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What 21st-Century Radical Architecture Is All About

What 21st-Century Radical Architecture Is All About


It was such a pleasure [at The Met] to be able to share architects in that forum whose practice might be very niche but are also very interesting and the audience was really large for that, a cross section of ages and attendees from all backgrounds. It was really cool to see how well people responded to so-called “niche” architecture, and that’s why so many of those projects are in the book. I’m trying to push them into the public realm and public sphere. These really interesting and groundbreaking ideas should have a bigger audience.

A lot of people think that larger firms or bigger names cannot do something truly radical, but that’s not necessarily true for everyone.

Yes, the second chapter is all about huge firms doing radical things. Someone like Liz Diller is an innovator, and it’s nice to have that chance to show that I’m not just talking about people right out of graduate school who are doing experimental things. I’m talking about really major forces, influential people.

Regional textiles helped inspire this work. New Andean Architecture, Freddy Mamani, El Alto, Bolivia.

Photo: Peter Granser / Courtesy of Phaidon

You mention in the book that all these works are completed projects. How do you feel that digital architecture, visualizations, and unbuilt works contribute to the canon of architecture?

The reason I like to work, in general, with things that are done is that they are exactly as intended. It is a closed book, even if it is designed to be open-ended…. I don’t think there is a hierarchy as to whether one is more profound, but the agency is slightly different. 

What would you say is today’s definition of radical architecture? In the 21st century, what do we consider radical?

One thing that I try to do is deconstruct the idea of “we.” I try and think about it from a perspective of everyone in each context and ask, Is this radical for its context? How is it affecting the exact context that it is in? All of the architects that I find interesting have that slightly rebellious questioning attitude to the built environment and integrate it. Those are the projects that I find radical.

How do you feel that 21st-century globalization has contributed to the definition of radical architecture?

Globalization in tandem with capitalism has demo’d the planet, so in that sense, it contributes because we are all facing this climate crisis. Of course, it is such a luxury to be able to access the world as one can through travel…but there is definitely a reaction to [the damage]. As you can see in the book, there are projects by firms like Atelier Masomi that use just three materials from a three-mile radius to the site. I think that is the reaction to globalization, and to COVID. I think in the future there will be more hyperlocalism in design.

So many more architects are using hyperlocal materials, which helps create buildings that inherently feel of their place. 

In Bernard Rudofsky’s text for the 1964 exhibition “Architecture Without Architects” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, he began with exactly that premise that we have to be more local. That’s another cycle, going back to the ’60s. All of these issues have been around for a long time, it’s just that other forces of capitalism and growth have dominated.



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