Short Report on the Conference section "Architecture and Communication"

By Nold Egenter

Titles and subtitles





  • In his introduction Kenneth Frampton railed against the electronic info-explosion which he considered totally inadequate as a means of architectural representation ("new barbarism"). Then, monologically, he discussed his list of what one (he) would like (or not like) in regard to architectural magazines. His list reached from the rather elitarian 'Architectural Review' ("Oxbridge", "God, history and landscape design"), 'Domus' ("anti-exhibitionist, but not antimodern") and his own "phantasy publication" down to boulevard-types like 'Hochparterre' and the magazine 'Non-Age' ("advertisements define quality"). There were some critical remarks ("iconographic crisis in architecture") or anecdotes ("I don't care what they say unless they spell my name correctly", Philip Johnson) which shed some lights into the domain. At the end the presentation laconically pointed to Habermas: "belief in reason" and "undistorted communication" (Don't use the Internet!)

  • The titles of the two following sessions touched a hot topic: architecture and two-dimensionality. What happens in all these processes in which projects and plans are oscillating between zero-, two- and three-dimensionality? What does it do to the building in relation to its inhabitants, to the architect and to architecture in general? Has this become an autonomous process not consciously realized by architects and urbanists anymore, but which shows tremendous impacts in regard to diffusion of styles and forms as well as in shifting the architect's views away from his basic function, namely to build for human beings? Is it this relatively easy 'designability' which moves him towards a bold, but humanistically empty design? There were some sarcastic hints to such problematic questions. For instance "architecture only exists if printed", (Laguillo), or "architects know architecture mainly through photographs. Only 1% is seen in reality", (Capella). Or, " the photograph makes things visible", but "falsifies reality" (shown in relation to Barcelona Pavillon). But, unfortunately, the importance of the topic was not realised.

  • A remarkable aspect of this conference section was the surprising flexibility between titles and content (Often they did not fit at all!). But this, of course, has to do with the particular milieu of architectural thought. "The critique confronted with the professional changes" was another interesting session title with the subtitles "The new role of the architect" and "Power and influence of the media in the mechanism of the market?" Miguel Adria ('Arquitectura') spoke gently and pragmatically about the good conditions which made his plant grow on Mexican soil. Jean Paul Robert talked about the survival history of 'Architecture d'aujourd'hui' and complained about the 'closed economy' of architectural journals ("architects should move out of their ghettoes", "should open their horizons"). Evidently the rather luxury professional (fashion-)press contributes essentially to keep this "ghetto" well-fenced!

  • Similarly Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, former editor of 'domus', in the session "New territories of exploration". He spoke about his past decade of experiences with this journal and outlined the ideal editor("deep respect for architecture"). Main message: touch the architect with kid gloves! He meant e.g. that the critique of an architect's oeuvre should appear separated from the explanation of the buildings!

  • Jannie Rodermond ('de Architect') spoke about the market ("worldwide capital flows"). Architects are too much involved in creating their own image. Many community works in the 70ies allowed architecture of the 80ies the luxury to"reinvent its own discipline". Times are changing, socially and economically. The role of the users and problems related to the city will be the dominant new questions.

  • Is it really so nice to live in suburban slums? Catherine Slessor ('The Architectural Review') was of the opinion that slums might offer valuable human conditions for its inhabitants! Very likely she has not enough professional formation in cultural anthropology to be able to understand what a slum really means in terms of social and cultural uprooting! For the rest too one had doubts about her message. "We are simple"! Maybe not the best recipy to solve the highly complex problems of today.

  • François Chaslin (ex-editor 'Architecture d'aujourd'hui') described the recent history of postmodernism with literary brilliance. "Avangarde" abolished! "Progress"? Done away with! No future! Just adapting to "non-linear" turmoils. But there are other post-modernisms: 'neo-traditionalism', protection of the heritage. Within these tensions Chaslin gave a pointillistic image of recent artistic movements. Hint: Charles Jenks is interested in "Chaos Theory"! Anyways, if one would like to see something printed of this conference section, it would be Chaslin's contribution.

  • Strongly contrasting with Framptons 'menetekel'-fears regarding architecture on CDs and Internet, Peter Rumpf (Director of the Editorial Board of the German 'Bauwelt') outlined Bertelsmann's new Internet program entiteled "The building online", a tool of communication for architects and their clientele. And, beyond its complementary functions: doubtless also a new competition for classical journals. Maybe also a hope: away from the (post-)modern picture-book communication.

  • These were just some short highlights from the Conference section "Architecture and Communication". Evidently not on the level of what one would expect from an architectural "World Congress". Daily bread informations! You could get them much much cheaper, buying some architectural journals in the nearby architectural bookshop of your hometown, whether in Australia or China, or Japan, or North- or South-America or elsewhere!
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