive?) way of generating an architectural idea. More recently, in Associative Design, I wrote about how a project can begin by recreating some memory, and then being sensitive to how that memory leads to another, and then another that opens up more memories. This too is nothing more or less than an old fashioned analog way of generating a sequence of mutations, all of which are design ideas. As a way of designing though, it has the advantage of there always being a finished project because the universe of possibilities is always the universe of possible possibilities. You don’t have to select a design and then fit your program into it. Let’s pick this up again some other time.

I suspect I might be using the word typologies when I should be just using the word “types”. Nevertheless, the TYPOLOGIES category best represents my interests. The posts in this category all look at a particular building type and all produce some proposal that I think improves upon or solves some problem. The Space Between Apartments and The Not-so-elevated Road are not just two of my favourite posts from the past year but two of my favourite projects.

All these proposals are collected on my other website grahambrentonmckay.com with projects added to the five categories from the top. These categories are ill-defined and have considerable overlap but they’re all about the sharing of building elements.

These are the ones from the past 12 months.

There are also links across categories. For example, there’s a progression of thought from The Handshake Apartments to The Handshake House to Handshake Hotel, but there are three different proposals for three different situations. Non-Algorithmic Housing I and Non-Albgorithmic Housing II are obviously related.

There’s another book in there somewhere. Proposals that find their way to this website are all concerned with high density or high-rise and this is no accident. One way of saving space and resources is to make detached houses smaller. Another is to not waste space and resources through inefficient planning. A third way is to share the same building element for two or more dwellings. High rise buildings share floors, lobbies and elevators and most have shared walls on shared floors but the high-rise apartment block outside of south-east Asia has settled on the Lake Shore Drive single-sided apartments off dual-loaded corridor configuration because it’s cheapest to build and heat. I believe there are other, better ways of doing it.

I’ll post this one under NEWS to be with all the other posts about this blog, and I’ll tag it misfits, education, and typologies.

TEN

Ten years ago this week was misfitsarchitecture‘s first post, The Tree is Not Trying to Look Beautiful, about how some things are beautiful precisely because they’re not trying to convince us they are. Here we are, ten years and five hundred and ten posts later.

The blog’s name misfitsarchitecture was chosen to indicate a position but the word misfit rarely translates into something positive. In Russian it translates into something like outcast. In Chinese, it can translate as inhuman and in Japanese it translates into words like nonconformist or eccentric. In English, it’s never used to describe people excluded from the mainstream for being original. Maverick is praiseworthy but only because the mainstream sees itself in the maverick it helped create. Not so the misfit. When the blog began, I had no idea its defining concept would be that of the misfit architect – architects who believed in their approach to architecture strongly enough to just do it without concern for whatever culturally-sanctioned notion of architectural creativity was the current fashion.

The logo happened around 2014. It’s from a poster for the 1929 Soviet film Fragment of an Empire [Обломок империи] in which a shell-shocked soldier regains consciousness in what appears to be a new and better world. I liked the hand motif for its confident optimism suggesting buildings were a part of it. I don’t know who designed the poster or understand why it is the way it is but I like it anyway.


The niche position indicated by the blog’s name hasn’t changed but what has changed is that I’ve become more aware of just how fitting that name is. Academia and practice find their respective balances between thinking and doing but, when I was in practice, I was always known as “the academic one” yet on campus I have a reputation as “the practical one”. It’s not that I mean to be contrary. It’s just that neither’s a perfect fit. I enjoy thinking and writing about buildings and teaching allows me to do more of that even though, in academia, thinking and writing about buildings conventionally involves participating in a separate and largely reflexive ecosystem of peer reviews and publishing in ranked journals of high impact factor. Blogging is not that.

Practice is another largely closed ecosystem with little interaction with Academia other than when the personalities, ideas or buildings of Practice are a topic of study or when there are prestige appointments for mutual benefit. The Media is the third major architectural ecosystem. Its previous symbiotic relationship with Practice doesn’t exist anymore as larger practices all now either have in-house teams for media management or outsource to the shady world of architectural PR. Moreover, as a new creature, we now have the research-driven media-focussed practice that neither wants nor needs the validation of Academia or Media.

What all this means is that Practice research is presented as PR and PR is presented to Media as information. There’s a lack of variety, little choice in how to access it, no opportunity to give critical comment and no appetite to receive it. Not that it matters. The rate at which new content is generated and broadcast makes any attempt to filter and process it futile. misfitsarchitecture began as a response to this. For the first few years it carried the following mission statement.

