The Building is an international discursive project led by José Aragüez that spans four years, from 2014 to 2017. It was launched through two symposia held at the Architectural Association in London and Columbia University in New York respectively—the former in June 2014, the latter in November that same year. It continued as a theory seminar at Cornell University in fall 2015.
The two events brought together a number of historians, theorists, architects and PhD candidates from both Europe and the US for an exchange around the problem of the building as a form of knowledge. Each participant was asked to choose a building, built or designed within the last 25 years, which embodied a historically significant contribution in terms of a particular design aspect or a concept relevant to the reading of buildings in general. More ambitiously, we also requested that they venture ways in which their case study induced theoretical frameworks whose impact might extend beyond architecture into other domains of knowledge and practice.
In late 2014, The Building became a book project whose outcome was published in November 2016 by Lars Müller Publishers. Many of the essential figures in the discursive scene worldwide contributed to this unprecedented volume with a view to propel architectural thinking to a new level of importance across the humanities, the social sciences, and beyond—for example, in fields like computer science and the culture of Silicon Valley, which already display an inclination to use architectural terms. Those names include Penelope Dean, Stan Allen, John McMorrough, Peg Rawes, Sylvia Lavin, Amanda Reeser Lawrence, Vera Bühlmann, Enrique Walker, Michael Meredith, Cynthia Davidson, Joan Ockman, Mary McLeod, Mario Carpo, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Andrew Benjamin, Dora Epstein Jones, K. Michael Hays, Philip Ursprung, Amale Andraos, Luis Fernández-Galiano, Mónica Ponce de León, Marina Lathouri, Bernard Tschumi, Mark Cousins, and Sarah Whiting, among others.
The book's agenda can be summarized as follows:
Over the last few decades, architectural history and theory have done a remarkable job of expanding their limits and audiences. The flip side of this expansion, however, has been a marked displacement of the object, and with it ultimately a certain neglect of architectural thinking proper. On the other end of the spectrum, discussions centered strictly round design process and outcome have often proved self-referential or restricted to the spheres of practice and studio teaching alone.
This book constructs a bridge between the two tendencies by mobilizing a topic—“the building”—that typically belongs in the latter while pursuing the former’s expansion. 43 contributors based in Europe and the US, including deans and academic leaders, architects, historians, theorists, philosophers, and doctoral candidates, offer poignant explorations of key architectural structures conceived across Asia and the West from the late 1980s to the present. In exploring these structures through a number of questions both intra- and meta-disciplinary—like sameness, value, iconography, objecthood, the urban subject, boredom, and digital technologies—this volume suggests ways in which buildings can trigger conceptual frameworks whose influence extends beyond architecture into other domains of knowledge and practice. Such domains include cultural and intellectual history, philosophy, literary theory, the city, the arts, and design at large.
By way of the building, therefore, this book illustrates the distinct capacity of architectural thinking to engender far-reaching concepts and, more generally, discourse—while the serendipitous encounters between diverse case studies from Europe, Asia, and the US unveil unexpected synergies and tensions that open up new research territories in design culture.
By late 2016, over 200 people from around the world had participated in or helped with The Building ever since the project started. Its last phase—preceded by a book launch at the Lisbon Architecture Triennale in December 2016—is unfolding throughout 2017 in the form of lectures and panel discussions events across the United States in the spring (Cornell, MIT, NYIT, Columbia GSAPP, UIC, and A+D museum in LA) and Europe in the fall (London, Zurich, Berlin, Rotterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris).