WIGLEY, Mark and Brett STEELE

In conversation: Architecture of Failure 1/2

Series: Evening Lecture
Date: Thursday 13 January 2011
Time: 18:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 93 mins

'I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work'
Thomas Edison

In 2011 the world is adrift in a world of accelerating forms of failure. Global economies are mired in the financial consequences of widespread banking failure. Failed political regimes and failing foreign policies have led dozens of countries into lengthy wars, being fought across the developed and emerging world. The failure of 20th-century business, design and planning models, including multiple examples within the architectural profession, are creating the conditions around which new strategies, projects and forms of practise are emerging.

Architectural histories and theories have forever focused on narratives of individual, stylistic or intellectual, cultural success. Architects have long sought to escape failure of all kinds – as Mies van der Rohe was once quoted as saying late in his career, 'I had to flee to the new world to escape the failures of my youth – what the old world made impossible for me to accomplish there'. The overwhelming part of an architect's working life is spent working with failure: for every project realised, dozens fail to reach their conclusion. All movements and styles are eventually superseded by their successors. Hundreds of entries in a design competition are losers, while a single proposal is selected and judged the winner.

Tonight's conversation by Mark Wigley and Brett Steele, the latest of a series of public conversations begun in 2008, will embrace an architecture of failure. The conversation will be moderated by Shumon Basar, Head of AACP, the curatorial practices group of the AA School of Architecture.

Mark Wigley, Dean, Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation has written extensively on the theory and practice of architecture. His books include Constant’s New Babylon: The Hyper-Architecture of Desire (1998) and White Walls, Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture (1995). He co-edited The Activist Drawing: Retracing Situationalist Architectures from Constant’s New Babylon to Beyond (2001). Wigley has served as curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Drawing Center, New York; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal; and Witte de With Museum, Rotterdam.


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