Yes, space has too long been a fetish that the field of architecture has carried around without truly understanding or explaining its relevance. It is true that, in today’s society, architecture must begin with strong image and form. It is also a fact that, as I have long argued, we should not confuse the fact of building with architecture, which is what is about building, and is thus immaterial.
Furthermore, I believe that, if architecture is going to have a place in a society marked more and more by continual change, movement, and uncertainty, what it can contribute is exactly the making of anchors within ephemerality. It can give us something to hold onto, something to recognize, something that can make us feel at home. Yes, we need strong form. And it would be nice to have something we can believe in.
Where I disagree with the WAI-ers (who, though respectively French and Puerto Rican, are based in Beijing, itself a mark of the social, economic, and cultural sprawl we all inhabit) is in their concentration on the purity of form and the primacy of what they call “shapes.” They appeal to “pure imagery embedding in the Collective Unconscious.” That is where things turn into mystical flailing, as far as I am concerned. If architecture is going to produce forms that work, both in an everyday and in a social or even ideological manner, those productions have to be so subtle and complex, so full of intimations and possibilities, that they will not be used up by use, will be able to drink in changing conditions, and will offer an alternative to what we think we know through the manipulation of the familiar.
So what do the these architects mean? They elaborate their statements with a series of object-types. They are clever compactions of current and past types: “horizontal condensers,” which are basically buildings with bridges; “stacking boxes,” “blow-up fonts,” a kind of talking architecture; “steel clouds” where parts of buildings cantilever beyond the shaft or support; “Malevichean towers,” that are pixelated objects; “Ziggurat-Polis, or artificial mountains; “Inverted Pyramids; and “The Loop,” much like the CCTV Tower.
So do these forms answer the hardcorism call? Not quite, in my opinion. Taken together, they form a good compendium of the most evocative forms out there. They are too complex, too derivative, not abstracted enough, and not inevitable enough to convince me. I look forward to something truly hardcore.