Performative Practices: Architecture and Engineering in the Twenty-First Century

2011 ACSA Teachers Seminar
June 16-18, 2011 / New York, New York

Co-chairs / Kiel Moe, Harvard  University / William Braham, University of Pennsylvania

Ivan Illich argued that the modern era of technology, characterized by tools, instrumentality, and function, gave way in the late twentieth century to the age of systems, characterized by complex configurations, self-organization, and emergence. This shift indicts the careful separation of design intention from means of construction codified in architectural contracts as well as the need-finding, problem-solving conventions of engineering practice. The shift from tools to systems heralds the emergence of complex performance problems—active glass walls and self-powered buildings—that demand hybrid responses. New practices are emerging from partnerships of architects, engineers, and others that blur disciplinary boundaries and advance new techniques in design and construction. Yet in architecture and engineering schools, the strictures of traditional curricula and funding structures for faculty and research prevents the same kind of vital professional promiscuity. Ecological, economic, and professional realities demand alternative models.