“‘Young Architecture’ as a discrete catagory [sic] reflects the atrophied aspirations of our cultural moment, in which, among a generation poorer than our parents, a growing majority will be unable to graduate to architecture, freedom, home-ownership or traditional debt-free marks of vocational maturity − a subtle but de facto form of slavery is creeping up on us.
Meanwhile the healthy ecologies formed of intermediate-scale architectural practice coupled with critical journalism and socially minded procurement have decayed through a process of polarisation − towards the very large and the very small, Establishment and emerging. In this context of power vs exploitation, the term ‘Young Architecture’ offers a vehicle for a compromised partnership between a cosy architectural press, morally bankrupt late-capitalist development and a disenfranchised generation of graduates with limited options.
‘Young Architecture’: a tainted brand
Brand ‘Young Architecture’ is perilously close to becoming shorthand for a privileged clique purveying minor and pop-up buildings, instantly and uncritically published in a sycophantic hype driven by individualism, consumerism and an obsession with youth, in a way that increasingly apes the fashion industry. While the works themselves are consistently imaginative and delightful, demonstrating the skill of their authors, it is the term of ‘Young Architecture’ and the values it is coming to imply that must be interrogated.
‘Young Architecture’ makes a virtue of an injustice. The ageist mantle demands a level of knowing self-parody from emerging designers who it smothers as it belittles, imposing low expectations as default. In segregating architects into binary camps, the term smuggles through tacit approval for the Establishment while cementing the position of knowingly under-remunerated outsiders: the young.
(…) The reactive definition of an adolescent stage in career development places inflated emphasis on conspicuous displays of ‘authenticity’. Vulnerable, self-initiated projects necessarily embody a humane frugality. However, communicating this ethic in a visual language that is Tumblr-friendly constrains much of the work to a style measured in the thin rustic novelty of pop-up DIY-like production: chipboard, shipping containers, bare bricks, spontaneous installation and time-limited demountability.
Architecture has finally become fast enough to simulate the frivolity of throw-away fashion. But before it congratulates itself for this renaissance of dynamic participation and urban vitality, sedulous emerging designers should question the direct social consequences of the burgeoning pop-up industry which courts them and the widespread co-option of this architectural froth as a game of distraction. The permission for and sponsorship of such installations ties these energetic works to a broader political question around who owns the city for whom.”
— Phineas Harper, Phil Pawlett Jackson, The Architectural Review