Future Architecture Platform played a pivotal role in initiating a discussion on the future of architecture, extending far beyond “the building as the primary domain of architecture” but rather exploring the future of architecture “as deeply concerned with urgent socio-political and material issues that went far beyond what is traditionally thought of as the “domain of architecture.” Beyond the typical online endeavour, and acknowledging the importance of true collaboration, the platform turned “our often private thinking into a public affair, expanding the scope of the architectural discourse and renegotiating the figure of the practicing architect”. In this interview with Milan Dinevski (manager of the platform) and Damjan Kokalevski we discuss the platform and its subsequent evolution into the Future Architecture Book (2021). They critically examine the groundbreaking endeavour and network whose footsteps we at KoozArch hope to follow.
KOOZ Could you briefly introduce us to the Future Architecture Platform and your ambitions? When the project was kicked off back in 2015 as “the first pan-European platform of architecture museums, festivals and producers, bringing ideas on the future of cities and architecture closer to the wider public”.
MD The first Call for Ideas in 2015 marked the platform's launch. It invited architects to start a discussion about the future of architecture, extending far beyond the building as the primary domain of architecture, which was the main ambition. Matevž Čelik, director of the Museum of Architecture and Design (MAO) at the time, together with leaders of established cultural institutions across Europe, launched the platform. It was conceived as a structure for exchange between these institutions and emerging creatives to promote their transformative ideas globally, thus opening a whole new field for interaction, discourse-making, and collaboration.
It was conceived as a structure for exchange between these institutions and emerging creatives to promote their transformative ideas globally, thus opening a whole new field for interaction, discourse-making, and collaboration.
DK The call was intentionally framed in general terms to provoke as many diverse responses as possible and to see what is relevant to the new generation of practitioners. Communal spaces, urban leftovers, ruins, bio-materials, surveillance, immigration, the refugee crisis and decolonial topics were mainly addressed. From the ideas submitted, it became clear that the future of architecture was concerned with urgent socio-political and material issues that went far beyond what is traditionally thought of as the “domain of architecture”.
The platform developed into a communication tool and a networking mechanism. This enabled both the institutions and the practitioners to put forward bold ideas and topics for public discussions about what architecture can do and simultaneously test the profession's limits.
MD Through the Call for Ideas, the Creative Exchange, and the European Architecture Program, the platform developed into a communication tool and a networking mechanism. This enabled both the institutions and the practitioners to put forward bold ideas and topics for public discussions about what architecture can do and simultaneously test the profession's limits. It quickly became apparent that there was a significant absence of organized debate around such topics.
Selected Ideas (2015-2021)
KOOZ Six years after the founding, the platform has now come to a close. In what ways and with what results did the project “identify and explore new models of creative work that could provide future generations in Europe with a more stable perspective?”
MD The platform called to think and “act now!” Many creatives organized themselves in collectives specifically to respond to the Call for Ideas. This reflected a lack of “real” architectural work and a growing interest in “other” forms of practicing architecture. The result is a vast idea repository with over 2000 entries, accumulated over a period of six years, that is archived and available online. The ideas ranged from the most utopian to the most pragmatic, all with one concern, how to find a new language relevant to the architectural discourse. Such a form of organizing reflects the feeling of responsibility to address our struggles and care in a sincere and coordinated manner. The platform turned the care into an architectural argument and brought together not only a panoply of ideas but also personalities with strong visions. We became acutely aware of the importance of creating structures that bring people together and turn our often private thinking into a public affair. This attitude also meant expanding the scope of the architectural discourse and renegotiating the figure of the practicing architect. The Platform made these aspirations visible on a large scale for the first time.
The architecture discourse needs to recognize that the word building is equally important as the word discussing. The Platform essentially introduced a culture of collaboration by extending the networks beyond the local and national borders.
DK Outside of academia architects rarely discuss, publish, research or curate, primarily because of a lack of time and resources. Even less, they come together in an organized and visible manner. The architecture discourse needs to recognize that the word building is equally important as the word discussing. The Platform essentially introduced a culture of collaboration by extending the networks beyond the local and national borders. Many of the new and groundbreaking architecture practices that took part now recognize this as an essential mode of working. From the very outset, the platform was expanding the relevance for architects. As Marina Otero writes in her reflection, architects realized that they needed to have a seat on the discussion table and create a new set of competencies in the domains of politics, education, curating and publishing. The platform addressed topics about the environment, social, economic and political aspects of space, infrastructure, technology and heritage. Furthermore, discussions about accessibility, affordability, equity, parity and the architecture curriculum were held. These topics were, or still are, seen as not really belonging to the “core” architecture that is traditionally seen as a “form-giving” practice.
