"Dear Architecture," writes Craig L. Wilkins, "I’ve been wondering why you don’t speak to me. Is it because you don’t see me? Are you ignoring me? Maybe it’s because you really don’t care for me; but whatever it is, you sure don’t. Speak, that is. At least, not to me." In his winning entry to 'Dear Architecture', a competition initiated by Blank Space (of Fairytale fame), Wilkins describes misgivings through the lens of a disenfranchised city dweller, illustrating a missed connection felt by one resident towards his surroundings.
Conceived as a tangent to Blank Space's series of whimsical architectural Fairy Tales, 'Dear Architecture' has, above all, provided a welcome opportunity to those most intimately acquainted with the profession to vent frustrations and voice concerns. Reviewed by a 17-person panel including archictects Fernando Romero and Diana Balmori, and ArchDaily’s co-founder David Basulto and executive editor Becky Quintal, the selection represents a smattering of opinions from architecture's biggest names, emerging voices, and relative newcomers to the field.
With the goal to begin an all-encompassing dialogue on architecture, Blank Space founders Matthew Hoffman and Francesca Guiliani-Hoffman chose a medium conducive to meaningful reflection – the letter. "They [letters] encourage us to make demands of architecture; to keep it on its toes; to express wishes as to what its future should look like and what its concerns should be; to declare our love for it, our hate for it, our neutrality towards it," say Hoffman and Giuliani-Hoffman in the book's opening statement. "The letters congratulate architecture on its accomplishments, and criticize it for what it has become."
The submissions read like a compilation of emotionally wrought architectural headlines. "Architecture—you are a victim of globalization. You look the same in China as you do in Alabama. You have mastered the game of imitation. You have mastered the game of importation," writes Seth McDowell. "You’re nothing more now than a mailbox for the mailman, a quick buck for the toupéed, and storage for the rest. What used to be your best qualities have been systematically targeted to fade away, and the only thing that remains is a private way of thinking about you: wistfully, in the past, and no longer now," write Shane Reiner-Roth and Kyle Branchesi. As if composing a poem, Miran Jang and Helen Levin write: "Does architecture know cycles? Buildings are designed for the extreme condition, the highest load, the fastest wind, the coldest day, not the subtlest, or the gradient in between."
On women in architecture, second prize winners Vershaé Hite and Brittany Eaker Kirkland conclude: "We need women architects, and women architects need change. I haven’t given up on you yet, architecture, but we have a lot of work to do." By contrast, honourable mention Ekaterina Dovjenko feels optimistic for the future of the practice of architecture: "Infinite to finite, ideas in my head take the forms of arches and columns, vistas and walls. Structure winds its way behind the simple lines of my pencil. That’s all they are after all: simple lines that can change the world."
"Dear Architecture" 2015 contains 130 original letters and is now available for purchase online. Get your copy, here. The book is, until the 15th December 2015, selling at a reduced price of €15.
Cover illustration by Irena Gajic.