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As the year comes to a close, we open our website to exploration, looking back at a rich and varied selection of independent architectural criticism to introduce some of the features you might have missed from the past year.
In February, we started the year with a crash: however the Failure issue was not about bad buildings or tragic collapses, but about masterpieces that have fallen from grace or otherwise conceal thorny backstories, about dilemmas of preservation, and about what we might do with structural, systemic, or ethical failure. Keller Easterling wrote the keynote, considering that – in a crisis of capitalism, engaging with failure could unveil a new global geography of value.
This attention to the end of things, to afterlives and alternatives to implosion, continued in April with the Ocean issue and in September with Money. The looming threat of rising sea levels, and the reality that capitalism and the hunt for constant growth is what is killing us, show the need for us to see how we might do things differently. As the Oslo Architecture Triennale opened in September on the subject of degrowth, curators Phineas Harper and Maria Smith asked how architecture can redefine the value it contributes to society, and shift to promote degrowth: you can read more from the Failure, Ocean and Money issues, plus other essays on degrowth here.
In March, we revisited a conversation from 2018 in which we had started to examine the complex and multiple relations between architecture, sex and gender, seeking to go a step further to break out of binary gender divisions and broaden the remit of our agenda to question the established framework we continue to evolve in. Jack Halberstam considered how bodies and the worldly constructs they dwell in are built and unbuilt, undone, and remade, arguing that ‘we must destroy both the woman in the building and the building in the woman’.You can read more essays on building and unbuilding gender, sex, and sexuality here.
Regular features have continued to provide different lenses for us to view paticular ideas. Since 1955, Outrage has reappeared at various moments as a recurring feature, and from 2015 has maintained a position in every issue of the AR, as a continuing campaign against the most egregious of architectural misdeeds. In July, Catherine Slessor warned us of the corrosive impact of house porn, sluicing salaciously through every media outlet, and in November, Charles Holland wrote an indictment of blind praise bestowed on the ‘vernacular’.
Tom Wilkinson has continued his Typology series, over the course of the year embarking on a full assessment of five building types from power stations to palaces. In Reputations, we have featured Oscar Niemeyer, Minnette de Silva, Minoru Yamasaki and many more, and we feature Retrospectives including Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Peter Barber and Grafton, looking back at a full body of work to see these buildings as part of a tradition or evolution.
As our June issue took us to the islands of Ireland, we featured a story of the city of Cork by Kevin Barry as well as an analysis of how Belfast’s planning has been formed by and also flamed social divides by Mark Hackett. Both joined our selection of city portraits: stories of the city that tell us about the wide, complex fabric in which architecture sits. Brazil was the site of our October issue, featuring MMBB and Paulo Mendes da Rocha’s SESC 24 de Maio, a Revisit of Pedregulho designed by Affonso Eduardo Reidy in the 1950s, and Guilherme Wisnik unravelled the symbiosis between Brazil’s architecture and its music. For more about Brazilian architecture, click here.
Of course, well beyond this year, the digital contents of our vast archive are open for exploration: investigate past Reputations on Charlotte Perriand, Richard Neutra or Lina Bo Bardi, read our Revisits of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67, Roosenberg Abbey by Dom Hans van der Laan or Aalto’s Paimio Sanatorium – or head straight to the archive to dig through older pieces that we have posthumously uploaded from print. In our Periphery issue in May, alongside the publication of 6a Architects’ MK Gallery we uncovered Peter Buchanan’s searing critique of Milton Keynes from September 1980. After all, like its subjects, criticism also has its own fashions and fancies: here, over 120 years of architectural writing are ripe for the rifling.
Everything will be open to registered users until 2 January 2020 – after which you will still receive three free articles a month and will be able to sign up to our newsletters of curated content. Registration is free, and only takes a minute: join us today