GAM 11

Editorial

Petra Eckhard

Following the flows of international venture capital, publications situated to capture the attention of the media through spectacular design and glowing documentation of realized building projects are a reliable indicator of the respective regional accumulation of capital, as Kenneth Frampton has noted.[1] It still remains unclear as to what effects this development in architectural publishing will have on the future production of architecture. The new poetics of realestate capital, as articulated in high-gloss publications and accompanying the sensational visual material of its built objects, has radically altered the meaning of written discourse on architecture. Nonetheless, even in this expanded sense, the validity of Rem Koolhaas’s observation remains that all architectural programs are preceded by a text which makes it possible for the design to take form. “The words,” according to Koolhaas, “unleash the design.”[2] However, their meaning is currently being subjected to a fundamental shift: atmospheric impressions are replacing conceptual arguments, or critical reflection thereof, more and more frequently. This causes the system of public evaluation and critique so immanent to architectural discourse to become watered down, a system in which architecture in fact assesses itself and, in the process, uses its critical analyses of the present to also arrive at conclusions about intentional future developments.

This precarious situation has inspired GAM.11 to take a current inventory of architectural writing practices and to ferret out new forms that harbor the potential to replace the dated ones. If Beatriz Colomina is right in her assertion that “[w]riting in architecture is a form of architecture”[3]—and who would wish to question this?—then it can surely reinvent itself at any given time. Against this backdrop, GAM.11 is particularly concerned with the question as to which specific architectural writing forms and practices, kinds of texts, and means of expression have an innovative impact on contemporary architectural discourse, and which experimental forms and formats lend themselves to inspiring or newly articulating progressive, design-related access to our built environment.

The first section of GAM.11Ascriptions—is dedicated to two different functions of architectural writing: one related to the furthering of architectural production, and the other to writing as indispensable for the development of architecture and its autonomy. The introductory contributions by Friedrich Achleitner and Pedro Gadanho make clear how the medium of writing, in many different ways, is capable of ascribing to architecture a spatial, temporal, and cultural context in a literal sense. This is achieved by designing, capturing, and ultimately communicating to readers perceptions of space, utilization scenarios, or narrative approaches. At the same time, the texts compiled in this section thematize ascriptions, in their further dimension as evaluation and criticism, that assess architectural production in competitions, public discourse, or scientific analyses. The contributions and cases studies illustrate how writing provides architecture with an essential technique for further development, one that, however, requires frequent renegotiation in terms of its cultural frame of reference. Rebecca Damron and Tom Spector devote their essays to the satirical function of captions, which in their sphere of activity—blogs—leads to new ways of critically exploring architecture. The fact that polemics has long been an effective strategy of architectural writing is also substantiated by Martino Stierli’s analysis of Rem Koolhaas’s theoretical classic Delirious New York, with a rhetorical role that has proved essential in sparking a new self-conception for architects. Finally, in the contributions by Manijeh Verghese and Mélanie van der Hoorn, the significance that fictional texts hold for architectural design is explored. These two authors devise an architecture-specific approach to literary genres like the novel and the comic, thus undertaking a reevaluation of the role of the image.

Even if the visual primacy of pictorial, two-dimensional forms in representing the value of the “art of writing” has shifted, which since Vitruvius had been considered an architectural skill of the first order,[4] writing still continues to enhance the meaning of an architectural work and anchors its creation in the context of design and text production. The second section of GAM.11Inscriptions—reflects on this intense reciprocal exchange between the written word and the act of construction. The contributions consider the question as to which design-related and structural consequences evolve in architecture based on various text genres, or the extent to which architectural design languages are derived from literary principles of composition. Further, various approaches to systematizing this exchange are introduced, some of which even set out to develop a foundation for general systems theory. While Petra Eckhard and Julia Weber discuss architecture as a literary space, the text excerpt from Mark Z. Danielewski’s novel House of Leaves facilitates access to experimental literature as architectural space—a space in which the reader is invited to explore its reciprocal relations. Jimenez Lai and Uta Gelbke detail the ways in which new stances toward design can be generated from different ways of reading linguistic and geometric signs. Lastly, Matej Banožić investigates Gordon Pask’s cybernetic “Conversation Theory” as a form of archiscripts that conceptualizes a general theory of exchange among architecture and other semiotic systems.

The idea that writing also is a necessary formation and technique of architectural thought and agency is illustrated by the last section of GAM.11Transcriptions—which queries the extent to which the fundamental correlation between writing and architecture is programmatically formulated and currently being furthered in the genre of the architectural manifesto. The essays by Florian Engelhardt, Ioanna Angelidou, and Christina Anna Kloke first determine the respective historical and contemporary function of manifestos, in the contexts of architectural discourse and also practicebased design work. The contributions and projects by Bernard Tschumi and WAI Architecture Think Tank explore the ways that this type of text, which represents an important architectural instrument in terms of expressing concrete demands and intransigent thought, is in a position to inspire and reflect on the development of new design parameters from the context of text production. These authors’ use and documentation of manifestos as radical conceptual experiments in architectural discourse highlight the potential harbored by a further elaboration of the various Archiscripts contexts for the development of future architectural production.

After ten published issues, GAM.11 is now appearing with a new layout that reflects, in magazine form, the design-related dimension of interplay between image, text, and architecture. In our view, a survey of the forms of architectural writing also entails questioning and redesigning the approach taken in presenting the contents of Graz Architecture Magazine. ■

(Translation: Dawn Michelle d’Atri)


[1] See Kenneth Frampton, “Towards an Agnostic Architecture,” Domus 972 (September 2013), pp. 1–8.

[2] Rem Koolhaas, “Why I Wrote Delirious New York and Other Textual Strategies,” Any 0 (1993), p. 42.

[3] Beatriz Colomina, “Architecture Should Learn from Fiction,” Volume 1 (2005), p. 75.

[4] See Vitruvius, Ten Books on Architecture, ed. Ingrid D. Rowland and Thomas Noble Howe (New York, 1999), Book I, 1, 3–4.