Chair, Department of Architecture, GSD, Harvard University, Cambridge MA, USA
After a focused exploration on the research about “design for social impact” (vol. 1, no. 2), we return with this issue to an articulated set of investigations on a variety of topics. Yet, connections among the contributions are many, both within the issue and with past issues.
In fact, Andreea Mihalache’s essay is ideally related to a couple of essays previously published on the TPJ (vol. 1, no. 1, by Paul Holmquist and Pasquale De Paola), as it continues to unfold the conversation on architecture’s “critical call” – a conversation that we intend to continue to foster through our journal also on future issues. Mihalache’s central argument (“ ‘critical architecture’ belongs as much to the territory of judging, as it belongs to the realm of imagination and invention”), intriguingly developed through a triangulation between Saul Steiberg’s “visual sociology,” the Khrushchev/Nixon “kitchen debate,” and one of Bob Venturi’s early works, becomes also a launching pad for Franco Pisani’s “dialoguing review” of Marco Frascari’s posthumous book, just recently published (Marco Frascari’s Dream House. A Theory of Imagination, 2017).
The narrative style of Frascari’s theoretical elaborations, refreshingly revisited by Pisani and suggesting the possibility of a new humanism for architecture, ever more necessary at a time of rapid technological advancement, is echoed by Will Alsop’s fascinating story of a place (Las Heras, Northern Catalonia, Spain). Part sentimental journey, part preservation project, part educational experiment, intertwined with provocative theoretical reflections, Alsop’s article shows us once more the importance of narration in architecture.
Surprisingly resonating with similar suggestions is the perspective offered by Serra Akboy-Ilk on measured drawings, discussed (using anthropologist Clifford Geertz’ lens) as “thick description” of the complexity of meanings, procedures and protocols that one would not typically associate with that particular practice and technique.
A complexity of socio-cultural meanings and influencing factors for the design process is also at the center of Luigi Vessella’s discussion of a particular program type (the prison), architectural expression of an institution very much in need of reform, rethinking, and re-envisioning. Vessella’s argument obviously relates also with the questions presented in our past issue on “design for social impact.”
Broadening the scale and the disciplinary field of architecture, we offer also two examples of “reflective practice”: a multi-scalar approach to an urban architecture of transport infrastructure that aspires to become an integrated hub for regional development (the new FVG airport in Northeastern Italy by Giovanni Fraziano, Claudio Meninno and their team), and a thoughtful exploration (by Elisa Izquierdo Garcés) at the intersection between architecture and landscape design, for a visitor and research center in the “extreme” territory of the region of Aysen in Southern Chile. In particular, Izquierdo Garcés’ research circles back to “the question of place,” raised in the opening article by Alsop’s narration, and it shows us, once again, how a site (paraphrasing Mario Botta), through design, can become a place.