Future Architecture Idea Map.
KOOZ The project can be seen as a snapshot and account of instrumental and groundbreaking visions of emerging and established talents and institutions on the European economy, living environment and society. How and to what extent can these visions continue informing the European project in the years to come?
MD Future Architecture Platform, in this sense, is an organizing principle and a form-giving entity among pan-European cultural institutions that came together with a twofold idea. One, to give voice to the young and otherwise overlooked architectural practitioners, and two, to create a community through coordinated collaboration. This would impact the architectural discourse beyond anyone’s imagination and open the discussion to a myriad of new and globally relevant topics. To be part of the Future Architecture Platform meant to belong to a robust community of concerned creative practitioners who take the role of designers, educators, institutional leaders, activists, writers, and above all, citizens. Through discussions, collaborating, sharing ideas, and thinking together in a series of intensive tête-à-tête meetings and events, they address pressing issues and concerns about our futures and our architectural footprint on this planet.
To be part of the Future Architecture Platform meant to belong to a robust community of concerned creative practitioners who take the role of designers, educators, institutional leaders, activists, writers, and above all, citizens.
DK Beyond a claim of being interdisciplinary, the architecture discourse is often isolated within schools of thought, ivy-league smugness, or even worse, within the trope and figure of “the star-architect”. With the recent political and economic zeitgeist, exemplified by creating enclosures in both the literal sense, “build that wall”, and ideological one by “fearing the other”, it is now more urgent than ever to create arenas for critical thinking that stand as glimmers of light. In this context, many established cultural institutions joined the platform. They insisted on opening a democratic space as a forum where they connect to emerging creatives and diverse voices from Europe and beyond. Some now well-known names in the architecture discourse used the platform as a springboard to expand and launch their now very robust international careers. The platform was partially responsible for creating a whole new “genre” of emerging creatives interested in working on curatorial and editorial projects in architecture. In the later years, it also attracted some well-established practices and figures who saw the platform as an opportunity to engage in non-traditional ways of practicing architecture in order to expand their scope.
MD Recently, the LINA Platform was created and is picking up where the Future Architecture Platform left off. Building on the previous results and experiences, its ambition is to upgrade it both programmatically and organizationally. It will also expand the discursive work, including architectural education, and align it to the agenda of the New European Bauhaus. Internally, it is introducing new governance and organizational model with decentralized decision-making, rotating steering committees, and a horizontal, more democratic management structure. Such administrative bodies are usually not discussed in cultural frameworks but rather in company settings, so it will be exciting to see how this will develop further in the coming years.
KOOZ As explored in the introduction to your publication the very notion of platform has many meanings which you thoroughly explored and challenged throughout the last few years. From digital to analogue, the project has now been formalized within the “Future Architecture Book.” What informed this decision?
MD As you mentioned, the platform has many digital and analog outlets. Therefore, we felt going “back” to the book format was even more critical considering that aspect. Another vital factor that inspired us to publish the book was to show the most significant facets aimed at preserving a trace of the platform whose term ended. What happens when the funding ends and the cycle is complete? Would we leave what we have built systematically over the years as scattered documentation, or would we put our final effort into preserving it more coherently? The book gives some consistency and a visible format to such a large project. It is also a thank-you note to all Future Architecture creatives, members, friends, collaborators, supporters, and personnel, who got together to create something remarkable!
DK The platform was based on connections and collaborations, promoting a community of thinkers and doers who operate among the particular, locally relevant and universal, globally important. The sheer volume of work that came out as a result of the platform during its six years is overwhelming and is the basis for this book. It is conceived as a cross-section through time and an attempt to expose the “code” behind the platform. It does not claim completeness; such a book would take on an encyclopedic scale; instead, it shows a curated fragment, revealing the links, ebbs and flows of ideas across time and through collaborations. We wanted to convey and show the culture of collaboration rather than explain it. In this sense, the book represents an archive or an attempt to preserve cultural production and not let it vanish.
The book represents an archive or an attempt to preserve cultural production and not let it vanish.
