Power – Double or Nothing

This semester’s iteration on power hints at the architect’s position within society. From impotence to omnipotence and back. The “power” of the architect is all too often misunderstood and reduced to something as unproductive as ‘good taste’. Perhaps the sole relevant feature of architecture within society is its capacity for political ethos. This praxis fully depends on the architect’s mastery of the art of political risk taking and policy whispering. A mandate which can’t be given or granted: it is a self-proclaimed critical position defined by the architect himself. It entails a pro- active and unsolicited attitude, pre-empting the brief in order for architecture to set new political standards for the sake of a visionary baukultur.

One of the most infamous risk-takers and policy whisperers was the French architect Fernand Pouillon (1912-1986). This ambivalent master-builder managed to vigorously recompose the discipline’s basic components into a “Système Pouillon”, a scrambling of design, lobbying, deal making, financial calculations, engineering and just-in-time building. As a result he built faster, cheaper and bigger than any of his peers. The true effect of his Pouillonism however is that for a brief moment architecture got pulled out of its protected cultural seat and was thrust into real- time politics and policy making. For better or for worse.

For the Spring Semester 2017 we want to critically revisit this Pouillonism in the light of contemporary socio-economical urgencies. Our semester’s testing ground will be Luxemburg, a seemingly generic mini-country that is to double its population from 600.000 to 1.200.000 by 2050, so far without any real spatial-political plan on the table. A unique chance to activate the architectural project in an unsolicited manner, well before any rule has been set in stone.

 

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