Tom Emerson, Marco Bakker & Jo Taillieu


Round Table #I

Monday 9th of March 2015, 18:30
The Project Room
Round table organised by the Laboratory of Elementary Architecture and Studies of Types (EAST)

Tom Emerson, architect, professor ETH-Zurich
Marco Bakker, architect, professor EPFL
Jo Taillieu, architect, host professor EPFL
Conducted by Andreas Ruby, architectural critic and theorist, Berlin

1) Theory vs. Practice of Architecture

What is the relationship of teaching and practice? Should the teaching of architecture be tailored directly to the way in which architecture is practiced today? In other words, is teaching basically about providing a set of skills that are expected from architecture graduates as they start to work for architecture offices? Or is the role of teaching also, and maybe even chiefly, to explore a space of experimentation that conventional practice can rarely account for? Can academia provide a performative opportunity to push the boundaries of the profession? Could an architectural revolution today start from witin an architecture school or only from outside of it?

2) Craft vs. Technology

What is the role of craft in a building culture that gets increasingly technological? Should architecture students still be taught craft-based techniques of building and drawing even if these no longer play a major role in the every-day reality of professional practice? Or should students of architectural schools test-drive all the kinds of latest building and design technologies they will encounter subsequently in their professional lives? Is the teaching of craft-based techniques merely a melancholical evocation of ways of making buildings that contemporary building has long since lost any connection to? Or do we have to consider the automated action of the laser-cutter as a contemporary form of Handwerk, which only does not have much to do for the hand anymore?

3) Tradition vs. Innovation

What is the importance of tradition in an age obsessed with innovation? Is it basically useless knowledge that we are just too polite to declare redundant? Or does tradition simply represent another kind of production of knowledge, which is about unearthing building techniques and material practices from hundreds or thousands of years ago which have been forgotten in the meantime or actively repressed in the name of progress? Since the acceleration of technical innovation drastically reduces the half-time of „new“ knowledge, does the fetish of newness which we inherited from modernism still make sense? And, inversely, does an idea lose its power simply because it gets old, or can it renew its relevance if it manages to age well? Are tradition and innovation opposites at all? How can we describe innovation in architecture? Is there a certain or a different way in the tradition of teaching architecture in your universities? Is tradition still architecture’s cornerstone?