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The Other Architect

Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal
Through April 10, 2016

Architecture has long been unable to decide whether it is a technical discipline, concerned with the application of mathematical truths, or an aesthetic discipline, concerned with the evocation of human feelings. The Other Architect refreshingly rejects the terms of this debate, defining architecture “as an original site for the production of ideas,” with exhibits that showcase recent instances of such production.

The exhibition comprises 21 case studies in which architects explicitly generated ideas, not buildings. Architectural Detective Agency’s corner displays beautiful sketchbooks, used during its survey of historical buildings in Tokyo. At the next table, recordings of Design-A-Thon’s televised charettes, which broadcast architectural thinking into America’s living rooms. And in the next room copies of Architecture Machine Group’s hierarchical schematics of our concept of house, which manage to be both insightful and foolish. If the exhibition is somewhat unfocused, it is also persuasive in arguing for the teeming inventiveness of architects.

The most compelling case studies feature original graphic representations, whether sketches, diagrams, matrices, or maps. Giving an implicit nod to the derivation of the English word design from the Italian word disegno (“drawing”), the exhibition suggests that the skill of drawing is the great engine of architectural thinking. The most consequential ideas on display incline strongly toward the civic, so that the exhibition argues for the public quality of architectural thinking. If our increasingly image-obsessed and private-minded culture desperately needs more big thinking, The Other Architect makes out architecture to be just the kind we need.

Image gallery: Installation views of The Other Architect, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal, 2015. Photo: © cca