A permanent location, four evenings, four lectures of four architectural practices. TALKS about architecture, the lecture stage for architecture we have initiated, does not bother us much anymore. You could call it concise. Yet there is more behind our initiative.
To interpret this, we pick up a small gray book entitled ‘For an architecture of reality’. It was published in 1987 by the American academic Michael Benedikt. The book contains an essay written between 1979 and 1984 on the concept of ‘real architecture’. It concerns a definition introduced by Benedikt of an architecture that is ‘real’ and that revolves around concepts such as presence, importance, materiality and emptiness. The intention of Benedikt to make this booklet is in many ways similar to our intention to initiate TALKS about architecture.
‘For an architecture of reality’ is a reaction to the postmodernism prevailing in the United States at that time. Especially the work of Robert Venturi has to pay for it. In Benedikt’s eyes this architecture is ‘unreal’ because it is interspersed with nostalgic, ironic and funny references to elements outside the architecture itself. On the basis of a series of images, ‘the real’ is always put off against the ‘false’ (bad). Benedikt feared that architecture would be absorbed in the domain of the media. Architects would then become well-meaning communicators. It was precisely by staying ‘real’ that architecture could continue to distinguish itself from the media.
After reading, the essay argues for timeless qualities of architecture, in which atmosphere, light, air, texture and material form the building blocks. Qualities of which few, at least that is what we think, will deny the value. Yet at the time Benedikt apparently felt the need to hold a firm plea for it. Not by climbing the barricades, but by writing a sharp polemic and realizing a book that tries to approach his own position on architecture.
From a similar notion, in 2013 we felt the need to once again make a plea for ‘real’ architecture. Why this is necessary? Where Benedikt still rejected other views on built architecture, we respond to the gradual disappearance of architecture from the social and cultural agendas. In short: Talking about architecture has given way to talking about the process towards a building assignment. Architecture culture has also become diffuse within the domain of the creative industry. Where in the first the role of the architect is questioned, in the second the architecture itself becomes increasingly invisible. This does not require a new polemic, but a new stage. So we called TALKS about architecture alive, a beacon for ‘real architecture’.
TALKS about architecture shows inspiring practices in the countries around us. The speakers cover a large area from highly socially engaged spatial projects to architecture that seeks out and possibly crosses the interface with art. Where the essay ‘For an architecture of reality’ was an end point in a thought process, the stage TALKS about architecture forms a start for the further exploration of the values and position of ‘real architecture’ in these challenging times.
Robert-Jan de Kort and Sander van Schaik,
26 March 2015