AA Dialogues Vol. 1, 2018

In early 2018, I curated the first series of conversations at the Architectural Association

Driven by increasing suspicion of the current forms of architectural practice and realisation that they are ever more isolating, slow, oppressive and outdated

I think it is crucial to talk to people who are not architects and who set their own ways of creating

Free Liberated Yet engaged Collaborative

I asked - how can we handle a contemporary obsession to define who we are instead of what we do?

First, I spoke to Es Devlin, an inspirational and generous artist, who is a celebrated, super star designer. Our conversation on the 17th of January 2018 - Manifesto for Architectural Dishonesty. I hinted at the absence of permanence and in Es’s own words “fakery” in stage set design only to realise the temporarily of architecture itself.

Es mentioned the discovery of Denys Lasdun’s  concrete of the National Theatre in the South Bank, conversations with Mark Fisher and misunderstandings with Daniel Libeskind. Es spoke about frameworks that she creates to guide her design from opera and theatre to entertainment and major televised events.

Beyond the striking, colourful language of Yinka Shonibare’s work that explores the questions of identity at the end of the Empire, there is a profound sense of urgency to give space to the emerging generation. On the ground floor of his London studio, Yinka has created an “alternative universe and playground” for artists and in collaboration with Elsie Owusu, he is transporting the idea to Lagos, Nigeria, to its unique social and urban context.

We spoke on the 24th of January. Yinka told us that architects and society construct disability rather than there being such a thing as a “disabled person”. Yinka also told us that the domination of the West is over and that we need to face it.

The questions of identity and social and personal histories are at the breaking point and the internationally Ursula Mayer is capturing that fragility. On 14th of February, we were on a cinematic journey. I interrupted it by asking about Brexit. Ursula remains international regardless. She was in Trinidad and Tobago when she found out about the British vote.

In her cinematic work, Ursula draws historical references and builds spaces, narratives and characters to preserve the current moment of transgression. Her single and multi-channel films are crystalline circuits of images, composed of signs borrowed from architecture, fashion, literature, politics, mythology, geology and science. Ursula told me how she moved away from painting as a rather self focused and isolating form of practice to film making, a far more collaborative and extraverted.

Jane Hall of Assemble spoke to Summer Islam on the 7th of March. The technical and bureaucratic complexity of "making" leads to simplification, categorization and the ultimate abandonment of discourse which is left within the academic sphere. Can we resist and inhabit the precious blurry lines between different fields, practice and research, design and use?

Jane and Summer reflected on the work of Assemble its intentional and unintentional effects on the materials, communities, media. With a smile, sarcasm and a lot of honesty Jane told us about “collective” as a form of practice and how one navigates through the given freedom. Do we need boundaries in order to operate in the world?

Charlie Koolhaas is a loud and fast talking vulcano who faced police on at least three continents. She documents and interprets architecture and cities around the world. We started with the conversation about social expectations that artists need to perform as sociologists and urban regenerators. How successful are they?

Between the lines of hundreds of photos that Charlie showed, we met a self referential commentator on the evolving nature of urban life. She recalled images and thoughts about physical and invisible signs of collective and individual transformations and the impact of technology, mass media and politics on the contemporary culture and society.