Architecture never goes entirely according to plan. Every project deviates from its designers’ expectations, and wise architects learn to anticipate, mitigate, and sometimes celebrate the errors along the way. Perspecta 46 argues that error is part of architecture’s essence: mistranslations, contradictions, happy accidents, and wicked problems pervade our systems of design and building, almost always yielding surprising aberrations.
Architecture exists in the public sphere and is the product of collective work and knowledge. Yet the defining boundaries of the discipline are often contested. Architects can and often must embody a spectrum of characters in their practice: politician, artist, physicist, entrepreneur. Likewise, a building is the nexus of multifaceted economies, legislations, and information systems. Since "architecture" has become a metonym for increasingly distributed persons and practices, how--and for whom--do we establish its domain?
We are beset by unspoken rules. As a result, we learn to find consensus in nots and to seek refuge in don'ts. A taboo is a restriction invented and agreed upon by a social group that maintains stability (disciplinary order) but also induces transgressions (the possibility of an avant-garde). Taboos structure our thinking and frame our discussions. In architecture, taboos create an operative way of thinking about and making architecture through unspoken agreement.
The Grand Tour was once the culmination of an architect's education. As a journey to the cultural sites of Europe, the Tour's agenda was clearly defined: to study ancient monuments in order to reproduce them at home. Architects returned from their Grand Tours with rolls of measured drawings and less tangible spoils: patronage, commissions, and cultural cachet. Although no longer carried out under the same name, the practices inscribed by the Grand Tour have continued relevance for contemporary architects.
Contemporary architecture is in many ways a monstrous thing. It is bigger, more broadly defined, increasingly complicated, more costly, and stylistically and formally heterogeneous—if not downright unhinged. Not only is the scale of the built environment expanding, but so is the territory of the architectural profession itself. A perfect storm of history, technology, economics, politics, and pedagogy has generated a moment in time in which anything seems possible. The results have been at times strange and even frightening.
This edition of Perspecta, the oldest and most distinguished student-edited architectural journal in America, investigates the transformation of capital cities in the era of globalization. This redevelopment, renewal, and recycling of the urban landscape--termed by the editors as “Re_Urbanism”--takes place as capital cities try both to cater to an influx of global capital and to reassert their roles as symbols of national sovereignty. Re_Urbanism investigates this process from an architectural perspective.
Architecture has always been intimately intertwined with its social, political, and economic contexts; major events in world history have had correspondingly dramatic effects on the discipline. The Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Hurricane Katrina, for example, were all catalysts for architectural response and resulted in a diversification of the architect’s portfolio. Yet far too often, architects simply react to changes in the world, rather than serving as agents of change themselves.