Have you ever thought Rem Koolhaas might be just another person? Or Harvard GSD not the centre of the Universe? Are you unmoved by biennali and festivali, and don’t like or ‘like’ anything on ArchDaily? Do you sense something’s very wrong with architecture? 
We do too. Welcome. 
Food and shelter are both essential for human life but food is anything from a bowl of rice a day to some exquisite mouthful for a moment’s pleasure. Junk food is somewhere in-between but so too is just the right amount of nutrition our bodies need. 
It’s the same with shelter. We’ve got bread buildings that fill, cake buildings that thrill, and junk buildings that make us want more. 
All misfits wants is a nutritious architecture that does the shelter thing well, makes us feel good because it is good for us, doesn’t cost the earth or cost us the earth. 

Here’s some noisy comments co-founder and original collaborator Bashar and I made in a UK construction industry magazine in September 2010, most likely in response to some building by Ken Shuttleworth and MAKE.

  • We have no problem with beauty when it is the natural beauty of sunsets or trees, or the human beauty of smiling faces. But we do have an problem when the siren of visual beauty distracts us from the more pressing problem of making buildings perform better, with fewer resources and at lower cost. The ugly reality of visual beauty is that it is a waste of resources and is not leading our buildings towards any kind of perfection. 
  • It wouldn’t be so bad if visual beauty was no more than the concealing of efficient construction, inexpensive materials and all manner of useful things not seen as beautiful. However, what many notions of visual beauty have in common is the decadent flaunting of resources to deny architectural realities such as opacity, weight and artificiality to create fictions of transparency, weightlessness and naturalness. Such chimeras aren’t even universally attractive let alone achievable or useful, whereas tangible qualities such as stability, comfort, security and economy are. 
  • In the future, there’s going to be less of everything. Anyone championing reactionary visual beauty should have to prove that building performance has not been compromised and that additional resources haven’t been wasted in its pursuit. 
  • People obsess about visual beauty because they think achieving performance is easy. They’re wrong. It is difficult to use less resources to make buildings, it is difficult to make buildings use less energy and it is difficult to use less energy to make buildings. Disgracefully, we still don’t know what these buildings will look like. They probably won’t be ‘beautiful’ to the eye but they will have an inner beauty tangible to all our other senses.
  • True, some people will feel alienated by such a built environment – but so what? Sexy shapes, clever cladding and cultural and intellectual frippery are not going to solve their existential problems. 

And then there was this next comment from 10 June, 2010 in response to some article titled Architecture’s Final Frontier, calling for the International Space Station to be thought of as Architecture.

That was ten years ago. In these ten years In the UAE I’ve mostly worked in Sharjah and lived in Dubai. The photo on the left below was taken on my first visit in 2006 two years before I moved here. The photo on the right I took yesterday. Much has changed in those ten short years between one global crisis and the next.

And much hasn’t. I still write about whatever interests me and always follow up readers’ suggestions for topics, buildings and architects I would never have discovered by myself. Another constant is that I’ve never shared content or posted any sponsored content. The blog remains doggedly not-for-profit, living up to its name by refusing to acknowledge this one metric by which so much is judged. It may not have made me any money but it has made my life richer and my world larger. I’m always happy to learn that around the world there are readers and friends who share the same interests. Of these friends, I thank those in New York, Russia, Paris, Brussels, Hong Kong and Australia also for their generous hospitality.

There’s much in the UAE I still have to process but sometime in July I will be moving to the city of Wenzhou in China. It won’t be some new life or beginning but just the same me and the same misfitsarchitecture carrying on doing what they do somewhere different. And different it will be. This is Wenzhou. It’s like no place I’ve ever seen.

[cite]


Some memorable collaborations.

Triennale Hang-over

The first difference I noticed in my recent ArchDaily bingewatch [c.f. Misfits’ Trienniale] was how less intrusive text was. It was now optional with a “Read more” link that, to be accurate, should probably more correctly read “Read?” Clicking it loaded the “story” as images interspersed with text mostly describing those images – the captions, basically. At the very bottom was still space for comments. I had a few interactions there once but it was never that great a forum.

We know the internet doesn’t do text well but sentences like these next don’t help. “Constructions are proposed with a mesured density to provide the highest continuity between woods and neighborhood, and create an unifying landscape axis in varying sequences of ambience.” ? Or how about this? “The theme of the wall is an integral part of the neighbourhood. The project draws inspiration from this theme, taking its cue from existing structures. The wall blends in with the lie of the land, before undergoing a transformation into a sculpted monolith that rises from the top of the hill.” Please – allow me. “The building has a wall, as many do. This wall follows the contours, and then so doesn’t.“ Complementing the general horribleness of textual information is an incredible homogeneity of graphic information. It’s as if architects around the world have adopted the same standards for online presentation of projects. When did this happen? More to the point, why?

