From Carmody Groarke to EXYZT, recession can inspire young architects
Out of adversity comes creativity. Thatâ€™s the spin that many architects are putting on this particularly vicious recession â€” one thatâ€™s hit their profession more than most.
The last time anything on this scale happened was when the oil crisis of the early 1970s brought the great postwar construction boom to a halt.
Perhaps the biggest collapse then was in New York, where the cityâ€™s fiscal crisis ushered in the â€œdecaying cityâ€ backdrop to classic films of the period such as Taxi Driver. Yet out of New Yorkâ€™s decline came punk, disco, hip-hop â€” and guerrilla gardening.
The cityâ€™s building slump left thousands of abandoned plots. By 1977 there were 15,000 vacant acres. About the same time, Liz Christy, a Lower East Side artist, began laying down topsoil with her neighbours on a local derelict site. Block by abandoned block, they moved across the city, planting cuttings, or lobbing in balloons stuffed with peat moss and wildflower seeds. Thirty years on, New York has 700 neighbourhood gardens, more than any other city.
The same spirit of countercultural activism spread across the Atlantic in the 1970s. Derelict plots in Covent Garden became home to countless temporary uses. Many were masterminded by students from the nearby Architectural Association, at the time a hotbed of creatives such as Rem Koolhaas and Zaha Hadid, and now part of the Establishment.
The 1970s recession, while tough, gave enough breathing space to rethink architecture completely, ushering in the wild shapes of todayâ€™s â€œiconicâ€ architecture. Exactly the same spirit of creativity returned in the recessions of the 1980s and 1990s, and looks set to return again today.
This downturn could be a boon to young architects on the Cheesegrater site shortlist. It gives them the chance to strut their stuff cheaply. Recently the French architectural activists EXYZT created the Dalston Mill, a bakery complete with its own wheatfield, on a derelict plot in East London. Another young team, Carmody Groarke, created a much-lauded temporary pavilion behind the British Museum last year. If weâ€™re lucky, this recession, for a whole new generation, could turn out to be very rewarding.
I subscribe to this when some of the bigger practices cut unprofitable but concept driven team members in a downturn they can be free of commercial constraints, the purists amongst their number never get a handle on cost but for some they really do learn to balance real talent with market constraints. It is hopefully time to see some young turks lead to a gradual changing of the guard.
- PVC King
they can be free of commercial constraints
Letâ€™s be realistic, most young architects, that are qualified architects, have spent their twenties in college amassing debt, and then doing their part 3s for less than an unskilled laborer. Now in their 30's they probably have a mortgage in the region of â‚¬300k - â‚¬450k, they certainly won't be free unless there's some grant or sponsors out there that I haven't heard about that pays at least â‚¬40k+?
It is hopefully time to see some young turks lead to a gradual changing of the guard.
No worries of that, pre-quals in government work, even decent private work now, and an established predictable pool of interchangeable, competition / award winners and jurors will keep the establishment plodding along and the young setting sail away from Ireland and from Architecture. Less competition I guess?
I can't remember where but a comment about a young upcoming Irish practice quizzed whether their design ability could "scale up" to larger projects, and that they'd really be interested in the firm "going" for something more challenging. Anyone who's actually embarked on attempting to form an architectural practice, will probably laugh at the naive arrogance of such a statement, but to rebuke such, well you could probably use the A1 plotter for your presentation rather than the A3, but scaling up your turnover to qualify to "have a go", well that's not so easy!
This might seem very negative to some, but I make no appology, it is way past a time for a positive can do attitude, its a time to be angry and rattle the slumbering. I've heard of one young practice that won serious international awards (awards that would be remarkable achievements for any practice, sorry I don't feel it would be right to give their name, although I believe many reading this will guess to whom I refer) that has recently folded as they simply cannot qualify for work. And what's on offer for young architects thanks to our in touch and concerned institute? Oh, yea, design a poster competition! No turnover required!
Let them eat cake!!!
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I don't think that one can take post tiger Ireland as being part of this wave as it generally tends to focus more on global hubs such as New York, Sydney or London and these types of projects rarely get going prior to the first green shoots of recovery being well established.
The conditions required to make it happen are a market past trough and a client who had planned a commercial scheme being able to access only moderate but tangiable finance to instruct a rough diamond project both in terms of materials and design team.
I have no doubt many of the starchitects in 10 years time will be the turks who have the nuts to go out alone and the luck to meet clients that put sufficient faith in them to depart from postcode fit out cost norms; in a Dublin context something like the the loft conversion at Sir John Rogersons Quay done in the early 1990's for Principal Management would be a prime example of a historical delivery of something just a little different in terms of renovation as opposed to conventional demolish and standard new build.
- PVC King