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We are pleased to announce the publication of the twenty-sixth issue of Scroope: Cambridge Architecture Journal, on the theme of apologia.

This issue of Scroope is devoted to stories of apologias in the context of architecture and spatial discourses in all their interpreted forms. We called out for and received apologias as reckonings, as attempts at reconciliation, as diversions, as declarations, as veiled or open criticisms, and as manifestos.

The range of contributions has proven the theme to be both timely and plastic. The apologias, although varied in medium and key concern, seem to coalesce along a series of sub themes, including apologias with pedagogical considerations, personal standpoints, historical readings of design and designers, the material natures of and in public space, the power of the image, the acts and activations of creative practices, and the poetic imagination.

Contributors include Anthony Vidler, Wendy Pullan, Ross Anderson, Peter Armstrong, Michael Robinson Cohen, Glen Hill, Claudio Sgarbi, Neil Spiller, Rowan Moore, Jonathan Weston, Luke Kon, Theodora Bowering, Jessie Fyfe, Maximilian Sternberg, Susan Seung-Ok Whang, Alex Young-Il Seo, Pushpa Arabindoo and Regan Koch, Amy DeDonato and Miroslava Brooks, Irit Katz, Anca Matyiku and Chad Connery, Peter Carl, Daniel Norell and Einar Rodhe, Federica Goffi, Benjamin Taylor, James Horace Vertigo (Roger Connah), Tom Heneghan.

For a preview please download a sample of the journal here.

To order a copy of Scroope 26, as well as previous issues, please e-mail the Scroope Editorial Board at scroope@aha.cam.ac.uk.

 

Editorial Preface

Theodora Bowering and Jessie Fyfe

apologia

apəˈləʊdʒɪə / from apologos πόλογο / a story

In the rhetorical practice of apologia, the orator stands to face an accusation, to clarify their position, earn vindication and regain acceptance. When written, apologia is an offered defence, a justification of a belief, of an idea, of motives, convictions or actions.

This issue of Scroope: Cambridge Architectural Journal, is devoted to stories of apologias in the context of architecture and spatial discourses in all their interpreted forms. We sought and received apologias as reckonings, as attempts at reconciliation, as diversions, as declarations, as veiled or open criticisms, and as manifestos.

The aim was to encourage a conversation between those engaged in discussion and argumentation about current architectural practices as well as those offering retrospective and projective theoretical and critical interrogations.

Storytellers from across disciplines were invited to consider apologias in the context of teaching, thinking, imagining, practising, representing and experiencing architecture. We called to all those at play and active in the expanded field of architecture, including history, theory, critique, culture, urbanism, and beyond.

The range of contributions has proven the theme to be both timely and plastic. The apologias, although varied in medium and key concern, seem to coalesce along a series of sub themes, including apologias with pedagogical considerations, personal standpoints, historical readings of design and designers, the material natures of and in public space, the power of the image, the acts and activations of creative practices, and the poetic imagination.

Framing her pedagogical approach at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge, Wendy Pullan urges those engaged with architectural research to take a stand and defend the discipline’s unique position from which to theorise. Anthony Vidler, in an edited transcript of his ‘homecoming’ lecture ‘Apologia for a (Belated) Return’, interrogates the need for architecture schools to engage, again, with the ‘history of our present questions’ in his personal and historical account of academic practice and its legacies from 1960 to the present day. Remaining within the Cambridge pedagogical trajectory, Peter Carl, once a graduate student of Vidler, reflects on the influence of his colleague, Dalibor Vesely, whose views on the role of culture in architecture influenced generations of students (including the contributors Pullan, Sternberg and Anderson).

Moving beyond Cambridge, Arabindoo and Koch offer a defence of the field of urban studies through the teaching of the Urban Studies Master of Science programme at University College London, where the methods of teaching articulate and challenge the divides between theory and practice. Brooks and DeDonato offer a different perspective on curriculum and practice from that of Arabindoo and Koch. Coming from experiences in North America and the United Kingdom, they remark on a divide, or gap, of another kind, critiquing how the growing lacuna between the costs of an architectural education and potential earnings of graduates are leading to an over emphasis on practice-based skills.

