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Act/Respond: Notes on Curating a Critical Architecture

Part 1 Dissertation 2003
Viktor Jak
London Metropolitan University, UK
This dissertation deals with theories regarding urban interventions and how to relate critically to given contexts. Initially this text investigates and criticises the 1980’s architectural ‘Ism’, Critical Regionalism, through looking at two key texts by Alexander Tzonis and Leane Lefaivre and Kenneth Frampton, and attempting to re-formulate ways to construct a contemporary critical architecture. This is done by examining similarities between the professions of the Curator and the Architect, and the possibility of introducing some well-chosen ideas from the former to the latter practice. As both are sort of self invented professions, Curators and Architects could possibly have a lot in common as both vocations straddle the delicate situation of being in-between professions. Curators being in between artist and client/user and the architect being in between builder and client/user, successively they both share the same agony of probable redundancy. Comparing these vocations, could architects maybe adapt something from their sibling profession? I believe so, and the conclusion establishes three main ideas on how one could devise a responsive and yet proactive critical architecture. Firstly, the idea of critically curating given factors; secondly, the suggestion of process instigation; and thirdly the proposal for an engaged long-term managerial and curatorial role. Finally, speculations and suggestions for implementation of curatorial practice in architecture are presented.
Viktor Jak

This asks to be judged differently from most dissertations in that it reads like an act of making. The work is original in intent and execution and it is grappled with as a real idea. The aim is to rethink the way we practice architecture and identify a role and attitude that has a lighter and more responsive touch. The student thus sets out the slight but unmistakable shift that might accompany this idea of practice, one he has nominated ‘curating’.

What is offered as evidence is discursive journey through an impressive and unexpected range of references and examples. The journey is inflected by the notion of ‘critical’ as derived from Critical Regionalism and thus the commitment to honouring the particularities of contexts. What curating rather than conventional practice of architecture might allow is a more open attitude to the new, to experiment, creativity and engagement, rather than the parochial eternal return that shadows ‘Regionalism’. Through the less portentous activity of curating the social and cultural milieu can be worked with as something at least as critical as the tectonic, and the future as something at least as interesting as a past and present to which it might, nevertheless, be related.

It is a pleasure to read a dissertation that is clearly related to a design agenda and yet makes cogent use of the qualities of thinking and resources offered by history and theory.

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