Taking Buildings Down
inc_a was awarded the special prize for Storefront for Art and Architecture’s Competition for Competitions- to run a competition based on the submission. The subsequent prompt was a simple provocation of the professions obsession with building:
-Architects create buildings; rarely do they take them down (as an end in itself)
-How is an urban curator to work if addition is the only option?
-Is progress always found in more and not possible in less?
-How do you design removal?
Taking Buildings Down was part of an unusual competition — a Competition of Competitions, hosted by the Storefront for Art and Architecture, a contemporary art and architecture institution in SoHo.
It’s Not Corporate Architecture won this Competition.
If architecture is an Apollonian pursuit, then destruction is its Dionysian counterpart. Our built environment is the product of these two oppositional forces, whose methods and execution could hardly be more different.
The immediacy, the satisfying explosive release inherent to demolition is conversely the frustrating limitation of architecture. Buildings take time to design, to move through a bureaucratic review process, and to build.
ARCHITECTS CREATE BUILDINGS, RARELY DO THEY TAKE THEM DOWN.
Where other disciplines have evolved to provide the instant gratification that our consumer society demands, architecture’s attempt to transcend time has been a dead-end path. Fast architecture is almost always bad architecture.
HOW IS AN URBAN CURATOR TO WORK IF ADDITION IS THE ONLY OPTION?
Since the era of urban renewal, the removal of buildings has had few triumphs despite the ubiquity of the ugly, the oppressive, and the impractical in our landscape. Celebration of post-industrial ruins exemplifies the general view that only ‘natural’ processes may deconstruct.
IS PROGRESS ALWAYS FOUND IN MORE AND NOT POSSIBLE IN LESS?
Architecture must balance these two operational modes in order to regain its unique agency. Taking Buildings Down is a competition that asks designers to apply design thinking to the removal of structures, with the question:
HOW DO YOU DESIGN DESTRUCTION?
Participants are asked to create proposals to remove buildings, utilities, or pieces of infrastructure. Removal is all that is allowed; proposals are not allowed to ‘add’ to their scheme.
There are no limits on scale (in time or space) to proposals, but we do not want to postulate what is to come after the removal. There are three stages to consider: a current condition, a process of removal, and a resultant condition.