I found out I could now save favourite images and projects, so generating data sets that become new content as “interesting groupings by registered users”. Pinterest, basically. There were frequent and frequently repeated “AD Classics” and “Spotlight” features as well as desperate padder content such as “Ten buildings that feature the colour green” or “Five buildings that look like the ArchDaily logo”. It’s not so much a case of everything being architecture but one of there being insufficient interesting or even new buildings to generate new architectural content daily. Unsurprisingly for a platform intent on blurring the difference between promotion, journalism and scholarship, some pieces have authors and citation links while others have “curators” who seem to have their work cut out for them.

On occasion, I found that my browser was incredibly slow and I had to try not to scroll faster than projects can load. One problem is that the ad-servers must do their work first. [With no stronger basis than my IP address, I was targeted as a customer for laser-cut decorative metal sheets.] Another problem is that many projects had more than 35 images, and some over 70. For a small project – or even a large one – it should be possible to communicate the intent of a design with far fewer. It’s one thing to have an image-based media promoting an image-based architecture but even that’s not done efficiently or intelligently. Or even memorably.

Such platforms are one corner in the triangular trade(offs) between architects, platform and users. In return for freely-provided content, architects are given the promise of publicity, of being “discovered”, or of getting more and bigger work. In return for visiting the site and boosting visit numbers and generating other metrics of interest to advertisers, users get to pass some time and leave with a feeling of having passed some time and feel as if they are a part of something bigger. Finally, in a simple transaction, the platform is paid by advertisers for being a platform for advertising. It’s significant that between every two projects on ArchDaily is a list of the three products architects click on the most often.

To be fair, I did see elegant sheds in Australia and some very competent houses in Chile, Brazil, Mexico and China, perhaps reflecting ArchDaily’s four languages of English, Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin but this doesn’t explain the disproportionate amount of projects from Japan, as ever. Clever and sophisticated conceits were everywhere.

Despite statements like “It is now expected of architects to turn away from designing iconic buildings/objects and focus instead on creating engaging built environments; from imagining idealistic, form-driven projects driven by the artistic pursuit to focusing on downright pragmatic solutions” [14th Jan. 2019] it’s not like architecture’s fascination with the object was any less evident. I began to wonder about the purpose of all these houses in the grand scheme of things, and why so many of them had to try so hard. I put it down to the continued faith in the belief that some Exciting Young Talent will burst onto the scene with some amazing design, and be immediately commissioned to do some larger project, and so on until global fame and mega-projects. It’s probably an accurate perception but the preponderance of small houses trying too hard reveals a widespread understanding that media attention is proportional to the degree a project shocks and breaks the rules. This is architecture played out in microcosm and architects that display an understanding of this mechanism will soon find themselves part of an intern farm at some global starchitect practice, and then as regional business development manager, before leaving to replicate the ecosystem for themselves. [My only advice is to sell out as soon as you can. The only problem is to find a level you’re happy with.]

This is probably why I saw much that was attractive or engaging but little in the way of good ideas that deserve to be repeated and perfected. I’m not averse to contemplating the sublime but there wasn’t much of that on show either. I saw some wonderful buildings but I also saw much I wish I hadn’t and can’t unsee.

Another odd thing is how hollow the field is. About 40% of the projects on show were small projects by architects we will probably never hear of again, and another 40% was by the huge commercial juggernauts BIG, OMA, ZHA, UNStudio, Henning Larsen, Foster+Partners, and Arquitectonia [a second time around!] and whose names we’re never allowed to forget. Carlo Ratti Associati are everywhere. Stefano Boeri is on a roll. MAD and Studio Gang are knocking them out. I still have to find out who Bee Breeders are.

So what were the takeaways from this inaugural Misfits’ Trienialle?

It only takes a day to skim through a year of ArchDaily, paying no more attention than what is expected. This is nice to know. It will save a lot of time.

I saw exquisite buildings constructed from locally-sourced and renewable materials put together with vernacular construction techniques. It’s a shame they were luxury resorts in sensitive ecologies. This is business as usual.

I don’t think we’re going to see ethical intention or social payback as criteria for evaluating the worth of buildings anytime soon.

There were many private houses and much big stuff for monied clients yet not much in-between. There were few schools, fewer clinics and fewer hospitals. Nobody seems to be building municipal facilities anymore. Whatever architecture has to offer, it’s clearly got little to offer the middle, and even less for the bottom. All around the world people are being born, educated, living, healed, dying, imprisoned, entertained and cared for in buildings that are not architecture.

Mostly, nobody much notices or cares about architecture.

Apart from the practices of Sergei Tchoban and Sergey Skuratov, there was no news from the Russian Federation other than that competition for new standard housing. For a site in English, the US and the UK were underrepresented compared with Australia, Chile, Argentina and Mexico that were well covered. My three-year sample contained little from Germany, Austria, Italy or Switzerland.

