"Less is more."
—Mies van de Rohe
"Less is a bore."
"Mess is the law."
Architecture depends—on what? On people, time, politics, ethics, mess: the real world. Architecture, Jeremy Till argues with conviction in this engaging, sometimes pugnacious book, cannot help itself; it is dependent for its very existence on things outside itself. Despite the claims of autonomy, purity, and control that architects like to make about their practice, architecture is buffeted by uncertainty and contingency. Circumstances invariably intervene to upset the architect's best-laid plans—at every stage in the process, from design through construction to occupancy. Architects, however, tend to deny this, fearing contingency and preferring to pursue perfection. With Architecture Depends, architect and critic Jeremy Till offers a proposal for rescuing architects from themselves: a way to bridge the gap between what architecture actually is and what architects want it to be. Mixing anecdote, design, social theory, and personal experience, Till's writing is always accessible, moving freely between high and low registers, much like his suggestions for architecture itself.
The everyday world is a disordered mess, from which architecture has retreated—and this retreat, says Till, is deluded. Architecture must engage with the inescapable reality of the world; in that engagement is the potential for a reformulation of architectural practice. Contingency should be understood as an opportunity rather than a threat. Elvis Costello said that his songs have to work when played through the cheapest transistor radio; for Till, architecture has to work (socially, spatially) by coping with the flux and vagaries of everyday life. Architecture, he proposes, must move from a reliance on the impulsive imagination of the lone genius to a confidence in the collaborative ethical imagination, from clinging to notions of total control to an intentional acceptance of letting go.
About the Author
Jeremy Till is Head of Central St Martins/Pro Vice-Chancellor, University of the Arts London, and a partner at Sarah Wigglesworth Architects. Their projects include the pioneering 9 Stock Orchard Street (The Strawbale House and Quilted Office), winner of multiple awards. He represented Britain at the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale.
“Architecture Depends is an attempt to save the profession from itself and a manifesto for an architecture that acknowledges its relationship with the world and its duty to others...This is a brave, enjoyable, affirming and important book and I actually felt sad to have finished it.” — Flora Samuel, Times Higher Education (Book of the Week)
“Boldly and elegantly, Architecture Depends asserts that architecture is absolutely dependent upon the ‘contingent’, difficult and perverse factors that architects have long tried to ignore in an effort to be pure, self-important and professional...What Till’s book achieves is to set out with great clarity the territory in which the debate around future action must take place.” — Robert Mull, Architects' Journal
“The book performs a wonderful contextualizing function, making architectural intervention, from idea to event, depend on the wide range of human habits and spheres of influence that we normally sum up as “the world”.” — Lucas Freeman, Scapegoat
“Thought-provoking and important...Architecture Depends raises the question of the relationship of architecture and life to a new level.” — Anni Vartola, Arkkitehti (Finland)
“Till’s book is about the world he knows and how one conveys ideas behind architecture. It is a superbly written, frequently fascinating set of arguments that will support architects who wish to use the messy stuff of life for their own advantage.” — Tim Abrahams, Blueprint
"This is a brave, enjoyable, affirming and important book and I actually felt sad to have finished it.", Flora Samuel, Times Higher Education
"A provocative declaration of war on utopia, powered by a fuel rich in social justice and sharp humor. Architects, hide it from your clients and your students—it is an unusual and explosive mixture that produces difficult questions like spores. With this book Jeremy Till raises the starting price on all our discussions of architecture."
—Paul Shepheard, author of What is Architecture? and Artificial Love
"In this provocative challenge to current architectural discourse, Jeremy Till briskly dissects and disposes of all of its myths. In their place, he proposes a newly optimistic and open-minded approach, breaking down the barriers between architecture and the world surrounding it. Short but packed with exciting ideas, this book successfully demonstrates how architecture's dependence on outside forces is its greatest strength, and how working with contingency can provide the field with the agency and ethics it desperately needs. Intelligent and incisive, this book should be required reading at all schools of architecture!"
Margaret Crawford, Professor of Urban Design and Planning Theory, Harvard Graduate School of Design
"Architecture Depends is a highly engaging and accessible book that explores the most central of architectural ideologies--the obsession with aesthetic order and autonomy, the repression of ambiguity and the everyday. Through a mix of philosophy, history, theory, and anecdote Jeremy Till shows how the contingencies of architecture, far from being a threat, comprise opportunities for a fundamental rethink of architectural design and theory."
--Kim Dovey, architectural critic and Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, University of Melbourne, Australia, and author of Fluid City
"At once a designer and teacher, a dissenter and committeeman, an academic and humorist, Jeremy Till is perfectly placed to affront, and be affronted by, the customary studio training of the architect. Architecture Depends genially eviscerates architecture of every claim it makes to autonomyfrom Vitruvius to CAD, rationalism to phenomenologycasting it back into the world to be nourished by, and nourishing to, life at large."
Simon Sadler, Professor of Architectural and Urban History, University of California, Davis