During the building of her 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar, Zaha Hadid stated, in response to rampant workers’ deaths on the construction site, “It is not my duty as an architect to look at it” – thus revealing a hidden, contested field in which disciplinary boundaries are currently being tested. While Hadid advocated for strict legal and conceptual limits for the site of architecture, others are currently scrutinizing the site as an underutilized space of design engagement, material and programmatic innovation, as well as locally activated, responsive architecture.
Historically speaking, the term “on-site” has denoted both a locational and temporal specificity—defining not only the realm within which a design is to be physically realized, but also suggesting that this realization occurs after the act of design has basically ended. Such a connotation arises from the long-held equation of design (drawing) with ideality, and the resulting assumption that the various aspects of architecture’s authorship—its conception, iterative exploration, materialization, and refinement—benefit and indeed rely on such a categorical separation between on- and off-site.
The traditional location of the design activity “off-site,” therefore, suggests that the site is understood as simply a realm where a fully-formed design is made manifest, and that it is presumed to be devoid of any capacity to host all or part of the design process itself (or to allow the aspects of its character, context, or inhabitants to be harnessed as agents of unpremeditated architectural effects). However, the profound impact of the technological, social, and cultural transformations from the last few decades has led to the decoupling of activities from specific temporalities and locales. As these activities can now take place within new contexts, they have become more situational—transformed by the sites within which they occur.
This paradigmatic shift has likewise affected architecture, dislocating some or all of its procedures from the hermetic confines of the office or studio and allowing them instead to take place within other contexts outside of the architect’s specific agency. Accordingly, new forms and practices of design have emerged that engage the architectural site in novel ways—postponing the closure of the design process so that it remains open to the site’s more situational influences.
“On-site” provides a forum where these recent trends can be interrogated and evaluated. It aims to examine such works in relation to relevant historical precedents and to sponsor informed speculation about future practices. Relevant approaches could include, but are not limited to:
On-site as data | On-site as construction | On-site as labor | On-site as practice | On-site as experiential | On-site as situational | On-site as virtual | On-site as political | On-site as local | On-site as On-site
The submission deadline is January 6, 2019.