Now more than ever, architecture is in need of innovation. The pandemic has made us fundamentally rethink the functioning of our cities, public spaces, buildings, and homes. Meanwhile, the recent Black Lives Matter and racial justice protests have us questioning architecture’s complicity in broader socioeconomic issues. These challenges are pressing, and we cannot put off changing architecture any longer.
Quang Truong is principal and cofounder of Polytechnica and the author of Composite Architecture: Building and Design with Carbon Fiber and FRPs (Birkhauser Architecture, 2020). Prior to founding his own practice, he worked at LEVER Architecture and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, among other firms.
There is a slide I like to show at the beginning of the architecture courses I teach that provides an overview of the last hundred years or so in design and technology. In the left column, a car from the beginning of the 20th Century (a Ford Model T) is poised over a contemporary car (a Tesla). The middle column contains a similar juxtaposition, showing a WWI-era biplane and a modern-day stealth fighter (an F-117A). In the right column, Walter Gropius’s 1926 Bauhaus Dessau building is seen next to an up-to-date urban mixed-use building. The punch line, of course, is that the two buildings—separated by roughly 100 years—look basically the same, whereas the cars and planes separated by the same timespan seem worlds apart. What is the reason for this?