I like to think architects in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland this are more concerned with making their particular corners of the world better.

Disappointingly few buildings in my three-year sampling were actually necessary for the functioning of any society anywhere. I formed the opinion that whether houses, luxury eco resorts or superslenders, buildings that represent private economic surplus are considered architecture, and buildings such as hospitals and schools, fire stations, police stations that are a public economic defecit (a.k.a. social investment) aren’t. This seemed pretty clear.

It’s not going to happen overnight but I would like to find a website that highlights buildings and building typologies actually representative of our built environment, and in proportion to their actual prevalence. Unlike “Ten buildings featuring the colour green,” this would tell us something useful about the state of the art, and the world. Admittedly, “Ten buildings featuring the colour green” also tells us something about the world.

Another important thing I learned from the selection process for this 1st Misfits’ Trienniale is how often certain themes or topics bubbled up the surface and stayed there. These topics enter our consciousness and, after seeing them often enough, they become real – at least in the sense of being part of our intellectual landscape. This ebb and flow is most likely invisible to a daily user. I saw a disturbing number of proposals for 3D printed buildings and can only watch in horror as new generations of architects bend over for industry. Architecture has a long history of media posturing in anticipation of the needs of industry. It’s often called visionary’ and you can usually find it in any project making a show of “showcasing” new materials and technologies.

The theme of the 2nd MISFITS’ TRIENALLE in August 2022 will be “How is it possible for an architect to do anything worthwhile if recognition and reward are reserved for those who pander to the successive needs of industry (the mechanisation of production, the globalisation of commerce, the ubiquity of telecommunications, the universality of data … ) ??”

Submissions or information on architects and projects attempting to answer this will be welcomed.

It’s a search for more misfit architects – living ones. We need more.

[cite]

The 1’st Misfits’ Trienalle

Bucharest Architecture Triennale JULY 10th – OCTOBER 2019
Seoul Architecture Biennale SEPTEMBER 7th – NOVEMBER 10th 2019
Tallinn Architecture Bienalle SEPTEMBER 11th – NOVEMBER 30th 2019
Sao Paulo Architecture Biennale AUGUST 15th – SEPTEMBER 20th 2019
Chicago Architecture Biennial SEPTEMBER 19th, 2019 – JANUARY 5th 2010
Oslo Architecture Triennale SEPTEMBER 26th – NOVEMBER 24th 2019
Lisbon Architecture Triennale OCTOBER 3rd – DECEMBER 2nd 2019
Buenos Aires Architecture Biennale OCTOBER 15th–26th 2019
Sharjah Architecture Triennale NOVEMBER 9th, 2019 – FEBRUARY 8th, 2020
Shenzen Bienalle DECEMBER 15th, 2019 – MARCH 15th 2020
Venice Architecture Biennale MAY 23rd – NOVEMBER 29 2020 
Tbilisi Architecture Biennale OCTOBER – NOVEMBER 2020

A quick look at the calendar shows the final quarter of 2019 oversupplied with biennali and triennali as everything but Venice and Tbilisi overlap no less than four others – and these are just the major ones. It looks like there’s going to be a dry patch between March when Shenzen ends and May when Venice picks up. What’s an architecture obsessive to do?

Football addicts have no choice but to watch European friendlies in that six-week gap they like to call a “run-up” until the next season. Architecture addicts have a similar system of denial, making do with a stream of updates regarding the theme, content, personalities and preparations in anticipation of HOW FANTASTIC THE NEXT ONE IS GOING TO BE! With such a crowded calendar and resultant enlightenment churn, there’s never any time to reflect upon whether any particular event lived up to its expectations.

It’s no less ephemeral for being physical things viewed in physical space. We’re still not allowed time to digest the information or lapse into the habit of thinking about it. The more bi/triennali there are, the more they dumb down thought and discourse globally. This is the way of the modern world and why, about three years ago, I closed all social media accounts, first Facebook and Pinterest and then Instagram and Twitter. I was tired of the tyranny of newsfeeds, I suspected their purpose and I refused to equate knowledge with diversion.

In this respect, the production and consumption of “live” architectural content is no different from the production and consumption of that electronically delivered.

The last time I remember looking at ArchDaily was the time of that brouhaha over the competition to build a wall on the Mexico-US border. Accusations of lack of editorial oversight and lack of ethics were followed by counteraccusations claiming the problem was one of content and not The Platform. There was the same polarisation of stances we’ve since become acquainted with courtesy of the more “social” of the social media platforms. All that was in March 2016 – more than three infinite-scrolling years ago.

