Theory Duet: Axel Sowa + Ricardo Devesa

Today’s theory duet focused on the re-postioning of architecture and architecture theory in the contemporary society, in particular through the editorial experiences of Axel Sowa (Candide) and Ricardo Devesa (DC Papers).

Axel Sowa spoke first, with a 5 part presentation revolving around 5 different re-positions in architectural theory history relevant to understand today’s re-position. The division in 5 parts was not a casual choice, as Candide itself is divided into 5 sections: Analysis, Essay, Project, Encounter and Fiction.

But before starting with the 5 parts, Axel spoke briefly about the concept of Re-positioning…In Architecture, theory often deals with the origins, or the myth of this discipline, Architecture Magazines offer a break from this means of dealing with theory…

1_Re-postionaing materials and the making of Architecture.

With industrialization in the 30s architecture is in some way marginalized and therefore is forced to re-postion itself with respect to industrial production. In a way, the Advanced Architecture of the 30s was cast-iron Architecture.
Two main magazines of interest of this period, that both depict this situation well: The Builder, presented in a weekly paper format, that aimed to create a community in which to share knowledge in a neutral way, presenting a new idea of building professional knowledge for architects in the form of a trade magazine; and Le Génie Civil, that, in its first edition, presented the Ecole Centrale, a school that provided its students with a new idea of empirical knowledge.

2_Re-positioning the Future.

This is clearly based on the idea that there is a future, linked with the ideas of making plans, a key element to architecture, which is in some ways a kind of utopian element. Here Axel spoke about Esprit Nouveau by Le Corbusier, a man who built himself as an architect using the media. He was a networker. Le Corbusier presented a 3D version of his magazine, the ”Pavillon de l’Esprit Nouveau“, at the Paris Exposition des Arts Décoratifs of 1925. He produced this pavillion as a space projected towards the future, but also a space to advertise his magazine.

3_Re-positioning Affinity.

After the 50s, the first period of modern architecture, a series of “family magazines” that is a magazine based on a network of friends. The magazine becomes a sort of family album, a form of elective affinity, such as Team 10 (Smithson) or Archigram. The later has a very playful relation to the media, preenting the idea of the family as a kind of instant pleasure, there is no tolerance for the long run.

4_Re-positioning the Discipline.

Here Axel spoke of his experience at L’Architecture D’Aujourd’hui where they reconsidered the discipline in a moment in which the star system was starting to flail, focusing on which might be the problems of the next 20 years, such as: Financing, presenting a research on what you can obtain for 1000euro/m2 around the globe; or aging, Europe is an aging continent, how do people live in their space, and how one can make design inclusive…

5_Re-positioning Knowledge.

In this moment Axel invited us to think about the position of journals and magazines in our time, and also to reflect on Architecture theory…is it a science?

For Axel Architecture theory is: first of all an encyclopaedic discipline, rooted in literary traditions and customs; it is constantly evolving; as an academic discipline, it can not rely on commonly accepted methods; and it stimulates curiosity and engenders the construction of questions.

Candide is a direct reference to Voltaire, and even more so to its full title Candide: or, Optimism…Axel is still optimistic, and considers theory crucial in order to produce sound objects.

Ricardo Devesa began his presentation with the Wikipedia definition of Architectural Theory (, then asking us to reflect on what it means to build up theory from an architectural magazine. He developed his position through 4 editorial experiences.


Every issue was a different topic revolving around contemporary issues. How do we theorize…through current projects, a conceptual theory frame, links with other disciplines…

2_Verb, Architectural Boogazine.

What is the best way to show and write about a project…photography and manipulation, or extra information added, no longer using common photographic techniques…What does the building mean to the consumer?


How can we theorize a context, like that of the Canary Islands…How to understand an ultra peripheral territory? How to study this touristic architecture in a cultural way? Why does this architecture work in this context? Through photographs these questions find their answers.

4_DC Papers.

A more scientific academic approach…

In the end the 4 experiences define 4 positions, that can be related to the positions proposed by Axel: Quaderns re-positions the future, Verb re-positions affinities, Basa re-positions the discipline, and DC Papers re-positions knowledge.

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