Newcastle Station Clock

Newcastle Station Clock

Sunday, 19 February 2012

RIBA RIBA on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Archiendo has always had a "soft spot" for our icon spawning friends at Zaha-Parametric Banana- Hadid architects. However having just read an article recently published in the Architectural Review by one of her leading Parametric Monkeys (Patrick Schumacher) I felt myself nodding my head in agreement to almost every pleonastic word that he put down on the page.

"Architecture can be as much a catalyst for progress as innovations in science...However, I doubt if the invention of other worlds as arenas for innovative design is the way to achieve this"

He was of course referring to the RIBA silver medallist this year, Kibwe Tavares and his 'Robots of Brixton'. There is a big problem with the architecture that RIBA's student medals have been rewarding over the last few years. From ship building machines to buildings made from aromatic gas and even one that had a Multiple Form Disorder and mistakenly thought it was some sort of giant violin in a quarry.
   Don't get us wrong, these projects often have a very well considered subtext hidden beneath their complex metaphor. They tackle every issue from social unrest with immigration to the devastating effects of mining on our landscapes. It all just seems like a very unclear and roundabout way of telling us about it.
   It is like the pointless task of trying to describe a banana to your boss by telling them it's like a sock full of sweet butter with brown bits in, when actually they are perfectly aware what a banana is. The convoluted and bizarrely abstract way Kibwe communicated his message on immigration was insane. His frolicking and drug taking robots were an unnecessary strain on the poor digits that had to run around his superheated Mac circuit boards painting his utterly superfluous scenes all those dystopic colours. Funnily enough, architecture doesn't have time to make such videos when there are buildings to be created and it never will. 

So what should architecture students be doing with their precious two years of creative post graduate freedom? Perhaps encouraging more ethical problems to be approached would be a noble move.  Architecture students en masse could be striving to create bold new solutions to solve the issues around energy and waste, these being the two most pressing global catastrophes we are hurtling towards. We are all disappearing into our own gigantic WALL-E world of super rubbish mountains surrounded in air so brown and thick you could practically spread it on toast like marmite. Is that future not dystopian and morbid enough to satisfy the oddly depressed brain of the Part II architecture student? If RIBA were to award more sustainable projects with their highest accolades perhaps we would all stop striving to create time wasting renders of disastrously unrealistic worlds and instead start trying to design architecture that will actually save the world.


  1. Lots of sustainable projects in the "real world" are closed down because they to not have a enough funding or publicity - for example the earth centre. Unless the Government changes its ways and focuses on funding projects then yes part II students who focus on sustainability should rewarded however at this present time their projects will not be practical. With the way the economy and world is going at the moment, the world will fall into despair and become a dystopian society. People who are close minded have a distinct view on the world. It is only when these types of projects come along do you realise that their is much more to mankind than you can begin to comprehend

  2. Brad - There is certainly a degree to which student projects act as an important, unrealisable avant-garde of sorts. The responsibility of the "real world" to use architects' time to produce viable buildings will always prevent it from socioarchitectural commentary, a void which is effectively filled by architectural education.

    I read with great interest the link you posted, and the ensuing responses, and I thank you for bringing it to my attention. However, in my opinion the majority of that discussion focuses around some of the minor detail's of Patrick Schumacher's article. As such the argument seems to be whether the projects in question exist either on the fringe, or well outside of what architecture is/could be. There was one comment which made an impassioned case against Schumacher's main argument - however it was laced with such aggression and sensationalism that the integrity of the opinion was strongly diluted.

    There are a number of issues where Schumacher and I do not see eye to eye and I would love to be able to disagree with him once again - but as I put it to AC when we first discussed this, here Schumacher is being unreasonably reasonable. I can't see a strong argument that this 'robots of brixton' style project is beneficial to architectural education.

    As a piece of filmography, however, I am still undecided.

  3. Totally agree with extRORYdinary, "I can't see a strong argument that this 'robots of brixton' style project is beneficial to architectural education", either. Enough with these projects, lets go back to what architecture is/has been/(hopefully) will be.