FOR THE PAST THREE YEARS I HAVE NOT LOOKED AT ARCHDAILY OR DEZEEN.

The break happened around the time of the Home Improvement post.

Life went on. I still managed to find things I thought interesting and worth writing 1,500–1,800 words about each week. Some posts were about architectural propositions based on some current interest, sometimes prompted by teaching preoccupations at the time. Others were reflections on history, often suggested by a book I’d either been given or come across in a store. Some were the result of a reader kindly suggesting I look into a particular architect and, though I might not always have done so immediately, I always did. Through such recommendations I learned about the wonderful architect Josef Frank [c.f. Josef Frank] and more recently about The Mechanics of Fame [c.f. Architecture Myths #25: The Creative Spark].

GIVING UP INTERNET ARCHITECTURAL MEDIA HAS MADE MY ARCHITECTURAL LIFE RICHER.

Or so I think. It’s time to see if that’s true and, if so, by how much. I’m going to binge-scroll the past three years of ArchDaily and list everything I genuinely wish I’d known about earlier. Unlike biennali and triennali never called to account for misinterpreting the present or/and the future, this inaugural Misfits’ Biennale will curate the past three years of ArchDaily content into a single post. I’m interested to see what survives the “test of time” once being top of the newsfeed is no longer a metric of worth.

31 July 2019: Cristiano Toraldo di Francia, Co-Founder of the Radical ‘Superstudio’ (leftmost, below), dies at 78. This is news, but me knowing it changes nothing. I admire Superstudio no more or less.. [c.f. Architecture Misfit #4: Adolfo Natalini]

[1] 31 July 2019: Nowhere but Sajima, Yasutake Yoshimura Architects
This is a house available for weekly rental – a kind of pay-per-stay architecture. I know that’s not new or even a good trend and I did ask myself if I wasn’t getting too excited too early. Nevertheless, I lingered a while over this because I’ve never seen a facade like this before. Somehow, it challenges our (or at least my) notions of what a facade can be. Taking the trope of shuffly windows and reinventing it as a bizarre and pretty advent calendar, it made me think a bit of Gio Ponti and his obsession with surface. [c.f. Career Case Study #8: Gio Ponti] Unsurprisingly, it’s in Japan. I was curious to know more about its construction but there was none of that kind of information.

[2] 25 July 2019 The Deformed Roof House of Furano / Yoshichika Takagi + associates
Another house. This one is all about construction, and extending a single-family house into a two-family house. As is often the case in Japan, it’s an example of a single logic relentlessly pursued to its conclusion.

16 July 2019: Four Finalists Selected for Cottesloe Beach Pavilion in Australia
I’d known about this. The competition is for a pavilion to replace the building known as the Indiana Tea Rooms, and will attempt to reconcile a beach amenity with year-round dining as well as various “experiences” to be decided.

20 June 2019: Adaptative Plans: An Algorithm That Predicts Spatial Configurations
I’d found out about this via LinkedIn. I’ll have more to say about it in a separate post. For now, it’s enough to note how inept all the “spatial configurations” are.

30 May 2019: Higharc Startup Aims to Automate Home Design
To go with the adaptative spatial configurations, we now have something for the exterior. I’m only two months into two years of ArchDaily and already I’m getting distracted by this rubbish. The plan was to discover things I really wish I’d known about earlier. This ain’t one.

28 May 2019: Arata Isozaki Accepts the 2019 Pritzker Prize

[3] 22 April 2019: Building LL 2474, Arqtipo
I like this. It gets the apartments onto this narrow site and without waste or pretence. The compromises it makes are understandable for what looks like the sharp end. I admire its architects for naming the building by what looks like a job number or a plot number, something we’ve not seen for a long time.

15 April 2019: Major Fire at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris
This was global news. I ignored all the proposals produced by mercenary architects wanting us to mistake prompt response for considered judgment. Macron was little better, promising a rebuild in five years. Even if it took fifty, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to ponder the symbolism of Notre Dame as a ruin, and then watch it being rebuilt with all the care and thought we could muster. The thing about buildings feted as symbols of city, country, society and humanity is that when the building loses its integrity it’s symbolism takes a hit too and we don’t like it’s new meanings,

[4] 5 April 2019: Infra-Space 1, Landing Studio
It’s a good idea to make better use of the spaces beneath flyovers, as with this initiative in Boston.

[5] 2 April 2019: House Maison Individuelle, Perraudin Architectes
At last – some construction! This house shows what can be done when care is taken to get the basics right. It’s spacious, well constructed and looks like a pleasant place to be. Money is not saved on poor-quality materials only to waste it on finishes. There’s no architectural pretence – it’s raised because it’s in a flood plain.

