Assistant Professor of Architecture and Urban Design
Prof. Dr. Alexander Lehnerer
Department of Architecture
HIL G 74
8093 Zurich, Switzerland
The City as the Critical Project of Architecture
Ever since architecture discovered the city as its domain, there has been a critical and fruitful debate regarding how these two relate to one another. One is clearly always part of the other, is comprised by the other, sometimes contained in the other. At least the city and architecture always condition one another. The city is the one big project of society and therefore naturally challenges architecture as a cultural project. The productive and intellectual impetus of the inconclusive negotiation between the two lies exactly in the confrontation of the individual with the collective, text with context, the political with the planned, and the autonomous with the cultural. These dialectical moments of inquiry outline what the discipline of architecture has described as a third typology, an architectural project that operates between two seemingly contradictory states creating friction that leads to alternative and subversive outcomes.
This search for a third typology has led us to investigate collective form and its physicality as a result of historical and contemporary processes, as well as projective/speculative conception—at a scale larger than a building and smaller than a city. The methodological analysis of collective form includes comparative observations, critical commentary, and the search for strategic tools that can be employed to simultaneously shape and understand our built environment in order to produce specific public qualities as cumulative effects. The results are thematic formats that can be read as critical discursive urban projects, both as research and pedagogy, but never obliged to only one single scale.
In this third typology, between the big and the small, theory and project, sign and object, the speculative reality of architecture develops its truly striking potential.
The individual research projects are conducted within three disciplinary modes of inquiry: the history of architecture, the mediums in which architecture communicates, and architecture’s disciplinary versus cultural concerns. Within this research framework, the chair searches for examples, narratives, rationales, and manifestos of how architecture is both a product of as well as an influential force behind the form and culture of the world’s infinite anthropogenic fabric.