In this earnest and insightful video, NAi director Ole Bouman lectures on our shared need to “celebrate architecture’s glory.” The lecture was recorded in June 2011 at the International Architecture Festival (“FESTARCH“).
Bouman first discusses his attempts to increase public engagement at the NAi, “reinventing the role of the architectural institution.” Through interactive exhibitions and capital improvements, the reconfigured institute tries to make architecture “something bigger than life, monumental in it’s own right.” In a related sidebar, Bouman also discusses NAi’s deliciously Baudrillardian “Urban Augmented Reality” smartphone app. The program allows Rotterdammers to interact with past, present, and possible cityscapes through an innovative, crowd-sourced georeferenced photo-database. Part of the wider phenomenon of augmented reality (AR) applications, the program offers a fascinating new way for the public to learn about and perhaps even influence architecture’s role in constructing the urban realm.
The remainder of the lecture focuses on how “after the party… which we deserve so much because we work so hard,” presumably FESTARCH, ”we have to think about what is the subject matter of architecture today.” That subject matter takes the form of “ARCHITECTURE OF CONSEQUENCE,” a seven-point program for designing a healthy, happy, and sustainable future. These seven “main drivers” for contemporary architectural inspiration include food distribution, health, energy use, land use reform, time, social cohesion, and value creation. Also included in the lecture are examples of projects focusing on Bouman’s seven points.
One wonders if Bouman’s call to arms is really the wake up call it portendeds to be or is in fact a kind of concession. Sunstainability is so mainstream that there is little point in simply calling attention to new social and environmental concerns, what we really want to know now is what we can do about them. With this in mind, Bouman’s lecture is more pedagogical than didactic; the methodology Bouman discusses renders the architect subservient to causes originating outside of the field.
The small variety of projects shown as realizations of Bouman’s points derive their virtues from advances in fields where architects have little expertise or efficacy: energy distribution, the development of cultural capital, farming, and finance. There is certainly something worthwhile in helping causes to realize themselves spatially, but this leaves little agency for architects themselves. It is as if to say that there is little we can do as a field aside from to help others realize their goals, and that “architecture’s glory” is in it’s ability to serve as a vehicle for change. What does Bouman intend to say about the field itself in arguing the best ambition for architects of “CONCEQUENCE” is to serve as midwives for the zeitgeist? Any student of architectural history can agree that ours has always been a greatness with caveats; perhaps this Bouman’s way of making that point.