Arts and Culture  Opinion 

Letter from Basel

What Should Architects Do?

Jacques Herzog   /  Source:  Domus

Dear David,

You ask me what we architects should do about the unmistakably impending environmental catastrophe. About social inequality. About poverty. About the degradation of this planet’s resources. About the pandemic, which has placed us in an almost surreal mode that begs description. All of which is being managed by political leaders, whose cynicism and absurd actions put the Marx Brothers to shame.

Dear David, the answer is: nothing.

Or do you know of any moment in the history of architecture in which an architect contributed to the decisive issues of society? Architects have always kept company with the world’s mighty. They built palaces, temples, stadiums, entire cities. For the most part in the spirit of the times, and rarely as an expression of renewal and change.

Can architecture actually change anything? Or anticipate anything? For example, in the art world? In my own experience, Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall was an innovation, inviting not only a different audience but also a new kind of art production and presentation that transcends the traditional format of an exhibition space. Artists devised an entire and utterly immersive universe. They were no longer just visionaries; they were able to create whole universes of their own invention. The architecture had given them the platform and the parameters to do so. That may have been audacious because no one knew if it would work or if artists would want to make use of the space. In a way, it was a response to what people were asking at the time – what’s next? – at least with respect to the art world. The Turbine Hall was an answer and offered the potential of a spectacular, unprecedented museum experience...[+][+]

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