AR

AR138 – Margins

The latest issue of AR, ‘Margins’, is on newsstands now. Editor Michael Holt gives a summary of the latest architectural insight, interviews and projects behind the cover.

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The transferability of the term ‘margin’ is under investigation. It is assumed the profession is experiencing a false consciousness that disables any possibility of a disciplinary position being formed. In Preview (published in Residential) I queried in ‘a profession with no margin for error, where is the room for manoeuvre?’ As architects we are hemmed in, claustrophobically unaware of our own inevitability.

We are no longer aware of the external, exploitative assertions impacting on daily practice or pedagogy; indeed, the very notion of formulating an argument or ideological stance leaves many architects or academics marginalised – architecture is on society’s margins. However it is evident that a manifesto will not suff ice alone, but the engagement of the discipline to seek to ask questions rather than to repeat answers is paramount; and yet questions can only come when the disciplinary parameters are determined.

‘Margins’ can be edge conditions, boundaries, exile, pedagogy, profit, positions, constraints, risk, or the overbearing spectre of Modernism lurking as a marginal note on contemporary practice. The profession needs to better self-critique, to engage in a discussion between practitioners, academics and students. It is an obligation. Criticism should not be viewed as a pariah, it should be cultivated. In AR138, four reviewers – Anthony Burke (AB), Marcos García Rojo (MGR), Marissa Looby (ML) and Eva Franch I Gilabert (EFG)– have each added their commentary to the content, offering multiple opinions as critique in marginalia.

Architects must take ownership of the economic and political forces impacting on practice, we should be more in tune and establish new ways of procuring and producing architecture. In one of the feature articles, ‘The machine that makes land pay’ (p030), Clare Sowden discusses the transactional values of the business of architecture and the business of speculative development, outlining the relationship of housing, debt and the economy as a matter of ‘life and debt’ – enforcing the link to the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 in regard to real estate speculation. While in On Trial (p024) Juenan Wu observes the work of little-known Cambodian architect, Vann Molyvann, whose work holds a distinctly Corbusian sensibility. An architect once lauded then later exiled during the Khmer Rouge regime, he has since faded from collective consciousness.

Stephen Loo in the In Conversation article (p094) addresses the need for greater intuition in academia, noting that ‘universities need to develop an understanding of where architecture sits within an economic paradigm and the differences between the profession and academia within the knowledge economy’. And, in one of three interviews, Barry Bergdoll (p022) suggests we need to step beyond conventional barriers and attempt new types of interdisciplinary collaboration, allowing architecture to be seen as signifi cant in the design process. While, secondly, Ben Hewett (p028) demands practitioners show vision in both pragmatics and practice, engaging in strategic positioning to infl uence policy decisions. Finally, and intriguingly, Camilla Block (p034) believes that Modernism still holds significance, even though it may purely be aesthetic and not ideologically driven – Modernism, it seems, is very much in marginalia.

And playing on the Modernist mantra, ‘less is more’, Austin Williams outlines that the contemporary discipline lacks the Modern Movement’s clarity of purpose in the feature article, ‘Less is less’ (p036). Examining Modernism as a standpoint, Williams attests that ‘back then a vision was positive. The future was viewed with anticipation, unlike today when it is more likely to be viewed with trepidation.’

Notable project reviews include Scenic Architecture Off ice’s Huaxin Business Centre (p052), Zaha Hadid Architects’ Wangjing SOHO (p068) and Woods Bagot’s Deakin University Burwood Highway Frontage Building (p076). Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology, UTS by Denton Corker Marshall, a project fi rst published in AR133–Contrasts as Under Construction, returns here as a full project review (p044); while our Under Construction feature in AR138–Margins is the Kaohsiung Port and Cruise Service Centre by RUR Architecture (Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto, p018); and, the issue is fl anked by a revisit to the annual Residential edition in POSTVIEW (p006) and a look forward in PREVIEW AR139 (p098). And, to celebrate Architectural Review Asia Pacific’s launch in China, Austin Williams’ ‘Less is less’ has been translated into Mandarin (p040) for this issue.

Michael Holt

Editor, Architectural Review Asia Pacific

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