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Staging the message: The architecture of communication
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Umeå School of Architecture. (Architecture in the Making, Strong Environment, Formas Funding)
2014 (English)In: Making Knowledge Conference: Keynote, 11, 12 december 2014, Stockholm / [ed] Fredrik Nilsson, Daniel Koch, Jüri Soolep, Stockholm: Architecture in the Making, Formas funded , 2014Conference paper, Presentation (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Fredrik Nilsson (Chalmers), Daniel Koch (KTH) and Jüri Soolep (UMA) of the Strong Research Environment "Architecture in the Making", invited me to speak about architecture publications, exhibitions, and what we initiated at UMA (with UMA Press). And besides several examples I like to spend a few words on what it means to Stage the message (See also PhD ResArc communicationcourse as developed at UMA), and why communication according to me is, and also has been in many instances an intrinsic aspect of the profession architect.

In the ResArc Communication course Staging the Message. The Architecture of Communication we especially devoted our attention – with different specialist in the field of communication (such as AndreasRuby, Michael Rock, Nader Vossoughian, and Els Kuijpers), research and design – how the form(at) of a research – right from the start, and during the development of the research as a whole – can enable the researcher to (1) critically reflect and (2) develop its content through the interplay between content and form; while (3) the chosen and developed form of mediation also will enable the researcher to broadcast, (edit, communicate and mediate) her/his ideas (content) to an (4) audience (an idea of the public: society, peers, alliances, enemies or otherwise) within actuality and our information age at large.

With its special emphasis on the interplay between content & form the course – overcoming the problem that dissertations almost never work as publication – clarified that every relation needs a mediator; and this mediation comes with a form; an aesthetic discourse that by itself already empowers, limits and produces a specific kind of value system that (co)-produces, reworks and mediates the content. 

Form and content operate always interdependent of each other. Without mediation there can be no communication: Form is content, content is form, says Samuel Beckett, and only through a form(at) – and being aware of its consequences (dependencies) – you can start and are able to (a) reflect, (b) curate, (c) edit, (d) produce and (e) direct information in communication to (f) yourself, others and an audience.

With Modernism architects started really to see how important the intimate relation between architecture and publication is. It is of no coincidence that Le Corbusier listed his profession as “homme de lettre”(man of letters) instead of having the name architect in his passpor

Le Corbusier was meticulous how through page lay out, the form of type, the genre of writing, photographs, diagrams, sketch books, exhibitions and even promotional material, his ideas could be mediated[i], but also how these formats could help him to advance his ideas about architecture, urbanism and society in the new machine age.

For contemporary architects, such as Rem Koolhaas, writing, making publications, editing journals and designing exhibitions has been inseparable from their practice too. Part of the work is to describe architecture’s evolving present, … to prepare ourselves to deal with issues, …to know what kind of architecture you want to do. “I try out different genres, different tones, clinical – Generic City, or hysterical – Junk Space.” says Rem Koolhaas.


Through experimental forms of architecture communication (books, journals, exhibitions, genres, models, etc.) Koolhaas (with Harvard) discovers what the evolving present/past is about, and where moments of transformations can be enacted according to his research (as part of education at Harvard).

Another essential element of the communication course was how its mediated research could establish a pro-active relation – other than the commercial and state media – with its future audience in today’s society. In reaction to the virtual realism of the spectacle dominating mainstream media – which prevents a substantive use of word and image, the communication course delt with the textual, visual (photography, video, internet) and spatial practices that further more refined, complex and argumentative forms of communication and foreground the constructed nature of their messages in order to solicit the active interpretation of the viewer/reader.

To paraphrase architect Stefano Boeri we are in need of interactive antennas that counter a geopolitics that destroys any chance of communicative action. It is for this reason that the course focused on practices of a narrative language use in text, image, spatial and electronic media with emphasis on the potentialities and richness of the ‘reflexive’ or ‘dialogic approach’.

I rest my case, talking about the more theoretical aspects, dimensions of communication, media production, and another kind of critical forms of communicating.

Let’s look at some examples that hopefully inspire you I have been working on, in the past and which are in development with others (at for instance UMA); how in other words form and content are interlinked in publications and some exhibtions, including the one’s of some other inspiring authors/editors and its different formats.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Architecture in the Making, Formas funded , 2014.
National Category
Research subject
Aesthetics; design
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-108446OAI: diva2:853126
Making Knowledge Conference, at the architecture school KTH, Stockholm. organised by Architecture in the Making, Strong research Environment funded by Formas.
ResArc communication course, UMA PhD Research School
Available from: 2015-09-11 Created: 2015-09-11 Last updated: 2015-09-11

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