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 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

1_Quaderns.

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?

3_Basa.

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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