(Christies Lot 70, Sale 5483Alberto Burri (1915-1995) Italia 90 offset lithograph in colours, 1990 Estimate: £500-700, by famous Italian mixed-media artist Alberto Burri (1915-1995) for the 1990 World Cup: Italia 90 is one of six versions produced for the 1990 World Cup, each with a different coloured central football pitch placed inside the contrasting black and white colosseum.)

Game play underpins the activities of WHAT_architecture. Let’s play a game noting that practise makes perfect!

When ‘practice’ (noun) is applied to architecture it suggests ideas of space: work place, office, institution, ethos.

When ‘practise’ (verb) is applied to architecture it suggests ideas of event: repetition, action. If applied to practising architecture, then this proposes that the result will be manifest in something. But what exactly? Is it in building(s) as architects so desperately pursue (even Philip Johnson said architects will design for nothing to get something built). If building was the goal of architecture, our office would then have to refute the ‘paper architecture’ of our founding thesis which researched John Hejduk’s Ten Texan Houses (all unbuilt). The legitimate contemporary expression of architecture is hardly building – Beatriz Colomina has long since opined that the book not the building is the legimate expression of architecture. We understood buildings through books, magazines and so ‘No’ architecture is not building and yet architecture has moved beyond print. So further than the big books (SMLXL and ‘Yes Is More’) to ‘Yes’: Yesterday’s paper architecture is today’s ‘screen architecture’. DeZeen, ArchDaily, Coolhunter are our pages: in digital, on the web, highly accessible and therefore more difficult to find Google withstanding.

Every contract drawing that WHAT_architecture issues features in its title block the rallying call of ‘Life Beyond Buildings’. What does this mean? We have spent a lot of time in the education sector – a nursery begats a school begats a university begats a city. Yet for the architect, SMLXL is not only about scale, but also about career progression. My time in education has a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: by studying in a school, teaching at a school and ultimately designing and building schools I have begrudgingly realised you ‘can teach under a tree’.

Learning is not about space, it is about people. The design of schools ought to be about the subjugation of space to the facilitation of events. Hence Life Without Buildings!

WHAT_architecture likes to ‘play with architecture’ . In doing so we aim to put the fun-back-into functionalism. To enjoy work. The Game of Architecture is played out everyday in the machinations of the press, the egomania of the architect, the contrivedness of predetermined competitions, in the awariding out of seasonal prizes. Yet the casting of architecture as a game to be played can also be strategic, tactical and ultimately rewarding for both player, spectator and society.


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