Dark Side Club - a salon for conversation

Individual Curators Propositions

Yael Reisner

26th August 2010

The troubled relationship between architecture and beauty.   

Those outside the architectural profession often perceive a building to be brilliant for the aesthetic experience it offers. And yet bizarrely, from the advent of modernism architects have invented a multitude of strategies to absolve themselves from making visual judgments.

The prevailing impersonal nature of 20th century architecture resulted in the consistent reduction of our profession’s complexity; where cultural, artistic, poetic, or metaphysical aspects were questioned too often while rationality, economy, utility and technology were always deployed.

Objectifying the design process by enhancing its cerebral input and reducing the role of personal intuition eventually led to a lack of confidence in how much intellectual depth could be captured by intuitive architectural imagery.

The ‘eye’ in particular, as a tool of judgment, was trivialised along with the subjective ‘I’ and only ever used as a secret, un-discussed and often concealed weapon.

The modern usage of ‘aesthetics’ meaning taste or ‘sense’ of beauty ties the term to personal attitude. Architecture with no personal visual discrimination, deprives people of an emotional environment: since if there is no emotional input there is no architecture that touches people’s emotions. Moreover, personal expression is always eventually a reflection of our culture and therefore not as purely subjective as it is often accused of being.

Now more than ever before it is our creative role to bring a new beauty to cities, and to substitute alienation with a wider pallet of emotions.

Bjarke Ingels

27th August 2010

Urban Evolution / Sci-Fi-Urbanism  

Paradoxically urbanism – that deals with the future – is often obsessed with the past. Since the monumental failures of the heroic master plans of high modernism, urbanism has taken refuge in simulating what happens when no big plans are made. The topic for the dinner conversation is to attempt to align urbanism with science fiction. In the definition of Philip K Dick, Science Fiction is not a space opera nor a story from the future. It is a story where the plot is triggered by an innovation – cultural, economical, political or often technological. And the entire story becomes the intellectual pursuit of all the problems and potentials of that innovation. Having recently explored in collaboration with AUDI the potential impact of innovations in personal mobility on urban space, we would like to hear your thoughts on how technological evolution, scientific break throughs or social innovation could impact our future cities.

William Menking and Aaron Levy

28th August 2010


‘Architecture for architects’, Paolo Portoghesi remarks in our Architecture on Display project, ‘is wrong, and it breaks the continuity of architectural history. Architecture is not for architects; it’s for the public.’ His 1980 Strada Novissima was his attempt to present a different way of connecting modern architecture with history and the public.  Portoghesi was arguing that with architecture there is always the possibility of direct communication between people and architects, between people and architecture.  His desire to create a popular exhibition is one legacy of his exhibition and has defined those that have followed.

And yet, when one looks back today on the 35 year history of the Venice Biennale for Architecture, it is apparent that nearly all the curators believe that they have succeeded in connecting to this public.   Hans Hollein, for example, has remarked that ‘My biennale was the first one that had a new audience.’ Both Burdett and Sudjic have argued that their presentations were aimed at bringing the conditions and experiences of architecture to the general public. Aaron Betsky and Kazuyo Sejima have focused on the work created by the perceived avant-garde if only to frame it for public education and consumption.   The Biennale exhibitions that work best, president of the Biennale Paolo Baratta argues, are the ones that are the most cinematic and entertaining.

It is hard to disagree with the aspiration to connect to the public, and yet it is also the case that the public often has the impression that the Biennale is precisely not for them. If we think back upon the historical tumult of the socio-political tumult of 1968, can one truly say that the Biennale has ever been interested in or intended for the public?   How well the Biennale has navigated this perennial tension this year and in past years is the subject of this final Dark Side conversation.