The architecture that has historically been identified and studied as “architecture” is essentially representative architecture: the architecture of big, expensive, official projects. Those types of projects are few and far between, so the moment soon1 arrived when there were more architects than jobs. It was then that architectural representation and architectural critique became instruments of power, vehicles for placing chosen forms of architecture and, more importantly, chosen architects in the minds of sponsors who could afford them.
Opposition came later, in the shape of publications with very small circulations. It was (note the past tense) a minority opposition. The only weapon it possesses (note the present tense) with which to impose its criteria is time. That’s the situation we find ourselves in today. For now.
It’s just that now the boot is on the other foot. Official publications have tiny circulations in comparison with their opposition, which, thanks to the new channels of communication, can now reach out for the first time ever to large audiences. It’s a case of hundreds of thousands versus a few dozen–the few dozen that have the money. Take, for example, the present-day budget of an architecture journal and compare it with the production cost of a YouTube video, a blog post or an Instagram Story.
And then compare the impact of the two initiatives.
The political intrigues associated with publications, critiques, conferences and face to face events remain unaltered. But now, the architect serving the “establishment” has no clothes on. He continues to do the same thing, but lacks the projection those official channels of communication used to give him. And on the other side there are people with messages to convey and with a virtually free medium through which to convey them, people whose bold, fresh, entertaining anti-academicism takes the world by storm and is responded to only by arrogance and snobbery.
Consider the youtuber Ter, for instance. Nobody even knows his real name, and yet he’s become the most popular architecture commentator in Spain. Figures don’t lie. Ter is so charismatic that one of his videos is more influential than, say, the latest FAD Award for Opinion and Critique2. Ter has criteria. His own criteria. Not long ago that criteria would have been invisible because Ter would have been rejected by the media outlets capable of communicating his ideas. Now, those conventional channels are no longer an obstacle. Ter’s capacity to communicate allows him to not only steamroller them but consign them to total insignificance.
And so it goes on: while postmodernism reigns supreme in the sophisticated journals, it’s a much more material, truer to life architecture that prevails in the social media. There we find initiatives like Lunes Brutalista (“Brutalist Monday”), Miércoles Enladrillado (“Brickwork Wednesday”) and countless profiles offering everything from collections of academic articles to articles written ad hoc or simply photographs posted without any filters on Pinterest: blogs and websites that slowly subvert the conventional canon by expanding its scope and presenting a wide spectrum of architectures to choose from, each one contextualised through little stories and anecdotes and researchable, with a little effort, directly on Internet. The capacity of some social media users to exchange information with seekers of these architectures and to curate their own content has pushed journals and publications off their pedestal of pre-eminence (or exclusivity), turning them, at best, into just another resource.
The longer official publications take to correct their tendency to autism, the bigger the gap will be between officially communicated architecture and the architecture the people want. It’s as simple as that.
Notas de página
Sometime around the Baroque period, let’s say.
Anyone with half a brain would give Ter the next FAD award without his even turning up.
Arquitecto por la ETSAB, compagina la escritura en su blog 'Arquitectura, entre otras soluciones' con la práctica profesional en el estudio mmjarquitectes. Conferenciante y profesor ocasional, es también coeditor de la colección de eBooks de Scalae, donde también es autor de uno de los volúmenes de la colección.
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