Amid the tricks and trompe l'oeils of contemporary practices, architecture is now, more than ever, in pursuit of the real.
It is often suggested that architecture is more “real” than the other arts, more grounded and definitive. Yet even the most fundamental and concrete elements of architecture are often designed to conceal. This issue of Perspecta—the oldest and most distinguished student-edited architectural journal in America—embraces the paradoxical nature of the real, presenting it as a lens that magnifies the strategies and tactics of architecture, past, present, and future. How does architecture create real effects, change our built environment, and respond to crises? What are the tricks and trompe l'oeils of contemporary practice? Amid fake Europes, shape-shifting materials, and underwater asylums, Perspecta 42 navigates architecture's disciplinary boundaries to locate the real in the most unlikely of places. The real has been central to our understanding of architecture for the last hundred years, even if the discussion has been couched in other terms. While architecture anxiously situates itself between building and discourse, it never fully capitulates to either side. Through historical inquiry, theoretical writing, and contemporary projects, Perspecta 42 asserts that now, more than ever, architecture is in search of the real. The issue revolves around three encounters with the real. First, the physical: texts, projects, and conversations that relate to issues of material properties and our bodily surroundings—thoughts on such topics as sensory environments, smart materials, and the floor as a landscape of logistics. Second, authenticity: explorations of representation and hybrid realities, including the digital and the surreal. And, finally, institutional failures and man-made or natural crises: considerations of war, the current economic calamity, and racial politics.
Contributors Michelle Addington, Lucia Allais, Alejandro Aravena, Mario Ballesteros, BIG, Andrew Blauvelt, Keller Easterling, Olafur Eliasson and Kurt Forster, Hal Foster, Lorens Holm, Jiang Jun, L.E.FT., Armin Linke, Metahaven, Spyros Papapetros, Emmanuel Petit, Antoine Picon, Bill Rankin, Damon Rich, Francois Roche, Matthew Stadler, Albena Yaneva, Yoon+Howeler, Andrew Zago, Mirko Zardini