Together with Ana Kuntaric Brodersen, the former communication manager of Future Architecture Platform, and Benja Pavlin, a graphic designer, we created a unit working as a forensic team dissecting the staggering amount of materials and finding a way to present them in a most fitting way. We cross-cut through particular years, showing the ethos of the time, behind-the-scenes activities, and collaborations through different scales of the platform. We looked at thousands of artifacts produced throughout the years - ideas, projects, exhibitions, events, reflections, publications, library, thousands of photographs, visual identity packs, call for proposals and testimonials. It is less focused on the content of the ideas presented but rather as a look behind the workings of the platform, exposing its mechanisms of collaboration. What one can read is an outcome of our attempt to uncover a movement using historical and interpretative tools as much as a scientific and quantifiable approach.
KOOZ Throughout the various sections, the book traces pivotal formats, moments and ideas which have shaped both Future Architecture Platform journey but also developed into standalone collaborations and projects. To this end one could talk about the platform as a true catalyst for change and as an incredible archive of potential. What are your hopes for how people will now use and navigate the platform and read the book?
DK The book is a call for action. I like the description of the book as an archive of potential. It leaves openings for projects and collaborations that could be picked up and developed further. Some collaborations went beyond the platform and were absorbed into other projects and networks. Given the platform's complex and ubiquitous work, we decided to give particular importance to creating graphs that map and trace trends to make visible which issues were important that year and compare them within the six years. This way, the book became curated research into the platform’s internal workings and the general zeitgeist. This is visible in each chapter. From the outset, the editorial concept emphasized what was already there, meaning the quality of the diverse materials, formats and outcomes. Most materials are presented as found objects in their “as is” state and treated as historical artifacts or “ready-made”.
The book became curated research into the platform’s internal workings and the general zeitgeist.
MD We decided to add a short manual on navigating the book in order to reveal our editorial intent. The four main parts are Reflections, Charts, Collaborations, and Dossier, which frame the book. Prominent cultural critics, including Amica Dall, Marina Otero Verzier, Giovanna Borasi, and Stojan Pelko, were called to write Reflectionsbased on that year’s submitted applications. They took a critical and political tone, revealing positions about how we use or misuse words in our discourse, power relations, human-centered design, or ideological traps and opportunities for rethinking our practice. The reflections became both a guide to locate the platform's problems and allowed it to be critical of its work. The Charts give a visual representation of the vast database and reveal a method for choosing the projects presented in the book. We represented specific categories like Future Architecture Idea Map, Selected Ideas (2015—2021), Frequently Used Words, Ideas per Year by Topic, and Top Ideas by Collaborations that map out a clear spatial appearance of some of the most important aspects of the platform. The projects are presented as a string of Collaborations starting from the idea, submitted to the Call for Ideas, followed by the Creative Exchange and the European Architecture Program, and ends with a realized Outcome that takes the shape of an exhibition, publication, film, or lecture series, to name a few. Finally, the Dossier takes the form of a statistical report that captures the sheer complexity and quantity, revealing the “code” of the platform. It is an attempt to find a novel way to publish data and relate it to the narrative parts of the book, a database that could be used for further research.
Find "Future Architecture Book" (Museum of Architecture and Design, 2021) at the MAO online bookshop.
Milan Dinevski is an architect and cultural producer. He was the Future Architecture Platform manager from 2018 to 2021 and the executive curator of “Future Architecture Rooms - an Unconventional Virtual Environment”, a project at the intersection of the real and the immaterial. Recently, he was the Head of Production Platform of BIO27 “Super Vernaculars - Design for Regenerative Future” for the 27th Biennial of Design at the Museum of Architecture and Design, MAO Ljubljana.
Damjan Kokalevski is an architect and researcher. He is a postdoctoral associate at the Architekturmuseum der TUM, establishing the born-digital architecture archive. Born and raised in Skopje, he was educated and worked in Vienna, Tokyo, and Zurich. He completed his doctoral dissertation titled "Performing the Archive: Skopje. From the Ruins of the City of the Future" at ETH Zurich in 2018. His recent thematic interest lies in the topic "infrastructures of data" seen through the lens of social justice, the democratization of knowledge, accessibility and resources.
They co-founded City Creative Network in Skopje and Institute ALT in Ljubljana, a citizen initiative and center for research, design, and media, which questions positions of power while creating new spatial, social, and political narratives.