In our present moment, the incessant production of culture and knowledge imparts an important task to the notion of commitment. Knowledge and culture are produced in excess in institutions and popular culture, making it the impossible task of critics and scholars to sift through endless amounts of cultural material and make value judgements. Partly a consequence and a cause of a shift in thinking that began in the 1960s and 1970s, a phenomenon that could be called a democratization of production (of narratives, images, cultures) has had some positive effects for the civil rights movements, leading to the inclusion of underrepresented demographics into fields that were previously hostile to them. However, the consequences of the Postmodern debunking of universal truth (that was necessary for and produced by such a shift in thinking) has carried with it the accompanying erosion of the concept of morality. The last decade has seen a further dismantling of the universal notion of “truth” and its effects in politics—note the great difficulty for contemporary politicians to convincingly assert that something is morally correct and necessary. The statement that “truth is subjective,” once a great tool to undermine the dominant grand narratives of the past, is now freely used in the name of individual freedoms, often without assessing the morality of such freedoms.
Our Stance: Our interest with PLAT 9.0: COMMIT in the context outlined above hopes to reinstate the concepts of responsibility and morality as important elements in the design and production of architecture. This should not directly lead one to think strictly of public housing and humanitarian architecture, for although morality is certainly tied closely to the production of those modes of architecture, that is not the realm where responsibility and morality have been necessarily lacking. Neither should morality be thought of merely as a representational problem—a symbolic image of morality. Instead, it should serve to embed a mark of responsibility into architectural decisions. At the level of design, when architecture produces excess material, it is not enough justification to claim it as part of an internal formal process. At the level of architectural observation, to be committed entails moving beyond stylistic distinctions between buildings. That is to say, rather than approaching an observation based solely on questions of style or of image, one should consider the ways in which shapes, formal gestures, or even constructional elements enter into existence with a clear mark of responsibility; those elements that enter into the built world without a mark of responsibility run the risk of becoming excess material.
The Submission Prompt: To commit is in itself an ambiguous proposition, for it is a verb that can precede any action, without an inherent morality. In other words, the morality or ethics of commitment are determined by what is to follow, by what one is to be committed to. This entails the need for a judgement prior to the decision to commit. Commitment presupposes a certain grounding in morality in order to avoid legitimizing a free-for-all mode of working.
To be direct, commitment isn’t indifferent. PLAT 9.0 asks: How can one navigate the current landscape of malleable truths while serving the needs of real human beings? Can the determination of commitment help to recover the social aims of Modernism that were so dependent on truth and morality? Have Modernism’s undelivered expectations led, perhaps unfairly, to its wholesale rejection? PLAT 9.0 wants to hear your thoughts on this timely topic. We are interested in solutions, antidotes, rebuttals, or stories of present, past, or future; benefits and shortcomings of absolute truths; seriousness; the universality of social needs; domesticity; architecture and the climate crisis; duty; austerity, necessity, and comfort; affect and the victory of the subject; freedom for the architect versus freedom for the user; honesty; pragmatism; capital; private versus shared; and much, much more.
Send PLAT your essays, projects, case studies, interviews, oral histories, fictions, drawings, anecdotes, etc. We welcome submissions from non-architects thinking seriously about architecture. Abstracts of approximately 250 words and images are due December 20, 2019. Complete pieces are welcome, though they should be delivered with an accompanying abstract. For initial submissions, image and video files should be reduced in size to accommodate an easy transfer. Materials can be attached or linked. Email submissions and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to hearing from you. Follow the work at platjournal.com and @platjournal.
TitlePLAT Journal 9.0 Call for Submissions
TypeCall for Submissions
Submission DeadlineDecember 20, 2019 12:00 PM