Ross Anderson, Peter Armstrong, Michael Robinson Cohen and Max Sternberg’s contributions share a historical reading of architecture in the early twentieth century and in so doing each argue for the inextricable role of the social and cultural in readings of the spatial. Anderson critically reflects on Albert Speer’s attempt at self-defence, as found in his prison diaries and his lesser known Atelierhaus design. Armstrong presents a retelling of Bruno Taut’s Modernist interpretation of the Katsura Palace and the complicity of the Japanese in Taut’s curation. Cohen questions issues of housing and the conservativeness of architecture through a theoretical lens and his Master’s studio project, Palazzina, at Yale University. Sternberg examines the role of the Gothic, and the Gothic cathedral in particular, in animating the avant-garde’s socio-spiritual aspirations and manifestos.

Three articles make more open manifestos of their own. Claudio Sgarbi encourages architects to consider the productive, necessary and fertile exercise of apologia in acknowledging regret for their limitations. Offering a more personal apologia, Rowan Moore reflects on his own path and the particular role and challenges of an architecture critic. Neil Spiller takes the position that the drawing of endless and unrealisable projects are critical to the practice, teaching and imagining of architecture.

Federica Goffi and Norell/Rodhe’s Daniel Norrell and Einar Rodhe each consider apologias for the material in public space. Goffi argues for the humble detail found in the handrails of Venice and urges us, when designing, to resist the banal functionality of rising restrictive safety cultures. In Stockholm, Norrell/Rodhe defend the vitality of the forgotten public object with their project Dead Ringers and suggest a specific concept of figuration that challenges preconceptions about public space in the modern city.

The apologias of Benjamin Taylor and Jonathan Weston each address how the manipulation of language and image in representations of the spatial can act to obfuscate realities. Taylor reveals how political positions are concealed apologias in the planning language of the Green Belt around London, and act to maintain control over its existing condition and ongoing development. In examining the ubiquitous use of the architectural visualisation in the design process, Weston reveals its claims to finitude and perfection. To counter this false notion, Weston offers instead an apologia for the imperfect and incomplete, for the ‘poorly-rendered’ drawing.

The atmospheric installation, Stones of Teeth, by Anca Matyiku and Chad Connery presents a layered apologia. It is in part a reflection on their creative research process, demonstrating the fragility of designer agency, as well as a proposed defence for the generative force of literature in their practice.

The iterative nature of the creative process is at the centre of two conversations with the architectural researcher Luke Kon and the visual artist Susan Seung-Ok Whang. Kon, in his research on the Olympic mega-projects in Rio de Janeiro, used a map to consider the many boundaries of his site, embedding it with knowledge which continues to unfold unapologetically. In discussing her work, Whang challenges the view of a creative product as fixed and offers, instead, the countering forces of embodied iterative practice and continuous self-reflection that lead her to a transformative practice.   

Through the unapologetic use of the poetic imagination, contributions by Irit Katz, Glen Hill, J H Vertigo (Roger Connah) and Tom Heneghan encourage us to respond to their spatial tellings in a different way. They narrate swallowed villages, the power of shoes, the parts unknown on maps, and calls of mechanical birds, each taking their positions in lyrical form.

As Editors-in-Chief of this issue of Scroope, we have had the opportunity and privilege to engage, and ask others to engage, with how spatial practitioners and their practices affect the world. Through the editorial processes of invitation, dissemination, selection, (re)assemblage and curation we recognise that we have set a series of parameters for this discussion. There are many modes and media with which to make a stand, take a position, apologise, and recognise complicity and wrongdoing. This journal is but one offering.

Our editorial apologia is for this ancient rhetorical device to continue to instigate, provoke and inspire.