Architects have to step in from the margins

27Jun13

Architecture is a technology that has not yet discovered its agency

Elizabeth Diller

June 2013

Excerpt from Log 28

ELIZABETH DILLER: I believe there is a fundamental problem in associating technology in architecture only with applied sciences. Architecture itself can be thought of in a broader definition as a technology that involves many inseparable, soft systems like cultural, economic, and political forces. Our interest in this view of architecture is as old as our practice and very evident in early works like the Slow House. We asked, Which is the higher technology, the video of the view of the sea or the framed window’s view of the same? Both are equally mediated and that is not a bad thing. We made a case for the picture window as being the more technologically sophisticated, because if the aspiration of new technologies is to eventually make hardware disappear, the picture window needs less material stuff to perform. It relies on the act of framing to bestow cultural value. This observation was pertinent when we were looking for refuge from the clamor of debate between technophiles and technophobes in the ’90s. We decided to stay techno-neutral. It reoccurs in our work with the mediatheque window at the ICA in Boston and the Tenth Avenue Overlook at the High Line–we opt for less hardware.

As our work has matured, we have realized that architecture is a technology that has not yet discovered its agency. To be effective, architects have to step in from the margins and assert themselves in the center with the policy makers and funders, etc. The periphery has lost its romance and superiority over the grey, dirty mess within.

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