Robert Capa said that if a photo wasn’t good, it was because the photographer didn’t get close enough to the subject. This holds true for a lot of architecture, self-absorbed and withdrawn from the woes of an increasingly globalized, degraded, and unequal world. But the legendary Hungarian-American photojournalist’s engagement with reality is being adopted by more and more architects as the basis of a discipline reinserting itself in the context of social responsibility.
From the august US schools where she has taught – in a trajectory that led up to a chair at Harvard GSD, where she was the first woman to head the architecture department – Toshiko Mori has had the wisdom to extract conclusions complementing those drawn from her practice, and these reflections are gathered in a monograph on her recent work. The NY-based Japanese architect presents her approach to design, based on what she calls ‘observations’: not the cold stare of a scientist in a lab, but the sympathetic, speculative gaze of the architect aware of all around and open to multiple narratives.
Be it a Brooklyn library or a civic center in the Sahel region, each chapter focuses on a project with documentation showing the process’s workings, emphasizing user participation and interdisciplinary collaboration.
This oeuvre has no other trademark than the clarity of its objectives: an eagerness to understand context that aligns architecture with the challenges of our society, the better to serve it and more faithfully to portray it.