Pondering Perennial Preludes
In the hopes that you are embracing Autumn, here is one more piece of writing to add to your Fall reading list, a ‘preambulary’ review for Volume 07, Issue 01 “The Moment Before”. My name is Guillermo Acosta Navarrete, and I graduated from the Yale School of Architecture this past May, where I had the pleasure to be part of Paprika! in several inspiring ways.
First, I would like to commend the editors of Volume 07, Issue 01 Stav Dror, Elise Limon, Serge Saab, and Liad Sandmann for the cross-school collaboration between YSoA and the GSD. As former issue editors, Alejandra Avalos Guerrero and myself witnessed the stimulating exchange that comes with expanding the voices that this fold hosts beyond Rudolph Hall.
In this issue, the editors question the one thing that has commonly defined the existence of architecture –the built object. The traditional outcome of the architectural design process is relegated, making place for process itself as the main subject of study. Hence their editorial question, “what is the moment before architecture?”. In a society that measures almost everything with ‘befores’ and ‘afters’ –before Christ and after graduation, before dawn and After Effects– it seems ehem timely to have an issue that delves into the thrills and tribulations that ‘the moment before’ design brings to the practice; putting forward the notion that contemporary architectural discourse almost always happens before –or in lieu of– the production of a physical artifact.
As the title of the issue in hand –The Moment Before– presupposes, I hope this review to be a brief tease for you to segue into the publication itself, and its diverse and intriguing contributions.
Evangelos Fokialis and Alkiviadis Pyliotis’ What if the Moment Before Never Ends? kicks off the issue with a piece that encapsulates the feelings of the entire line-up. It champions synthesis in the design process, as both “anticipation and discovery” in a never-ending quest for the right architectural outcome. It makes us ponder if error –or the fear of failure– is the true driving force in the road to perpetual revisions. Similarly, Christopher Beck’s Tracing delves into the one thing that has defined the design process through desk crits and reviews: the drawing. It is proposed as an act that simultaneously translates and explores that which is yet to be known, while Ana Gabriela Loayza’s A Deadline for Zeno wonders if the time between an initial idea and the dreaded deadline can turn from an instrument of anxiety to a source of mastery. It is evident that we all still share that longing for an extra day to explore our projects –to synthesize, to draw, to iterate– because we are well aware that “the building’s absence is the author’s opportunity for presence in the discipline.”
The acknowledgement of concern and frustration is also palpable in both Joshua Abramovich’s Architect’s Block and in Katie Colford’s recurrent column Do You Read Me? The Moment Before Hiring, As Narrated By Your Portfolio PDF. The latter utilizes humor to paint a very realistic account of the bits we all experience ahead of being hired, while the former shows the angsty loop of the creative process felt by many –and not only writers; a feeling that is somewhat echoed in the anonymous entry of “A Love Poem”, where the loop is an eternal condition of ‘what’ could be possible, even in romance.
Coinciding with the sentiment, Carlos Blanco’s Modern Moments of Anxiety urges the reader to think on the ‘moment after’, and the implications it has in our environment and for climate change. Andrea Sanchez Moctezuma’s Wall Search makes clear that the ‘moment before’ should be thought from a cultural and critical standpoint, to shed a light on the regulations and divisions that precede the building. Fittingly, the reader is required to find the words in a puzzle before being able to properly read it –words with conceptual beginnings and endings.
The remaining pieces use specific case studies to explore how the architectural object can materialize these feelings in the built environment. In Aryan Khalighy and Daniel Haidermota’s Autonomous Party Wall, the building is conceived as a framework that concurrently highlights the past of Chicago’s Bronzeville while acting as a preliminary trace for future architectures of reparations. Similarly, Ibrahim Kombarji’s Habemus Cella analyzes the ‘fecundity’ of an architectural facsimile and how context –as a building’s predecessor– is the one to determine its future. Finally, Nick Gochnour’s Uranium Disposal and Nitzan Zilberman’sAn Anticipatory History for Antarctica address the role of satellite imaging and the reclaiming of toxic man-made landforms as evidence of the Anthropocene’s trace through time.
This set of contributions, as well as the peek-a-booish nature of Jisung Park & Yuseon Park’s graphic design, reveals that that which is yet to be seen is only as valuable as the moments leading to it. The biggest –and personal– takeaway from the issue is a reassurance that a perpetual state of transience should be favored, or as the editors very eloquently put it, “we don’t wait, we simply persist at the moment before.”
The next P! issue, Volume 07 Issue 02: “Pure Devouring”, is currently out (if that dining table on instagram was any indication), and frequent contributor Rukshan Vathupola will reach out next with an appetizing review to accompany it. Until then.