OSU//The Interviews//Andrés Jaque

THE INTERVIEWS JAQUE

To continue with the series OSU//Interviews, I would like to introduce Andrés Jaque, architect founder of the Office for Political Innovation, Advanced Design Professor at Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation GSAPP Columbia University and Visiting Professor at Princeton School of Architecture. He has recently being awarded with the silver lion to the best research project at the 14th Venice Biennale with the work entitled: “SALES ODDITY. Milano2 and the Politics of Direct-To-Home TV Urbanism”.

His work explores the potential of post-foundational politics and symmetrical approaches to the sociology of technology to rethink architectural practices, a topic very related with the scope of interest of this blog. As an architect currently active in the professional and the academic world, his point of view will be a great addition to the blog’s open discussions:

OSU//

I would like to address first your approach to the architectural practice. I am very interested in the political implications of architecture, and I find the name of the practice you lead, “Office for Political Innovation”, is in itself a very strong statement for your work. In which ways do you conceive your work as political? And in which as innovative?

AJ//

Politics are not only the result of institutional functioning, protest, lobbying, activism or explicit debate. Material devices have a participation in the making of daily life politics. They contribute to make some options available and to exclude others. For instance, the way the access to a building is designed contributes to determine what ends up happening in its interior. To explore how architecture participates in politics and how design practices can gain criticality from those participations is the aim of our office.

OSU//

Several pieces of your most published works deal with the small scale, being installations, pavilions, domestic spaces or small interventions. It seems a tendency that a good number of interesting new practices are following, and I wonder what would be its cause. What are the reasons of your interest in the small scale discussion?

AJ//

Works like the ESCARAVOX or the Sweet Parliament Home may seem small in their actual dimension-in themselves. But they are huge when we consider their relational extension or the network of agencies they activate. Just to give an example, the ESCARAVOX convene an average of 500 people every night. That is much more than any other important cultural public building in Madrid. It happens because we have developed strategies for the ESCARAVOX to become passing point of the daily life of many people and groups. 

OSU//

You usually talk about the concept of agency associated to architectural devices as something able to create an impact into people’s life. Could you explain what do you mean by agency associated to an architectural device? Do you think that the design of those devices is more important than the space in which they act?

AJ//

There is no divorce between architectural devices and societies. Architecture is never neutral. It is never just an empty surface ready to be occupied by whatever. We inhabit archi-societies. Architectural devices have a role on the definition of what happens and what do not happen. In the House in Never Never Land the habitats of the animal communities of Cala Vadella became compatible to the hedonist life of the people going on vacations to Ibiza because the architecture mediated in between them. In Plasencia Clergy House the residents could gain a political role in the daily life of the house because the building was equipped with artefacts, all around, that instigated their to make daily manifestos of their preferences, required for the building to work. Architecture always has a political effect. It is architects choice to take responsibility on this effect, that is not accidental is precisely the centre of its responsibility with society, or just leave it for the existing inertias or the hegemonic powers to automatically expand their domain into the performance of buildings.

OSU//

Getting into your work more specifically, I would like to ask you to give me a critical sight into the impact of your proposals. In which way do you think the physical spaces you create in projects like “the Rolling House for the  Rolling Society” or the “Never Never Land House” change any cultural or social establishment?

AJ//

It is very clear in the case of IKEA Disobedients. Whith this project we wanted to provide an alternative to the dominant idea that domesticity is an apolitical sphere. Exactly the idea that was promoted by Ikea with its advertisement campaign “Welcome to the Independent Republic of Your Home”. We analyzed  how Ikea has developed this so extreme plan. And we developed a symmetrical counter proposal. One that mobilized the same diverse technologies that Ikea did (actual material design, media, study cases). The archive of study cases of domestic interiors that were the centre of radical political and communal projects became worldwide famous because it was massively published, in a scaled down version of the worldwide propagation of Ikea’s catalogues. 

Two months after we publicized our work, Ikea had to change its slogan to “Your Revolution Starts at Home”. Much more important that the fact that our project forced Ikea to change its propaganda (what actually meant for them to abandon their so excluding and depoliticizing message), was the fact that the cases included in our project had been published in the front pages of newspapers. When the public housing company in Madrid announced the eviction of an old lady included in the catalogue (a lady called Candela that have become extremely important in her neighbourhood because she cooked for elder widower) a great public mobilization happened and her eviction was in fact paralyzed. That is the kind of effect that these projects can have. Which is aligned with the whole tradition of how architecture devotes to empowering the existing.

OSU//

Bringing back a question I made to Prof. Sassen, in this blog I have treated several times Collective Structures as one of the strongest proposals towards reshaping the practice of Architecture nowadays. Do you think this is a plausible solution for the future of the practice? If so, are you using in any way this methodology in your own work?

AJ//

In the work we have just presented in the Venice Biennale, “SALES ODDITY. Milano2 and the Politics of Direct-To-Home TV Urbanism”, we exposed how power is embodied nowadays in architecture by turning itself transmediatic. With this I mean that the political effect of architectural material devices comes from the way they relate to online spaces, fictional contents, the edition and transparency of the celebrities’ life, the interaction produced by social media etc. The only possibility for architecture to gain any collective relevance is by operating as a transmedia practice.

