Biarch _Barcelona Institute of Architecture _28nov09


>>> 3rd panel _4pm >>> INSTITUTIONS [ARCHITECTURE]

>>> La Pedrera, BCN

>>> Joseph Grima (Storefront, NY) Francisco Gonzalez de Canales (AA, London)

>>> Inês Moreira (moderator)

This dialogue addressed “institutions of architecture” and focused particularly on the cultural dynamics and the research produced and made public within hybrid, middle scale and very lively organizations. Our send-off was the belief that cultural architectural organizations can be active entities, attracting researchers, new students and a broader public, through the quality and the precise focus of its ideas and knowledge production.  Instead of the crystallization of institution making in sharp questions such as “what are institutions instituting, or, what are institutions institutionalizing?”, we addressed the expanded field of cultural organizing, from wider notions of architecture culture, constituency, urgency in research, to the roles of researchers/curators, so to understand the potentiality to embody what seems to be a practiced notion of institution: organizations producing, researching, hosting and inhabiting space.


The two organizations discussed – the Storefront for Art and Architecture [NY] and the Architectural Association [London] – develop experimental cultural programs of exhibitions, debates, events and publications. Both are experimenting with curatorial and editorial formats: the Storefront is a small space in NY organizing events, exhibitions (and eventually itinerating and expanding its space),  supporting both Art and Architecture fields, its intersections and a broader understanding of the cultural dimension of spatial practice; and Architectural Association, is a leading educational organization, promoting a very accurate and cutting edge design and scholar research, complemented by the program of its gallery, publications and outside spaces. Their programs expand the notion of “architecture culture”, from design-based studio-practices to a culturally more complex and entangled notion of spatial production. Politics, geography, economics, social sciences, as well as design, performance, and also the exercises of writing, exhibiting and divulging, are all participating in the idea of architecture they stage: as multidisciplinary, polyphonic events.

As cultural organizations they are agile, flexible and inventive and – besides the political/economical budget and audience pressures that the larger scale cultural organizations suffer so to sustain its institutional programs, to manage spaces and find its resources [cultural centers, museums, etc] – their smaller scale and organizational structure dribbles the problems of big scale by sticking to high quality programs, whether enabled by the elasticity of a non-profit organization (Storefront), or from extending the  renowned experimental graduate school (AA). The organizations are constituted as a set of relations, depending on a community of experts, complicity in researchers and a specialized cultural public, and their organizational strategy nourishes the notion of institution, revolves around questions of the fabrication of itself as a space; of pushing lines of research, and the pursuit to be inhabited by diverse intervenients and interlocutors.

Our panel focused on the textures/fabric of the two institutions, and the personal experience of our guests, and converging around three points: How are the organizations constituted, and what constitutes it? What propels them to particular subject matters of research and how do they practice it? Who is inhabiting and driving its dynamics?

We had the company of two generous guests, who engaged on a thick discussion:

Joseph Grima, educated as an architect, is a curator, writer and editor. He has collaborated with diverse platforms, from Domus Magazine to Multiplicity collective, before becoming director of Storefront in NY. Grima has graduated at the Architectural Association – from where our next guest comes from – and is undertaking his PhD at Goldsmiths College, a Research Department we both have in common.

Francisco Gonzalez de Canales, is an architect, active researcher and design practitioner, educated in Seville, Barcelona and Harvard, and holds a PhD on Architectural History and Theory. After being involved with the Collegio de Arquitectos de Sevilla as editor, he is teaching at the AA, where is coordinator of “Curatorial practices / Cultural products (AACP)”. Besides he is running his office Canales + Lombardero.

The program of the event can be found [here]; images can be found [here], and soon the videos with the contents are to be made public, too.


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