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October 2011, 1376. Volume CCXXX

Catherine Slessor

Reconnecting architecture with its core purpose, the relaunched AR offers critical thinking for critical times. Read this issue here

This issue of the AR marks a new chapter in its long and distinguished history. It is not a cosmetic redesign, but a considered and comprehensive editorial relaunch, intended to offer critical thinking for critical times. Paradoxically, despite the immense advances of technology, humankind still finds itself confronting a series of potentially insurmountable crises. The prospect of ecological doomsday is well rehearsed, but heaped upon this are global economic meltdown, an alarming shortage of resources, the apparently unstoppable growth of cities and a wildly burgeoning population. By the end of this year there will be seven billion people on the planet. How can architects even begin to frame coherent responses to such issues?

Therein lies the problem. Now more than ever, the profession is in danger of becoming a supine and marginalised freemasonry, with architects reduced to the status of obliging set dressers to politicians, potentates and carpetbaggers. The dolce vita excess of the Noughties was a smirking triumph of style over content, a false featherbedding that has been abruptly stripped away. So what now?

In a media climate increasingly in thrall to the shallow and superficial, there is a clear need for a renewed and serious engagement with architecture and all the issues that affect and sustain it. From the napkin sketch to revisiting key historical moments, the new AR will provide intellectual sustenance and stimulus across the full scope of architectural production, aimed at reconnecting architects with their core purpose of transforming human life for the better.

Critiques of major new buildings are still at the heart of each issue, but new sections will enhance and expand the AR’s agenda. Theory will intelligibly reconnect the disparate currents of architectural discourse with professional concerns, inaugurated by a salvo from leading academic Anthony Vidler, who presents the first in a trilogy of articles who presents the first in a trilogy of articles analysing the quest for a unified theory of architecture. Revisit will look well beyond the catwalk moment of building completion to examine how notable projects have fared over the years. The fate of Park Hill in Sheffield is an especially instructive paradigm for today’s planners, sociologists and architects.

Pedagogy is a unique new focus on how leading schools teach architecture, an issue of crucial importance to the profession’s future. Broader View invites leading thinkers from other disciplines to share relevant insights. And from next month we will publish readers’ letters, and invite your critical response to this and future issues. Polemics need to be tested by contradiction, so get in touch.

Over its 115-year history, the AR has been part of the remarkable trajectory of modern architecture. and as we move forwards, we are conscious of the responsibility that comes with being stewards of such an important architectural institution. We hope that you will delight in and draw inspiration from the AR’s new phase, and take part in its evolution.

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