Maybe We Should Just Stop Using the Word “Architecture”
An interview with Jeremy Till
Over the past year, within the COVID pandemic, the manifold crises which the world was already facing have deepened their political, social and ecological impact, and with this, a sense of urgency arises within all disciplines. In architecture, and specifically in the Western architectural culture and tradition, such crises have historically determined either utopian or heroic responses, driven by the belief that architecture can and will fix the problems of the world. Architecture educator Jeremy Till is one of the most prominent critics of this specific discourse manifested within the field of architecture. Currently Head of Central Saint Martins and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the Arts London, he has previously taught at the Bartlett School of Architecture, the University of Sheffield, and the University of Westminster, where he was appointed Dean of Architecture and the Built Environment between 2008 and 2012. Together with architect Sarah Wigglesworth, he has designed the project 9 Stock Orchard Street, the recipient of the 2004 RIBA National Award and the 2004 RIBA Sustainability Award. His books, Flexible Housing, co-authored by Tatjana Schneider, Spatial Agency, written with Tatjana Schneider and Nishat Awan, and Architecture Depends have received RIBA President’s Award for Research in 2007, 2009 and 2011, respectively. Arguing against the perpetuation of the myth of the genius-architect and that of architectural autonomy, his writing focuses on ways in which architecture engages with the political, the social, and with broader notions of contingency.
We had the great joy to navigate, together with Jeremy Till, architecture’s possibilities as a field to address current challenges, its obligation to shift its value systems and beliefs, and its foundational issues of aesthetics in light of the topic of our current issue. Moreover, by tackling the understanding of what the limitations of the field are, in a time of crisis, we believe that architecture can both learn from previous mistakes and better its means to act as an agent of systemic change.