This is my first stand-alone issue as Midwest editor of The Architect’s Newspaper. For those of you who have been following along, I have been in this position for around four months. In that time I have been writing, meeting, and talking about architecture with a wide range of practitioners and academics in the Midwest and beyond. And though I came to the paper with strong positions on many architectural subjects, I quickly found that to be a voice for a particular field or a particular region, I would have to do more listening than talking. What I have been hearing the most is that though the industry is finally recovering, many architects have concerns that reach far beyond just building.
“Saving architecture” can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people. To some it means literally saving our built world, either from demolition or simply disrepair. Perhaps nowhere has a more sordid past with this concept than Chicago. The list of seminal buildings that have been razed sometimes feels as though it will overtake the list of those that still stand. Large swaths of Chicago are interlaced with the level of disrepair one would never expect in a modern city. Yet at the same time, there is hope. With Marina City’s recent landmark designation architects around the world can breathe a sigh of relief. On
the South Side, the Sweet Water foundation is transforming a handful of old abandoned buildings into aquaponic fish farms, creating highly productive sources of food and community.
The other saving architecture is the architecture that serves. And perhaps there is no bigger debate in contemporary architecture than the discussion of who and how architecture serves. In the Graham Foundation’s current exhibition, Architecture of Independence: African Modernism, we get a look at architecture so grand, it is charged with nothing less than defining the independence of post-colonial Africa. In our last issue we spoke with Cynthia Davidson and Mónica Ponce de León, the curators of the U.S. Pavilion for the Venice Biennale. Though they have no illusions of architecture being the ultimate problem solver, this year’s entire biennale is particularly focused on just that. This month, we speak with Detroit Resists, a group that is intent on challenging the architectural system it believes is having the very opposite effect of saving anyone.
This discussion will surely continue as long as there is architecture to be saved and people who could maybe use more architecture in their lives. I am very interested to hear what you, our readers, think about all of this. And I’m even more interested to hear what you think is important that I might be missing.