Christian de Portzamparc: “No One But an Architect Can Solve the Problems of the Contemporary City”
I tagged this article from Arch Daily in the entry about Omaha and its Highways, but I do think it warrants a post. In this interview he ponders a few topics that seem to be very relevant to the purpose behind this blog and the moment in time that we are in as architects/ designers. He talks about his process and ideas, but really this is insight into an approach to architecture that I think is missing in most. Defining architecture is very important to start the conversation. To me, architecture is more of a process and less of a physical thing. It is a way to think about problems and manifest solutions in the physical world (ex. buildings). Architecture can quickly become "plug and play" and that not only impacts the quality of work, but it also hollows out the "why". Christian talked about questioning architecture in this interview..
"I thought the city of the future would be designed by sociologists and computers. Houses would be assembled in factories, people would buy what they like, and sociologists would assemble them. Why would you need architects then? It would all become like a living process, just as Archigram and the Metabolists envisioned. That’s why I was losing interest in architecture. I didn’t want to become an engineer to assemble these plug-in cities."
And these questions lead him to futher questions about the "why"...
"I was still searching and constantly asking this question – what is architecture for? And I thought that an architect who is not asking this question is not an interesting architect. You have to understand why you do what you do and how useful it is. What is it that makes you passionate artistically or sociologically? Once you understand this, you have a chance to be understood by others"
I think it is very important to continually question architecture's place in society, definitely when technology evolves as fast as it does. I refuse to believe that being an architect is just doing a service for a client and moving on. That may seem like the classic idealistic statement from a naive masters student, but if we can start to really rethink the process of designing a space within towns and cities architecture can start to impact again. Currently it feels like there is a desire in practice to just check boxes and move onto the next project. Architects generally are talking one talk (progressive, spontaneous, and innovative) but walking another (standardized, safe, and repetitive). This is not everyone, obviously, but there seems to be an accepted process which might be out of the architect's control that has taken over. I think this blog and research will continue to ask that why and how to use architecture and design differently within the future context of the city.
"And I never stopped perceiving space as an artistic medium. I understood that no one else but an architect could solve the problems of the contemporary city."
Lastly Christian talks about the power of architecture within the contemporary city. I want to be clear, its not an ego that makes me believe this, it is our education and skill set. Somewhere during the past couple decades urban design and architecture split and for some reason struggle to be talked about in the same realm now. A building can be constrained by a site, but no project's potential impact on the city and its people should ever feel constraint.
Belogolovsky, Vladimir. 2017. Christian de Portzamparc: “No One But an Architect Can Solve the Problems of the Contemporary City”. July 7. Accessed July 8, 2017. http://www.archdaily.com/875329/christian-de-portzamparc-no-one-but-an-architect-can-solve-the-problems-of-the-contemporary-city.