Jia Weng, Yale School of Architecture, MED
Frame + Essence
February 23, 2017
Maybe we can approach the subject of the essence of architecture through a reflection on architects themselves. Is the architect an inventor, an artist, a guru or merely an employee? Should design, as the process of imagination and representation, be understood as work or labor? According to Hannah Arendt, work brings something new to the earth, whereas labor does not leave a trace behind – it does not create or store. The architect seems to be caught amidst all the identities above. On paper, the architect is bared with the anxiety of being new and original, of creating something they can call their own, of differing from the background noise and becoming the pea floating on the soup. On the market, however, the architect sits in front a computer and coordinates designs according to a pile of meeting minutes to protect themselves from possible legal entanglements. They design hybrids that consist of parts collected from the latent style books of their firms. They provide service, sign contracts, get paid for business trips. They labor and produce products. Ultimately, the architect struggles to cling to an identity shaped by academia, while gravitating towards a career in the market. Architecture shows its essence – a creation contaminated by production, or vice versa.