Teaching, Architecture and other things to practice
While architecture’s relationship with other disciplines has historically provided a good excuse to innovate and has placed architects in a different position, nowadays, because of the new economic situation, this has virtually become a need. #expoEXPORT by Edgar González stands as proof of the extent to which one begins to suspect that this situation “isn’t new anymore,” but has become “business as usual” in our trade.
However, this new “business as usual” has become a continuous source of controversy. We have the recent case of ARQUIA PRÓXIMA 2014 whose selection reflects this very well. Of course, the situation goes beyond our profession. Those of us who teach pose existential questions about the type of architecture we should be teaching future generations. And what is architecture? Here we go again! Perhaps the best answer was given by our dear Enrique Nieto. Turning to Bruno Latour’s definition in Pandora’s Hope, he asserts, “Architecture is not an immutable concept but rather something defined continuously through architectural practice at any given point in time.” Thus, Architecture is what architects are doing now. What does seem undebateable is that architects are broadening out and diversifying, though not replacing. In other words, it is hard to clearly enunciate what Architecture is as it is constantly being shaped. Here, we believe we run a great risk of importing, as simulations, these new practices into Schools of Architecture. Perhaps this owes to our inability to reproduce them, whatever the reason. Or perhaps once we have understood them, rationalised them and presented them, they are already obsolete or have been replaced by others.
In a conversation between Federico Soriano and Agustín Fernández Mallo for issue number 370 of the magazine Arquitectura, both celebrated architecture’s drift towards other disciplines. Fernández Mallo defined it as “the outskirts” of architecture, but declared, “it is a prerequisite but not sufficient.” Soriano sustained that “what is important is not the vision that removes you from the discipline. What is important is how you bring it back to your own field.”
All of this makes us, as teachers, consider a clear distinction that may shed light on the subject, a distinction between Architecture and architectural. In its relationship with other disciplines, architecture is hard to circumscribe. It is changing, indeterminate, and volatile. And yet there is something that all of these different practices have in common: the architectural, that is, what, beyond De Re ædificatoria, makes our work specific vis-à-vis other disciplines and produces architecture. Our holistic education encompassing both technical and humanistic subjects is one of our great assets. Izaskun Chinchilla, in a recent visit to the Universidad de Alicante, defined the teaching at our Schools of Architect, much to the surprise of some, as the great competitive advantage of architects educated in Spain. Whether or not this is true, is what we are attempting.
This is why, as teachers, we feel more comfortable shifting the responsibility from enunciating Architecture (with a capital A) towards the commitment to understanding exactly what architectural is, i.e. that which will enable our students to turn any piece of reality where they finally decide to dwell into Architecture.
In conclusion, we will attempt to convey what is architectural but let them define what is Architecture.