What About a Year of WAI?

What About WAI?

A year asking What About It

By N. Frankowski and C. Garcia

Critical Timing

It couldn’t have been more accurate. Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., the fourth biggest investment bank of the United States filed for bankruptcy on September 15, 2008—just five days after one of us moved to Europe for the first time. Suddenly after this event, the world was trapped inside an economical maelstrom. Architects were left confused amidst a pessimistic future. That same year, upset with the ironic relationship between architecture and the economy, WAI was born. How to deal with the paradox that the crisis in architecture started long time before this new fall on Wall-Street?

Critical Anxiety

The predictable dependence that ties architecture to the economy has left the profession defenseless in front of the crisis. Given the instability of the economical soil in which architecture usually sinks its footings, firms were shutting down, downsizing personnel and refocusing aims. Even the academia became a shelter for frustrated ambitions; a home for the dispossessed. Whatever happened to a generation of thinkers? Suddenly the “old” avant-garde found itself awkwardly without the usual shelter on which it used to rely its status quo. Who was to buy the already repeated a thousand times shapes of Styrofoam and corporate renderings? Architecture as the profession to offer solutions became disarmed and impotent. The muscle flexing of the previous ten years of architectural production started to look like an egocentric stratagem to hide the lack of ideas; the frivolous race for glamour was on.

While the architectural establishment became anxious about the critique, WAI was proposing a critical anxiety—one that doesn’t settle on economic plateaus; one that avoids the opportunistic ethos of “thinking when there is nothing to build, and building when there is nothing to think of.”

Critical Criticism

After the failed attempts to account for any rational preferences for shape, contemporary architecture has struggle to find a common ground; an ideology to defend, or even a justification for what was being built. A lack of intent mixed with the proliferation of the mass media has simply multiplied the repetition of architectural stratagems. Contemporary architecture was being reduced to a catalog of “hardcore shapes” and to a series of “renderings of the clean”. Sustainability has become the new cache misère for our lack of intent, a trendy makeup hiding our incompetence, clean urbanism being its apotheosis. We have become a bunch of mere cosmeticians; a group of Peter Keatings but this time without a Howard Roark.

Critical Foam

WAI is about foam ideas. A product of a moment in time, WAI surges when thinking is being “overlooked”; when the abrasive emptiness of imagery overflows and empty foam shapes threatens to saturate the architectural domain. WAI dares to challenge the massive proliferation of foam models by producing “foam ideas”. If for the Pop-architectures of today foam is just a material to shape forms, for WAI foam is an intellectual structure that catalyzes endless cognitive connections. WAI proposes the subversion of the foam as to transform it in a Deus ex machina.

Critical Wandering

Where globalization seems to have gone as the given condition, architecture has somehow remained under the influence of the same topical discussions. The more the world opens, the more architecture regionalizes.

In order to challenge debased regionalisms WAI proposes a revision of la dérive; a post-Situationist urban drifting. In order to construct an urban narrative apparatus for the discussion of architectural and urbanistic ideas, WAI explores, analyzes and experiences contrasting urban environments. Chinese, French, Belgian and Dutch cities have formed a continuous network, that along with Dutch, Scandinavian, American and Puerto Rican magazines and exhibitions have motivated WAI’s architectural projects during the past year.

Critical Interrogation

By asking “What About It?” at the beginning of every project WAI chooses to interrogate before judging; to think before affirming; to analyze before concluding. WAI challenges a generation infatuated with wiki-research, and data-escapes with a critical skepticism; a subversive intellectualism. WAI sees asking: "What about it?" as a working process without given conclusions. WAI dares to take risks.

Critical Alchemy

WAI is not multidisciplinary. WAI believes that architecture as a discipline involves much more than the mere conception of a building. WAI believes in the construction of ideas, and recognizes the infinite palette of mediums that can be used to achieve them. WAI is interested in understanding architecture and the city through all the networks connected to them. WAI proposes a theory of understanding; a theory of alchemy. WAI proposes transformation—quantity into thoughts, shapes into ideas, frivolity into substance; and recognition of history and culture. The more that is produced the more WAI thinks. WAI worries about triviality and inquires about sophistication. WAI is…What About It?

What About the Year of the Tiger?

WAI wishes you a Happy Chinese New Year

To celebrate the year of the Tiger WAI announces the upcoming publication What About It? Part 1… a narrative autoportrait of one year of WAI; featuring architectural projects, visual essays, articles, and film stills of the Think Tank.

Release date will soon be announced .

What About Copenhagen?

CONDITIONS MAGAZINE and Danish Architecture Centre invite you to the release of CONDITIONS #3: “GLAMOROUS COMPROMISE”

TIME: Wednesday 10th of February, from 19:00

PLACE: DAC, Strandgade 27BDK 1401 Copenhagen K

- Introduction by CONDITIONS
- Debate including

Architect Bjarke Ingels,

City Architect Jan Christiansen,

Artist Lars Ramberg

and architectural editor of Politiken Karsten Ifversen

moderated by CONDITIONS
- Issue #3 will be available for sale

WAI is an intellectual collaborator of Conditions Magazine. The third issue includes the article “What About Glamour” which proposes a way of understanding contemporary architecture through the scope of glamour. The second issue of Conditions contains the article “The Shapes of Hardcore Architecture”, which proposes a critical analysis of contemporary architecture.

DAC (Danish Architecture Centre)


Conditions Magazine