Brief # 2

The client for the original competition scheme has now come back to you as architects. They have acquired the site next door to the competition site (i.e. the Nelson Mandela building) and want you to expand the scheme accordingly. The plot ratio of the competition brief should be seen as a maximum. As part of the process, they also want you to come up with ideas as to new programmatic elements, or at least extensions to the original brief. This is pretty much what happens in practice, where site, budgets and briefs are often much more fluid than is allowed for in student projects. An essential part of this is in the development of the brief, not as a set of instrumental and functional requirements, but as the arrangement of social relations. The architect is often in a better position to conceive these relations in an imaginative manner than is the client, and in this add value to the project.

What this will test is how much you are still attached to the formal and functional aspects of your original scheme. The hope is that the conceptual approaches developed over the past four weeks assume more importance than the gestural approaches of the competition, but these approaches will have to be tough enough and fluid enough to adapt to new conditions. If they are too tough they will overwhelm those conditions (typically through the imposition of standard formal or aesthetic solutions), if too fluid they will collapse in the face of them (typically through the architect abrogating any social or political responsibility). In SoftPraxis, architectural intelligence is both flexible enough to adapt to the contingencies, but tough enough through being guided by some form of intent.

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2 responses to “Brief # 2

  1. I’ve got a hunch that this (particularly the last sentence) enforces a narrowing of how ‘Softpraxis’ might be conceived. It almost implies Architectural Intelligence as something which acts upon ‘buildings’ within the current thinking system, as opposed to questioning it, as some have.
    -Is the subtext of the above that social / political ideas are crystallised into a language of form which is ‘built’ within the shifting confines of client / site / brief rather than seeing those systems as something to be designed or questioned?

    -Allowing your ideas to ‘act’ upon a building is only of use if a sited building is what is required in the first place- it might well be the biggest problem.

    – Is Softpraxis about architecture that, having developed an intent, ‘says it’ in Form or ‘does it’ in Formation?

  2. Yes, that is one reading of the above, but not the one that I intended. Cedric’s aphorism that the best solution to an architectural problem is not necessarily a building still holds. SoftPraxis does not demand form, indeed it resists it as the only result of an investigation, but at the same time it does not want to chuck the baby out with the bathwater.

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