Different Strategies

As educators in architecture, what can we contribute and what can we learn? Are we simply 'star architects' preparing future 'star architects' for their niche within the complexity of our contemporary architectural world, whatever that is? The role of the 'star'–how I detest this word!–has always been central to architecture, as it is to other disciplines. Some claim that architecture has been taken over by the global building business, but worldwide production by our 'stars' is like never before. They are responsible for showrooms, villas, museums, infrastructures, exhibitions, clouds, performances, books, fashion, coffeepots, and the new flag for the European Union. This niche of architects has an important presence within our society; the Berlage Institute gives them a platform for investigative work.

Some people talk about the 'problematic' position of the architect today; I disagree with this outlook. When the architect is able to generate strong ideas and strategies, there will always be clients who are interested; the rest depends on enthusiasm, quality, and chemistry. Rather than complaining about the position of the architect, we should invest our energies in discovering new directions, developing ideas, and of course building them. Working through reality, we must propose alternatives, initiate research with distinct goals, and remain receptive to the unexpected side effects discovered along the way, which often turn out to be more important than what we were looking for in the first place.

A laboratory must create a critical environment where participants and architects can focus on their work. There is a tendency at this moment for architects to transform knowledge into strong form, challenging the limits of possible programmatic conditions through reversible projects. An institute like the Berlage can give these voices a podium. It can also present, to the young architect, an opportunity to be curious about these voices, to become an autodidact, to identify a goal, map out a course of research, and, while carrying out this work, engage with different kinds of people who can stimulate decisions.

Wiel Arets, Hunch 6/7, The Berlage Institute, 2003, pp. 69-71