Recessive Architecture

February 2020
AIA New Practices Award

There is an early project by Lacaton and Vassal where they were asked to redesign a plaza and they opted to maintain the existing design instead of proposing a new one. The necessary prerogative in our industry is to be opportunistic in every project, getting in shape for the big one. This produces a zealous architectural class that relies on a circular fantasy of newness.

Under the economic conditions of the profession of architecture, I understand the necessity to stand out, but as the primary handlers of space, what we lose society-wide cannot be replaced. Architecture should not exist to continuously reproduce realities and claim them as our own, it should instead update conditions that advance the positive qualities of society.

Considering this condition, recessive architecture is one of the preferred positions to take– design is neither present nor absent and tends towards nothing at all. Many of these projects focus on reducing the architectural approach so that almost nothing remains, just furniture, horizons, doors, sunlight, intimacy, counting, proportions etc.

It is my goal to make architecture less important. When architecture operates in a state of reduced expression, it often performs some of its most essential acts. When a building is ordered in its materials, geometry and structure– this clarity guides inhabitants towards the immanent truths of themselves, narrowing the gap between the systems of architecture from life.

“the Neutral doesn’t refer to “impressions” of grayness, of “neutrality,” or indifference. The Neutral– my Neutral– can refer to intense, strong, unprecedenced states. ‘To out play the paradigm,’ is an ardent, burning activity.” 

– Roland Barthes, The Neutral