Placed amidst the many dichotomies present in the discourse of architecture over the past few decades—autonomy vs historicity, formal vs social, intellectual vs subjective, permanence vs transience, object vs ground, less vs more, and so on—architecture seems now always to want to occupy a realm “in between,” ideally operating at the threshold of both one and another duality. This is particularly true in the growing discussion of interdisciplinarity in the design world; as GSD professors and Advanced Studies students examined in last spring’s inaugural publication of New Geographies, architectural thinking must address new ideas of scale that certainly challenge the parameters within which we view “architecture.” While this all offers a new and powerful way to conceptualize the role of architecture, it also posits the discipline in ambiguous territory, and the role of architecture—and the architect—in contemporary society may be growing less clear.
As the effects of globalization spread ever farther, architects today must provide a consumable, immediate “image” of a project in order to captivate any kind of general public interest, as most people will only see a building in a photo or magazine rather than visit it. However, architecture by definition must be more than a sound byte; it must take authority in creating spaces for people to inhabit that are identifiable through a synthesis of physical and social contingencies; architecture must create connections. Kwinter writes of the problem of lives “cut” or isolated by new “social technologies,” and his interest in the “chreod” or environment of potentials offers another reconceptualization of architecture’s realm, something between the hard and the abstract.
I would like to engage the question of architect as agent of social change, to the end that architecture can capture public attention and root it in present physical space in order to potentially create new awareness. If people are forced out of the anonymity offered by contemporary life, they may be more likely to take responsibility, to respond to social critique. Taking from new discussions of subjectivity, perhaps starting with the work of Koolhaas (which largely relies on irony and juxtaposition to arrest attention), I will position my project to operate in the “in between” of a problematic urban condition, likely that of Las Vegas, where the threshold between visitor destination and residential city calls for an architecture that will synthesize contingencies of context, scale, and user in a very specific yet hopefully exemplary approach.