This article was originally published in Domus 964 / December 2012
Rory Hyde, Future Practice. Conversations from the Edge of Architecture, Routledge, New York and London 2012, pp. 280
Amber Hickey (ed.), A Guidebook of Alternative Nows, The Journal of Aesthetic & Protest, Los Angeles 2012, pp. 266
What comes after "Occupy everything"? There is enough evidence around us to suggest that something must be revised in our model of exploiting the planet. We have been educated in a culture of work, effort and (individual) realisation, but now it seems that these "values" are not all we need. But what comes after a criticism of the system in which we are now entangled? How to transform our activity and find "a now in which exercises in rhetoric become exercises in action"?
A Guidebook of Alternative Nows by Amber Hickey presents a toolbox in paper format, a compilation of change-making techniques, a sketchbook for resistance or a songbook for the coming insurrection. Faced with pessimistic views of our future, she gives visibility to the tireless work of people who are building different nows, demonstrating that capitalist-driven forces have outrun the limits of their proposed path, and that they do not represent the only possibility of generating present lifestyles and smart equitable futures. There is also great appeal in the idea of an alternative world not overloaded by the production of better stuff (and better waste). The smart items illustrated by Conceptual Devices rely on the premise that they should be transformable or editable. Subverting the slogan of a sports clothing brand, their Just Undo It proposal offers creative ways to transform a hoodie by folding it into a laptop sleeve, a backpack or a pillow.
The key concept is to see built things around us with fresh and imaginative eyes — just like uneducated children. Relational interaction among neighbours, meanwhile, is given a literal sweetener with Fallen Fruit's performance Public Fruit Jam, which invites a group of strangers to make a collaborative fruit jam. This event became a forum of memories but also a revision of how we live, eat and use space. The Trade School network is a similarly remarkable initiative, whereby teachers can barter with students under the assumption that everybody has something to offer. In this context it is worth questioning the sense of the word "future".
According to Rory Hyde in his Future Practice: Conversations from the Edge of Architecture, the architect's role has been changing so fast in the past five years that potential futures for architecture can be found in the work of practitioners who also operate outside the discipline, in the fields of activism, politics, design, education and research, among other activities. After with Markus Miessen and Shumon Basar's book Did Someone Say Participate? (2006) — about spatial practitioners' capacity to reshape our view of contemporary social and political reality — Hyde's publication can be considered a new attempt to understand the role of architecture as a means to build new models of living. Future Practice describes how the constant state of crisis that defines today's world has been a catalyst for non-traditional models of practice, which are presented in this book through interviews with the practitioners.
From Australia to Lima (Peru), one can trace a common link between motivations, workflows and business models, as well as the question of traditional tools used to shape the city and how they can be updated and adapted to serve society's current needs. Immersed in economical downshifting and deep social and political crisis, it comes as a breath of fresh air to read about the work of many professionals in different scales, environments and disciplines. Responding to the need to visualise new ways of developing architectural practice, this book is a call for attention after the real-estate bubble in several countries and new proposals to envision the so-called "future of architecture". The future practices presented by Hyde may be the confirmation that the future is now. As the spurse collective states: "To assume that an alternative present is possible requires an alchemical mix of rigorous curiosity and scrupulous practice." Ethel Baraona Pohl (@ethel_baraona)