Future Practice: Conversations on the Edge of Architecture / by Nick Ierodiaconou

Future Practice: Conversations from the Edge of Architectureis a new book by Rory Hyde exploring emergent roles for architects in the 21st century.

Future Practice features a conversation with Indy Johar from 00:/, amongst the likes of Bruce Mau; Reinier de Graaf & Laura Baird, AMO; Mel Dodd, muf_aus; Wouter Vanstiphout, Crimson; Camila Bustamante; Steve Ashton, ARM; Matt Webb, BERG; Bryan Boyer, Helsinki Design Lab - and a host of others.

An except from Rory Hyde's conversation with Indy Johar:

RH: One of the other themes I'm really interested in your work is your approach to economy. I found a quote where you say: ‘it’s time for architects to start reading the financial papers’. [3] You seem to take it much more seriously than many architects or other people in this space. Economics is a territory that’s normally relegated to the developer or clients, we don’t seem to worry about the money except how much the building costs. How do we reclaim this territory? Is it about getting involved with business models, business plans, thinking about how this thing might make money?

IJ: It's all the same act. The idea that we can disassociate one aspect from another aspect is an illusion. It’s an illusion of a seventeenth century Enlightenment model, where we figured out that we could deal with the world in vitro, you could take architecture and isolate it, you could take the business model and isolate it, you could isolate different components, and say ‘hey, if we isolate it, we can deal with it in effective ways.’ That is an Enlightenment model of how you organise the world. Now, what is becoming apparent in the world we're living in, is that in vitro modelling of the world isn't able to cope with the complexity, i.e. the externalities all those models were generating. So carbon is just an externality of a model which doesn't take account of certain things. It’s an in vitro business model. That’s the more fundamental problem, that I think we’ve reached the end of this siloed idea of building stuff. That’s the systemic issue.

We are talking about building ecosystems where there are no hard divisions between the built environment, the value model, between the impacts it has, between how it absorbs carbon, what materials it uses – it’s about seeding an organism, and I don’t think you can make such hard distinctions between things. I always use the term ‘design venturing’; I think great entrepreneurs seem to be pretty good designers frankly, they tend to have a very good eye for those things, because they use the same skills. So I think it’s about this method of how you build systems, the ‘architecture of systems’, as opposed to the ‘architecture of brick buildings’. That shift is one of the big things we are seeing, because this in vitro modelling doesn’t work.


RH: It’s probably useful to talk about your Compendium for the Civic Economy now, as it seems to be the perfect manifesto of that idea of the spatial and economic ecosystem. What is the Civic Economy, and do architects have a role to play in it?

IJ: In a sort of high level sense the Civic Economy is an idea about how technology and a deep democratization of process is liberating a new way for people to organize themselves locally, and to actually create institutions and organizations which are fundamentally focused on a civic purpose. They can be for-profit, not-for-profit, it doesn't really matter. It's a new citizen method of organizing micro acts which can create a virtuous social, environmental and economic cycle. So whether it’s the 68 FabLabs all around the world, The Hub, or Community Kitchens, all these projects in the book are about the synthesis of social capital and investment capital to create a performative impact.

Now, the role of architects is huge, but it’s about place-making as opposed to the design of a physical product. Hosting and creating those flows and networks, seeding them, and allowing them to iterate, is what the 21st century architect will be doing, which is hugely significant. This is acutely democratic in terms of influence and power – there is going to be no single leadership, but democratic leadership. So I think the role of the architect is hugely significant, I just think it’s a new type of architect. And I think this is part of a longitudinal trend, this democratisation of capital, democratisation of power, democratisation of leadership, and this post-management world is opening up all sorts of new challenges.

Read more about Future Practice here.

And if you'd like to order a copy, go here.

- DS