OSU//

At the same time than your practice, you are involved in several schools as Architectural Design teacher in Europe and the US, being Columbia and Princeton the last ones you have taught an studio in. What kind of common ground (if any) have you found in all of them? Is there such a thing as a common direction in the architecture education?  

AJ//

Our project is not that of an individual, neither one of a solo firm, but something that requires the association with many other forces and realities. Universities can have the great power of bringing things together, and that is why we are progressively finding more and more opportunities to connect our agendas with the networks of people, inertias, resources and discussions that institutions like Columbia or Princeton activate. 

I am very impressed by the Radical Pedagogies project developed by Beatriz Colomina and her Princeton Media and Architecture research team. Because it clearly provides evidences of how some exceptional pedagogies have been the spaces in which risk could be assumed and in which knowledge have been challenged collectively in the most effective way in the last decades. This still is possible in some places.

OSU//

I have also wrote about the disconnection that most of the times schools have had with social realities in the past years. From an outsider point of view, I would say that the fact that you are teaching in places as Columbia and Princeton shows an intention from those schools to reintroduce the discussion. As a professor, do you try to bring the same issues you care about in your practice to the school?

AJ//

Yes I do. I am focussing on advancing a way to describe and mobilize daily life that we have been calling “Urban Enactments”. They are ordinary associations like the ones a funeral home builds with hospitals, confessional centres or, for instance, the deceased’s relatives living abroad to whom his or her corpse have to be delivered. In these networks it is very easy to trace how politics are embodied in daily life. And it is possible then to calibrate the way design affects the way society is rendered. 

Andrés Jaque and the Office for Political Innovation explore the potential of post-foundational politics and symmetrical approaches to the sociology of technology to rethink architectural practices. The office’s slogan is ‘ARCHITECTURE IS TECHNOLOGICALLY RENDERED SOCIETY’ and is currently devoted to the study of connected-domesticities as politically-active transmedia urbanisms.

They have been awarded with the SILVER LION to the best research project at the 14th Venice Biennale directed by Rem Koolhaas and they are authors of awarded architectures of reference such as the ‘Plasencia Clergy House’, ‘House in Never Never Land’, ‘TUPPER HOME’ or ‘ESCARAVOX’. Their project ‘IKEA Disobedients’ is the first architectural performance included in the MoMA Collection. It is part of a series of experimental architectural experiments such as the ‘Sweet Urbanism’ –MAK Vienna 2013-, ‘SUPERPOWERS OF TEN’ -Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2013-, ‘Different Kinds of Water Pouring into a Swimming Pool’ -RED CAT CalArts Center for Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles 2013-, ‘Hänsel & Gretel’s Arenas’ -La Casa Encendida, Madrid 2012-, ‘PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society’ -Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Barcelona 2012-, ‘SWEET PARLIAMENT HOME’ -Gwangju Biennale, South Korea 2010-, ‘Skin Gardens’ –BAC Barcelona 2009 and ‘FRAY HOME HOME’ -Biennale di Venezia 2010.

They are authors of the publications PHANTOM. Mies as Rendered Society, Different Kinds of Water Pouring into a Swimming Pool, Dulces Arenas Cotidianas, Eco-Ordinary. Codes for everyday architectural practices and Everyday Politics. Their production has been published in 2G, A+U, A10, ABC, Abitare, Architecture Digest, Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, Architecture Review, Architecture Now, Arquitectura Viva, Arquitectura, Arquitectos, AV, Bauwelt, Beyond, C3, Corriere della Sera, Diseño Interior, Domus, Dwell, El Croquis, ELLE, El Mundo, El País, Fisuras, FRAME, Frieze, Glamour, Harez, Interni, La Vanguardia, Le Monde, Le Moniteur d’architecture AMC, MARK, The Herald Tribune, The New York Times, Pasajes, Pasajes Diseño, Plot, Suma, Vogue, Volume or Wall Street Journal and exposed at the London Design Museum, Princeton University SoA, MAK de Viena, el Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Schweizerisches Architektur Museum in Basel, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine de Paris, Design Museum of London, MAK Vienna, Z33 Hassel, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Hellerau Festspielhaus in Dresden, La Casa Encendida in Madrid, the 7, 12 and 14 Mostra di Architettura de la Bienal de Venezia or the Bienal de Arquitectura Iberoamericana 2004 in Lima,,Gwangju Biennale 2011 or the Lisbon Triennale 2013.

Andrés Jaque is architect by the ETSAM and has been Tessenow Stipendiat -Alfred Toepfer Stiftung, Hamburg 1998-99-. He is professor of Advanced Design at GSAPP Columbia University, New York. He has been professor at SoA Princeton University, -New Jersey-; ETSAM -UPM Madrid-, UA, -Alicante-, Bezalel Academy,-Tel Aviv- and has lectured extensively throughout the world including MIT in Boston, Harvard GSD, Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule in Zurich, Istituto Politecnico di Milano, Centre International pour la Ville de Paris, Centre pour l’Architecture et le Paysage in Brussels, Sociedad Central in Buenos Aires, Berlage Institut in Rotterdam or Museo Nacional in Bogotá.

More in www.andresjaque.net

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