There is something slightly foreboding about capital-A architecture. The forces that create it—the archetypal genius designer working in solitude, the shadowy machinations of the means of production—remain silent and opaque. Buildings themselves tend to be stoic fixtures of the human experience, shaping it without much comment. They invite individuals to step inside with the indifferent, windmill gestures of revolving doors—except when they’re desperate, resorting to the shameless hawking of a circus sideshow with brightly colored banners and slick marketing slogans. Their shapes, expressions, massing and programs impact us to our bones, yet we have little understanding of how to push back against granite, stone, glass and steel. At least, this is one narrative. Another is that urban design is just one big lovefest: shiny, happy people holding plans. But it’s the first story that has gripped the profession with the too-firm touch of a doctor with a poor bedside manner. The diagnostician has identified the Problem with Architecture: “the public” just doesn’t “understand.” In response, “Chatter: Architecture Talks Back” offers not an antidote, but talk therapy.
Click here to read my review of the exhibition in Newcity.