[6] 25 February 2019: Affordable Housing in Zurich, Gus Wüstemann
I’d like to know more about the economics of this scheme for affordable housing in Zurich, not known for being a cheap city. You’ok have to like concrete, and who doesn’t?

[7] 4 January 2019: Cottage in Las Herencias, OOIIO Arquitectura
I see a lot of sense in a new building that neither tries too hard to be new nor opts for a simplistic mimicking of “what’s already there”.

[8] 17 October 2018: Challenge Studio’s Award-Winning Design Envisions a New Residential Typology 
I’m not quite sure how this works as there’s no plan but, as a principle, the idea of “stacked units that act as tri-axis modules, [so that the] … cohesive interlocking of these modules enables the creation of different unit types and deviates from the ordinary double-loaded corridor strategy” sounds good. 

30 September 2018: Serious Question: Should We Call Them Slums?
I think we should call them the future. So far I’ve seen proposals for smog-filtering towers, floating cities and 3-D printed buildings on Mars, all of which are stock responses of the technology-got-us-into-this-mess-and-technology-will-get-us-out kind. On the other hand here we have self-build, low energy, recycled/salvaged materials put together with vernacular intelligence. There’s a lot to learn from settlements such as this.

[9] 15 November 2018: Garage Hall House, Tsukagoshi Miyashita Sekkei + Keitarchi
My younger brother would like this. But the idea of having a view of a previously neglected space, and one that mediates yet connects the world outside is a good and useful idea. It’s sort of what I’ve been trying to achieve with apartments having views of access corridors. [c.f. The Universal Apartment, The Uncompleted Apartments]

[10] 20 July 2018: Asma Bahçeler Residences, Martı D Mimarlık
Here’s something I haven’t seen before. It’s not exactly an inclined mat building but it’s a decent attempt at giving apartments the garden amenities of detached houses. The only downside is that it takes a fairly steep site to make it work. [c.f. The Mat Building]

[11] 21 May 2018: Car Park Katwolderplein, Dok architects
This is not the cheapest way to build a car park but it’s not as if money has simply been thrown at it. I included this to illustrate that every project has the potential to be something it hopefully wants to be. I would have appreciated a plan so I could check traffic flow and efficiency. Car parks have some way to go before they can be called the caravanserai of our times as the architects claim, but they’re not a bad inspiration for any kind of building. Note how the ornament is achieved by the simple manipulation of bricks. [c.f. Caravanserai]

[12] 21 May 2018: 1413 House, HARQUITECTES
I’d been hoping for something new by HArquitectes. [c.f. Architecture Misfits #22: Arquitectes] The fence-wall around the site had to be demolished (due to street widening) but it was recreated as one side of the house, restoring the street and leaving maximum site remaining as garden. The house has no corridors, like some other HArquitectes plans. I admire their clarity of thought.

[13] 28 December 2019: Reinvent or Die: The Transformation of Malls Under The New Economic Urban Paradigm, Ecosistema Urbano

I read this article because I’m interested in the shopping mall + housing mashup as a typology. [c.f. Living Above Shops] I don’t think the question is one of attracting new users or providing new experiences but one of reconnecting residents with residential amenities within walking distance. Continuing to add bigger and more attractions is not going to bring more users when what’s wanted are more amenities. Some degree of repurposing, adaptive reuse or merging of typologies is inevitable. Linked to sustaining continued levels of production and consumption, “Shopping as entertainment” was never a revolutionary concept.

[14] 13 December 2017: Storstrøm Prison, C.F. Møller

This is the first prison I’ve seen so far. It’s in Denmark. “One of the project’s major architectural challenges is for the high-security prison, which can accommodate around 250 inmates, to be less institutionalised.” It was interesting that high security wasn’t seen as an architectural challenge but institutional-ness was. This was the most thought-provoking project so far, I still need to know what “high security” means in the context of the Danish prison system.

[15] 14 October 2017: Tanpo Solar School, Csoma’s Room Foundation

At last, something genuinely uplifting! A single-room school high in the Himalayas that doesn’t require an indoor wood-burning stove to heat it. A corridor on the north side insulates. Materials are local, but the double glazing is new technology. A prototype is born, and children are able to learn in a warm and non-toxic space. If only architecture had concepts of motive and intent, applicable to all.

[16] 4 October 2017: Where Roofs and Streets Become One: Iran’s Historic Village of Masuleh

This was nice for being some proper history, for bein in Iran, and for being a typology that has worked since the 11th century. It’s a not-quite-an-inclined mat-building, like we saw above on 20 July 2018. As ever, it takes a certain inclination to make it work.

[17] 4 October 2017: The Wooden Box House, Spridd

In my binge survey of the past two years I’ve seen much news of the “Tallest timber building in [wherever] planned” but this modest timber apartment building in Sweden does what timber does best and the two/storey apartments top and bottom make the access and balconies the sole ornament. Nice.

