Soft Form Talks

Lecture Series - Lets Walk About Form

“The culture of particular form is approaching its end; the culture of determined relations has begun.” At various occasions, architect Aldo Van Eyck (1918-99) used this quote by Piet Mondrian to express the importance of a specific, relational and above all humanist assertion of architectural form. We lend Van Eyck a voice through curator, writer and architectural historian Christoph Grafe (University of Wuppertal) who wrote a book on Van Eyck’s Amsterdam Orphanage project (1960).

The buildings of architect Stephen Bates (Sergison Bates, TU Munich) seem to carry a kind of solidity, that makes them somehow reticent to transparency. “I enjoy the idea [in architecture] that you don’t always see everything immediately, that you have to look again and again, or be invited that bit further in, [before] a world is uncovered.”

Designer, architectural historian and cultural critic Charles L. Davis II (SUNY Buffalo) examines the racial politics of canonicity in modern architectural history, and its long-term effects on the cultural biases of contemporary practice. “When I am talking about an antiracist architectural history, I am talking about the ways that architectural history is used instrumentally, as a kind of ideological tool to reaffirm certain forms of privilege or power structures in our discipline.”

Landscape architect Teresa Gali-Izard (ARQUITECTURA AGRONOMIA, ETH Zürich) considers herself a translator of the hidden potential of places, including its non-human presences and their life forms. “Landscape architects are ready to integrate living systems, recognizing their milieu in all its forms and temporalities, as a library of intelligences to be harnessed within a design.”

“The ‘informal’ designation is a definition based on the fallacious institutional belief that certain self-built bodies do not have a form”, says Menna Agha (University of Oregon), architect and postdoctoral researcher. “Depriving an existing body of the definition and recognition of ‘form’ is a work of erasure and isolation.”

“We were concerned about what happens when one touches the wall: can it be spoilt? Does it rub off on your clothes?” Architect Eva Prats (Flores & Prats, ETH Zürich) has developed an attitude towards the ‘as found’ of existing forms. “We use and work with them, even if we are working against them. It's a way of waking them up, making them visible.”

Architect Charlotte Truwant (truwant + rodet +, ETH Zürich) investigates architecture that has no clear boundaries, exploring what could be put in place to stimulate unexpected phenomena and relationships. “The seemingly arbitrary traces of nature, the transient density of a fog, the unstable logic of the course of a river, the apparent randomness of a set of chairs on a terrace. Can a design approach accept that uncertainty, vagueness and lack of control?”

“Our lives are hyper-real, and we feel the urge to continuously pimp, remix, recollect our own identity,” says artist and architect Pieterjan Ginckels (Speedism, Sint Lucas Brussels). “I see myself as an embedded outsider, playing with ambivalences in speed and authenticity.” He engages with the acceleration of modern life, and explores the form-making this evokes.