In the UK today, with government initiatives cut back and relatively few competitions, young architects have fewer options than they did five years ago before the crisis began to bite. However the most progressive architecture is often produced in periods of economic and political crisis. During times of austerity and emergency, otherwise apparently autonomous tectonics invariably take on other identities, and the art of relational urbanism and improvised organisation comes to the fore. Entropy precedes a new kind of breeding space.
An architecture not limited to buildings
Through reduced budgets, improvised means and digital-analogue projects, the pop-up, the agitprop, the near-spontaneous happening, community games, and above all, political involvement, a counter-practice of experimentation enables a more responsive mode of practice and interactive cultural projects in an age of austerity -- without the time scale or investment conventionally required in the boom times. Just as optimists like to believe, crisis can also be opportunity. Architectural concepts from the young and emerging offices in the UK have become temporary, reconfigurable, or allied to public art. As the late, radical English architect Cedric Price anticipated in the 1960s, sometimes the best solution is not a building. In my new book, New Arcadians: Emerging UK Architects, I analyse the social engagement of 18 young practices and their commitment to affordable, robust solutions.
Alternative approaches to architecture during the current malaise in the UK may have been temporarily overshadowed by the glory and buzz of the London Olympics, and the culmination of its six-year building programme, but as Stuart Piercy of Piercy Conner Architects, one of the practices featured, says: