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The Recession: The Latest Architecture and News

Tiny Houses: Downsizing The American Dream

In the wake of the housing crisis and Recession, the "American Dream" of a super-sized home in the suburbs has lost its appeal; today, it's the "tiny house" that seems more aligned with America's readjusted ideals. Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller, a couple out of Colorado, are just one example of people taking the "tiny" leap - they began the construction of their 124 sq ft. home back in 2011, and their journey has been documented in a new film called "TINY: A Story About Living Small," which premiered on Al Jazeera America last Sunday.

Law May Render Architects Unnecessary in Spain

As if architects in Spain weren't struggling enough - what with the Crisis closing half the country's studios and putting over 25% of Spanish architects out of work - a new law could now render Spanish architects effectively unnecessary.

A preliminary document reveals that, if passed, The Law of Professional Services (LSP) will modify labor regulations in order to allow engineers, or really any one "competent" in construction, to take on the work of architects:

“Exclusivity is eliminated. Architects or engineers with competency in construction will be able to design and direct projects, including residential, cultural, academic or religious buildings. [...] If a professional is competent enough to execute one building’s construction, it is understood that he/she will also be capable of executing other kinds of buildings, regardless of its intended use.”

Unsurprisingly, Spanish architects have risen up against the law, mobilizing both physical protests as well as social media campaigns. Even Pritzker-Prize winner Rafael Moneo has offered his opinion on the matter...Hear what Moneo has to say, after the break...

7 Reasons Architecture (As We Know It) Is Over

Steve Mouzon, a principal of Studio Sky and Mouzon Design, is an architect, urbanist, author, and photographer from Miami. He founded the New Urban Guild, which hosts Project:SmartDwelling and helped foster the Katrina Cottages movement. The Guild's non-profit affiliate is the Guild Foundation, which hosts the Original Green initiative.

Architecture has changed irreparably in the past decade, but those who know how to adapt just might find themselves in a far better place in a few years. It has now been 8 years since construction peaked in 2005, nearly 6 years since the subprime meltdown, and close to 5 years since the big meltdown that really kicked off the Great Recession.

Today, it appears that construction is finally beginning to pick back up, but it's too late for architecture as we knew it. Here are seven reasons why...

Why The Recession Was Long Over-Due

Why The Recession Was Long Over-Due - Featured Image
Courtesy of Flickr User CC Donna Grayson

Yesterday, we featured an article by Yale faculty member and AutoDesk Vice President, Phil Bernstein, about the increasing opportunities for architecture students graduating in 2013. Today, Scott Simpson, a senior fellow of the Design Futures Council and co-author of the books How Firms Succeed and The Next Architect, offers his perspective on our recovering economy, and what it will mean for architects in the future.

Simpson starts off by putting the Crisis in perspective: "From 2008 to 2011, the profession took a tremendous hit, both financially and in terms of lost intellectual capital. The old way of doing business is not coming back, nor would we wish for it. [...] Rather than complaining about tough times, let’s start with the realization that many of these changes are long overdue." 

After reviewing what the Recession has meant and what we can learn from it, Simpson makes one final, and empowering, claim: "For those willing to take up the challenge, there has never been a more exciting time to be an architect."

Read all of Simpson's article, which originally appeared on DesignIntelligence, after the break...

The Recessionary Interviews: Spain's Manuel Ocaña

The Recessionary Interviews: Spain's Manuel Ocaña - Image 4 of 4
Manuel Ocaña. Photo © Manuel Ocaña.

The Recession has provoked a variety of responses – disillusionment, frustration, woe. For those not inclined to wallow, however, it has also provided ample time to reflect on (and, if you’re Manuel Ocaña, rip apart) pre-Recession society.

In our Recessionary Interviews, we talk to architects living and working where the Crisis has hit hardest. Last week, we spoke with architect Luis Pedra Silva, who offered us a realistic, and yet optimistic, take on the state of architecture in Portugal.

This week, on the other hand, we bring you an outlook more incendiary than optimistic. Manuel Ocaña, the controversial Spanish architect behind the Manuel Ocaña Architecture and Thought Production Office, is far from impressed with how his home country has handled its economic boom and bust. “Spain,” he says, “used to be a sexy, fit and energetic country. Envy, inferiority complexes, greed, arrogance and pride soaked it in fat. It is currently suffering from moral obesity.”

More on Manuel Ocaña’s take on Spain, including why Spanish architects are no better off than Vampires (or, worse still, MacDonalds employees), after the break…

The Recessionary Interviews: Portugal's Luis Pedra Silva

The Recessionary Interviews: Portugal's Luis Pedra Silva - Image 2 of 4
Luis Pedra Silva.

When Pritzker-Prize Winner Eduardo Souta de Moura faces unemployment in his own home country, you know things must be bad.

Due to the dissolution of its Parliament in 2005, Portugal has been in economic slow-down even before the 2008 global Recession set in. Factor in the Recession, and Portugal’s staggeringly weak economy rivals even Spain’s, making Portugal – along with Greece and Ireland – one of the EU’s “crisis countries.”

For the first of our “Recessionary Interviews,” we spoke with Portuguese architect Luis Pedra Silva, of Pedra Silva Architects, who gave us a first-hand account of the situation, the Darwinian mindset he’s been forced to adopt, and his (he’ll admit) stubbornly optimistic belief that Portuguese architecture, which boasts a particularly plucky history, will survive this crisis to the end.

Read the Complete Interview with Luis Pedra Silva, after the break…

After the Meltdown: Where does Architecture go from here?

After the Meltdown: Where does Architecture go from here? - Image 10 of 4

You can get into Architecture for one of two reasons: good architecture or bad.

For Cameron Sinclair, the co-founder of Architecture for Humanity, it was the latter. As a kid, Sinclair would wander his rough-and-tumble South London neighborhood, contemplating how it could be improved (and creating elaborate Lego models to that effect). Instead of soaring skyscrapers or grand museums, he was inspired by buildings that “integrated your neighborhood in a way that made people feel like life was worth living.”

But that’s not Architecture. Or so he was told when he went to University.

Architecture Schools have created curriculums based on a profession that, by and large, doesn’t exist. They espouse the principles of architectural design, the history and the theory, and prepare its hopeful alumni to create the next Seagram Building or Guggenheim.

Unfortunately, however, the Recession has made perfectly clear that there isn’t much need for Guggenheims – certainly not as many as there are architects. As Scott Timberg described in his Salon piece, “The Architectural Meltdown,” thousands of thousands are leaving the academy only to enter a professional “minefield.”

So what needs to change? Our conception of what Architecture is. We need to accept that Architecture isn’t just designing – but building, creating, doing. We need to train architects who are the agents of their own creative process, who can make their visions come to life, not 50 years down the road, but now. Today.

We’ve been trained to think, to envision and design. The only thing left then, is to do.

More on the public-interest model and the future of Architecture, after the break…