Contemporary Debates
arch narrative This seminar begins with the assumption that a professional education should do more than teach technique or a method of design, and further that an architect may be more than a cultured aesthete. It is my position that the professional architect is one who is able to ask well-formed and appropriate questions. And, further, that such questions may be fleshed out through research, active dialogue with the discipline of architecture, and most importantly through making. The approach of this seminar, then, is to engage students in contemporary architectural debate. This, of course, assumes that such debate and/or discourse exists and can be engaged. We will make this assumption.

The seminar poses four questions:

Which comes first, the form or the material?
The making of meaningful architecture has long been tied to an understanding of materials.
Architecture is, of course, made of something rather than nothing. With the recent interest in new means of representation and fabrication, new forms of architecture are being proposed and built. What role does the nature of materials now play in the construction and construing of meaningful architecture? Do we still care what a brick wants to be? Is there a nature of materials that can be considered “truthful” or are we only able to lie well? Do materials even matter anymore?

Is architecture local or global?
We live in a global world. It is not unusual for a building in Dubai to be designed by an Iraqi architect based in London and built by a Chinese developer for a Saudi prince. Indeed, such architect may have even been chosen as a brand in the same way someone may choose a car or a pair of sneakers. Yet, even in our global world, architecture exists in a very specific place and time. Can one make meaningful architecture in a culture that is foreign?

Is architecture critical?
This session seeks positions that argue for, or against, demonstrate, reveal, or castigate architecture as a critical project. We will attempt to determine if the critical project is relevant or simply an antiquated notion? Is there a critical project that does not operate under Tafuri’s shadow? What is the role of theory in such production? Is there a strictly “architectural” theory, or must we look to other fields of inquiry for validation? Can a critical project be built, or, is it only a “paper” project?

Can meaning be found in affect, sensation, or embodied experience?
The recent fascination with the affect of sensation is certainly connected to Enlightenment ideals of beauty and aesthetic theory. Is architecture, construed in this way meaningful, or simply relative? Doesn’t all architecture have some sort of atmosphere, intended or not? How does the interest in atmosphere relate to and differ from the fascination that architects have with phenomena, or even the longer tradition of phenomenology? This session will attempt to differentiate the issues surrounding the affect of sensation from that of an architecture of embodied experience.