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Proposals for Stockholm


Proposals for Stockholm is a project revolving around how image production relates to the production of history and place. What if we could travel back in time and imagine new and alternative futures? What if Stockholm was to be understood as a place where fiction and reality, future and history collapse into each other, thus opening up new perspectives and points of view? This project takes on the completely impossible task of changing the image of Stockholm. Projecting futures from a multitude of vantage points. Visiting historic sites long gone and suggesting alternative futures, populating the city with unconscious architectures, kaleidoscoping views, cut and paste whims and reversed archeologies. Proposals for Stockholm also comes as a book, published by NILLEDITIONS

Interview

Q: In your project Proposals for Stockholm you seem to be working with the image as a kind of portal into different times, as an entry to history but also to gain access to times of the future. Could you elaborate on this?

A: Images have always had a certain level of autonomy. This means that they are not only inactive, neutral agents waiting for our interpretation and for us humans to activate them. As soon as they are created they start to travel through space and time, sometimes dormant but with the capacity to affect the way we interpret and act. Images set things in motion. They can change the course of history, create new images and transform our perception on past, present and future. Architecture and especially architectural practice have had a very intimate relationship to image making. Starting with the invention of the central perspective in the fifteenth century, via photographic- film- and computer technologies, architecture can be understood as a double-edged practice. On the one side the production of space and on the other the production of images. The two sides seem to reflect each other but in reality they could not be further apart. One could even argue that the two dimensional image and its fixed relationship to time is the opposite of architecture as a three dimensional environment which adjusts and adapts over the course of time. For this project we were interested in starting with an image and manipulating parameters such as space, time, context, symbolism and semiotics. It became both ninety individual projects over ninety days and one project over four and a half months.

Q: Do you think you managed to say something about this divide you are talking about?

A: No, not really. The project started not as a project at all. It was only one image made on an impulse. It took fifteen minutes to complete, that image led to another that led to another. The idea to make it into a project emerged from doing. Looking for images of Stockholm and reacting to them. Sometimes triggered by current events and sometimes just other images or random impulses. Guess you can say that the whole project is a kind of as found project. As you go on working it is impossible not to start to think about what you are doing and put it into context. In retrospect trajectories go out in all kind of directions but there was no starting point.

Q: As architectural practice this seems to be a bit different. Not working with a brief or a client, not even a clear goal?

A: One of the biggest problems facing architectural practices today is their inability to engage with architecture outside the conventional brief. If architects continue to push towards being a mere servicing function they will reduce our practice into something that could vanish without being missed. Already large parts of our practice have been taken over by project managers, builders, bankers, marketing-agencies, developers, politicians and economists. Today we see all sorts of new practices emerging in the field of architecture; they can be understood as a response to the mainstream architectural practices evacuating architecture. Therefore withdrawing from relevance and purpose in a conventional sense makes observations that are unlikely to occur with traditional methods possible. We are opposed to helpful, or good, architecture. We do not serve.

Q: So you see these images as a kind of protest against conventional practice?

A: It was never intended as being against or for anything. It is more to be read as a playful and nonsensical stream of work. We have been occupied with talking about a kind of architecture that is half-interested. An architecture that sleeps with one eye open, or maybe it is awake with one eye shut. There seems to exist a certain preconceived opinion about architectural work, an idea that it fundamentally is very, very important. Somewhat similar to how politicians and economists see themselves, as the upholders of civilisation. This seems to be an upward trend, becoming more and more important, but perhaps it is more a kind of phantom pain. In a time were things matter less, when predictions, forecasts and crystal gazing dissolves into thin air, self deception illuminates as the light at the end of the tunnel. Seen from this perspective to invest in whimsical work does not necessarily mean being useless. Instead we can view it as an activity where we could share an idea of resistance, not so much a revolution, but a friendly invitation to say yes to the possibilities to get lost.

Q: Where is architectural innovation located today?

A: As said earlier we have seen a surge in practices operating in kind of alternative fields. What we don’t have is one clear movement producing something recognizable as an alternative. Instead we see architecture being re-negotiated from the vantage point of social change, as political reality, vehicle for ecological strategies or linked to information technology. Most interesting is perhaps the fact that architecture no longer can be understood as one craft, but as a profession dissipating into numerous other fields like art, performance, activism and education.

Q: But is this dissipation not exactly what many architects understand as something weakening the profession?

A: Yes indeed, but architects often assume that essence is a good thing. Telling each other things like – “I strive for an architecture from which nothing can be taken away.” Essence is all about being static, an immobile existence. Ultimately it is about death. We say: - “Let’s go for an architecture from which everything can be taken away, an architecture that hangs around at five in the morning and never wants to go home, an architecture of adventure.”

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1. Back in 1967 – “The limited categorical foundations and traditional definitions of architecture and its means have on the whole lost their validity. A true architecture of our time, then, is emerging, and is both redefining itself as a medium and expanding its field. Many fields beyond traditional building are taking over ‘architecture,’ just as architecture and ‘architects’ are moving into fields that were once remote. Everyone is an architect. Everything is architecture.” - Hans Hollein

2. Back in 1971 – "This is a hole. It always has been and still is. But now it is a hole into the future. We’re going to dump so much through this lousy hole into your world that everything will change in it. Life will be different. It’ll be fair. Everyone will have everything he needs." - Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Forty years later architecture is still categorical, but without foundation, still very much traditional but without definition. If we live in a time of free fall, maybe the best thing to do is to speculate. Every weekday for four and a half months Economy published a new proposal for Stockholm.