25 July 2017: Sydney’s Brutalist Sirius Building Saved from Demolition after Court Ruling

At last, some good news! It’s difficult to find any government love for social housing in the English-speaking world, and even less when they are constructed of concrete on what is known as prime (a.k.a. “Ripe for redevelopment”) real estate. Contrary to the Robin Hood Gardens rule of Take from the poor and give to the rich, this is a rare win for the team.

[18] 26 March 2017: Toronto’s Urban Farming Residence Will Bridge the Gap Between Housing and Agriculture

The connection between food and shelter is us. The problem with domestic self-sufficiency is that a nutritionally-balanced plant-based diet requires 50 square metres per person for ideal sunlight, temperature and soil conditions.

Still, multi-level window boxes for plants are a better use of limited area in much the same way as multi-storey apartment buildings are for people. [c.f. Food and Shelter] The vertical spacing of the window boxes will need to be optimised for windowbox depth, required sunlight, latitude, and types of plants grown but the plants themselves would constitute a view and gardening and harvesting don’t subtract from the growing area.

25 November 2016: Finnish Architect Juhani Pallasmaa Refuses to Support Guggenheim Helsinki Project

Suddenly, I’ve come to the end of my three years’ worth of scrolling representing a total of 1,052 pages. I became more ruthless over the years, or perhaps less patient. I found I could scroll through a year of ArchDaily in a day at a rate of approximately one month an hour if I didn’t bother reading anything or thinking too much about process, justification or ethics.

I saw nothing that moved me as much as Kenzo Tange’s 1963 Tokyo Olympic stadia did when I discovered them at 13. Times changed. It’s not that the buildings got smaller. It just seems like greatness isn’t so great anymore. This isn’t a bad thing, but when global architects can’t even be bothered to convince themselves what they’re doing is worthwhile, it’s little wonder we feel shortchanged. The things in this post are those that give me hope.

I began this post by embedding various observations on projects not included here, along with various observations on ArchDaily and it’s purpose but soon decided, in the spirit of enquiry and analysis, that it would be more useful to separate and compile them into an after-the-event review. Next week.


The header image is from a Zadig & Voltaire camo t-shirt advertisement ArchDaily’s ad-server service has had tracking me around Europe and the internet these past two weeks. It’s my trienniale souvenir.

Misfits’ @ JESTER

Last December I had an e-mail from a Mr. Raphael Beaumond asking if I’d like to speak at JESTER*, a cultural café he was opening in Brussels in February. As Raphael explained, the jester was an historic court figure who could communicate to the king things no other court personage would dare. His real role was not to amuse but to provide a balancing alternative to other court figures likely to say only what the king wanted to hear. I see the sense in that. We need more.

It’s unlikely that people who don’t belong to the same university, company or organization ever get together to talk about architecture, and rarer for that setting not to be a corporate meeting room (in which case nobody outside gets to hear about it), a lecture theatre at some university (in which case the conversation spreads but never disseminates), or a biennale (in which diverse people interested in architecture get to receive calculated content spread very thin). I’d have thought a city as affluent and cosmopolitan as Brussels would have ample opportunities for people to discuss architecture but apparently not for, with JESTER, Brussels had space for one more. 

Pierre Eyban, a Belgian architect I later learned was responsible for me being invited, asked the questions and lead the talk. What follows isn’t a complete or even accurate transcript of the talk and later discussion. It’s more a general summary of the points covered – or not, as is sometimes the case.

• • •

What was your intention in starting the blog? And how do you see your contribution to architecture culture?

Although I teach at a university, I’m here as Mr. Misfits’ Architecture – the name of my blog. The blog began with me as an instructor disillusioned with the state of architecture, and Bashar Al Shawa, a student equally disaffected. We found we shared doubts about what is regarded as architecture, what is regarded as good architecture, and about what was taught and how. Initial posts questioned what was usually presented as architectural beauty, and sought out architects that produced architecture based on more useful criteria. After eight years, this is still a part of the character of the blog. I’m not surprised many of the blog’s early followers were students but I’ve since discovered many more people disaffected with architecture are actually working in practice and in universities. There’s definitely something wrong with today’s culture of architecture when its practitioners and educators are as disaffected as students.

People you identified as misfits: who are they?

The most striking thing they have in common is that they all designed buildings according to how they thought they ought to be designed and without regard for how they were perceived by people other than their users. Their buildings thus have a different value. Misfit architects contribute to a knowledge base that is never remembered, taught, learned from, or built upon. They are not the architects today’s students are taught to aspire to emulating. So far, I’ve identified 31, most from the last century.

