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Are we losing ground?

An introduction to the Beyond Building dossier featured in the March 2012 issue of Architecture Australia. The dossier discussed whether the architectural community is losing ground.

Are we losing ground?

There is an increased paranoia in the architectural community that the profession is losing ground. From the recession-fraught architect of the northern hemisphere to the Australian architect who may see their share of fees and role on site decrease, the anxiety is pervading. In such a climate, architectural discourse has in recent years (re)turned to the expansion of the architect’s role into other fields: policy-making, participatory planning, education, design thinking, cultural activism and urban research. But is it called architecture?

Yes and no.


It is clear that to focus on a building as architecture – an object – is a limitation because it ignores the complex metabolism that creates the built environment. Focusing only on pragmatic and economic forces, architecture then becomes vulnerable to its own commodification, with all the fluctuations in the market that this entails. To understand the relevance of architecture to the contemporary world we have to transcend the fixation with building – we have to go beyond.

In this dossier, as an effort to move beyond buildings as our ground-zero reference for what constitutes architecture, Rory Hyde discusses with Melanie Dodd the idea that the architect’s role extends beyond the completion of a building to its occupation (and how this role is open to other people). Lee Stickells and Glen Hill also look at alternative modes of practice by reflecting upon a historical moment that opened up the possibilities of architectural education. Andrew Murray surveys the role of architectural zines today as a potential site for architectural thought.

Beyond Building also reflects upon the need to change our building culture before we even begin to design. Stephen Ward reviews the Integrated Design Commission SA in Adelaide, while Eleni Kalantidou and Tony Fry speculate on an alternative approach to the current construction boom in Port Hedland.

In addition, this dossier focuses on the necessity of talking about building beyond traditional methods of representation. Hannah Lewi and Wally Smith look at the growth of smartphone apps, while Tim Gregory and Oliver Watts walk through Sydney’s CBD to look at how one builds ideology.


The discussion about the role of the architect going beyond architecture has contracted and expanded countless times before. (In 2005 Volume magazine defined itself as going “beyond architecture’s definition of making buildings;” Aaron Betsky’s 11th International Architecture Exhibition at the 2008 Venice Biennale was entitled Out There: Architecture Beyond Building.) While it is a role that can be reimagined to embrace other people in the process of making architecture, this does not make everyone architects. Unlike the policy-maker or the cultural activist, the architect cannot only conceptualize architecture, the architect can go beyond this to make it in the material world.

This article was originally published as part of a dossier in the March 2012 issue of Architecture Australia that discussed whether the architecture profession is losing ground.



Published online: 21 Jun 2012


Architecture Australia, March 2012

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