  • The first was Hannes Meyer [#1], the director of the Bauhaus after Walter Gropius and before Mies van der Rohe. Meyer was the one who introduced architecture to the Bauhaus curriculum. He was also the first and last person to make it turn a profit. He was a radical functionalist and a communist. He also believed the purpose of architects was to create buildings for a better society for all. Most of the misfit architects share this value, though some more explicitly than others. 
  • In the 1920s Soviet Union, Moisei Ginzburg [#17] and the team of architects he assembled devised a building for a new form of communal living they thought the new society was needing.
  • In Uruguay, Eladio Dieste [#14] created breathtakingly thin shell structures of brick for socially useful buildings like bus stations and marketplaces.
  • In the United States, Rural Studio [#24] are making intelligent yet economical buildings for the rural poor of Alabama.
  • Post-war Milanese architects Asnago & Vender [#26] had a very simple yet useful concept of history as “what’s already there” and used it to produce thoughtful and beautiful buildings that still seem fresh today.
  • In the UK, Colin Lucas [#10] designed high-rise housing with dignity.
  • Eileen Gray [#3] is relatively well known. She designed a sensual and humanist house that was the opposite of Le Corbusier’s intellectualism.
  • Few people know about Togo Murano [#21] – a Japanese architect who produced about 300 buildings in a long career spanning most of the twentieth century.  He was never part of any movement. He had no single style. He didn’t build outside Japan. He had no craving for international fame. He involved clients in the design. Some of his buildings have a beauty as breathtaking as it is inexplicable.

The blog collects these misfit architects into one place but they have little in common apart from a belief people should benefit from buildings in very real ways. Misfit architects are those that do not seek fame or publicity for its own sake. The standard history of architecture is over-populated with those that that did. Our current media is over-populated with those that do, and illustrates how showing a representation of value has come to be more important than any inherent value. It’s a construct very much tailored to our times. It rewards those that play the game, and shuns those that don’t. It is ruthless in its selection. Alvar Aalto fades into obscurity while Le Corbusier continues to be taught as the only role model for architects to aspire to. If there had been no Le Corbusier, there would have been no Rem Koolhaas and if there had been no Rem Koolhaas, there would have been no Bjarke Ingels …

You coined the terms “Performance Beauty” and “Existential Architecture” – tell us more. 

Performance beauty was, I remember, how Bashar first described what he was thinking about in the early discussions for his senior design project. He showed me photos of the Soviet AK-47 and the US M-20 assault rifles and explained how the M-20 looks the more elegant but the simplicity and reliability of the AK-47 are what seems to have made it the world’s weapon of choice. His other example was the SUKHOI S-30 fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon. The SUKHOI looked ungainly and the Eurofighter sleek but the SUKHOI performs better in all ways you’d want a fighter aircraft to perform. It’s no accident that both these examples are military technologies because it’s a fields where aesthetics is secondary. It’s only in really extreme environments such as Antarctica where keeping people safe and comfortable becomes the primary criteria by which the worth of a building is judged. I believe that increasingly severe “weather events” will force us to reconsider the kind of beauty we want our buildings to have.

Existential architecture was an attempt to find a philosophical basis for reconstructing architecture from first principles. I’ve always thought of buildings as if they were people, and so I’m disappointed most of the time because I think they could be better than they are. Some are perhaps more attractive than others yet lack principles that shape their existence. The concept of existential architecture was an attempt to map the ethical and moral obligations of existentialism to architecture.  It’s not such a crazy idea. Buildings are artificial artefacts conceived of and built by people. Seeing buildings as organic or natural objects following pseudo-organic or pseudo-natural principles has got us nowhere. However, seeing buildings as the extension of human behaviour (that they are), means the same rules can apply. Existentialist philosophy transfers very cleanly and neatly to architecture. It’s an ethical stance.

Existence: A building should be what it is rather than what others want it to be. This denounces pretensions of all sorts.

  • all buildings whose appearance contradicts their internal configuration
  • all buildings whose structure is not what it appears
  • all buildings that present an idealized image to the world
  • all yet-to-be-built buildings with images at odds with reality
  • all buildings whose primary existence is as a vehicle for publicity.

Facticity: A building should not deny the facts of its existence.

  • Buildings are artificial objects. Any pretensions to having, or to having the appearance of any of the qualities of organic or natural objects is inauthentic. This includes implied growth and movement.
  • Buildings are static, physical objects.Any pretensions to denying their physicality is inauthentic. This includes weightlessness and transparency.
  • Buildings have a reason for existing. Any pretensions to catering to other reasons is inauthentic. 
  • Buildings are products of their time and place. This means the use of materials and technologies appropriate for a time and