Dedicated to Architecture - Institutions as Drivers of Change

Dedicated to Architecture - Institutions as Drivers of Change

From Hong Kong to New York, from Vilnius to Singapore, participants and presenters at the Dedicated to Architecture conference had come from afar to gather in Copenhagen for a few days to discuss the architecture institutions the future. Everyone contributed to the debate and, most importantly, inspired participants and presenters to follow up on the discussions and maybe make the conference a recurring event.

From 17 to 19 April 2013 a wide range of representatives from architecture institutions around the world had gathered in Copenhagen for the conference,Dedicated to Architecture- institutions as drivers of change, hosted by the Danish Architecture Centre (DAC) and Realdania.

View the video reportage from the conference:

All the presentations from the conference can be viewed on Arkitektur-TV

From start-up to well established
Some of the guests were in the start-up phase of their institution: for example, Honorary Secretary Thomas Chung of the Hong Kong Architecture Centre. Others came from well-established institutions, and included Kieran Long, Senior Curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum.  Meanwhile, others were not attached to any institutions at all, but to private companies: for example,  Michael Stevns, Partnership Manager of Siemens, who talked about the major sustainable cities exhibition, which Siemens has supported.

How to attract a wide audience?
But what united them was a profound interest in architecture and urban development, plus a desire to share this interest with the outside world. It quickly became clear that, despite the differences, most architecture institutions face the same challenges and questions: for example, the issue of how to attract a wide audience.

Ole Bouman, former General Director of the Netherlands Architecture Institution (NAI), pointed out that, in this area, NAI had devoted a lot of different efforts in the attempt to to open up the institution:  "We wanted to address an alternative audience by making a more accessible exhibition and creating a semi-informal way of talking of architecture. We deliberately claimed no truth but only half the truth".

Architecture can promote architecture
The conference was centred around three themes: Impact, Conditions and Methods. As a contribution to the "Impact" theme, Kent Martinussen, CEO of the Danish Architecture Centre, talked about the DAC's new building, Bryghusprojektet, while Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT Senseable City Lab, talked about new technological opportunities. The ensuing discussion went on to deal with whether one actually needs the fundamental, physical centre, which presently legitimates the existence of architecture institutions. Here, however, there was consensus that cyberspace is not going to replace the physical space, and Kent Martinussen emphasised that "architecture can promote architecture."

New partnerships with the business community
Under the "Conditions" heading, there was discussion about how, maybe in the future, institutions will work more closely with private companies to discover what opportunities and challenges are inherent in these new types of collaboration. According to Michael Stevns from Siemens, this is definitely something we are going to see more of in the future, and architecture institutions must learn to adapt.

Sharing experience
The last theme dealt with the Methods of architecture institutions. Discussion included the issue of how to reach out to new audiences. Eva Franch I Gilabert, Executive Director of Storefront for Art and Architecture, spoke about her experience of drawing people in by serving paella or by tackling alternative themes. "We want to address the most pressing questions: about homelessness, queerness - ask the questions that no one else is willing to".

Is an archive necessary?
"Methods" enlivened a debate about whether or not one should have an archive.  Whether one likes it or not, one will eventually build up a collection of objects, but an actual archive also means a lot of commitment. As Mariet Willinge, Secretary General of ICAM, put it,  "Once you start, you can never stop".

Dedicated to Architecture Volume 2?
The final presentation by Maarten Gielen, founder of Rotary, took a critical look at the way, in which institutions represent and talk about architecture. As in the conference's keywords, change was examined under the magnifying glass. What kind of change must architecture institutions initiate, and is change always a good thing? Then the conference concluded appropriately with the overall question:  How do institutions become drivers of change? This is a question, which is likely to resurface in the years to come, maybe even in aDedicated to Architecture Volume 2.


Also read
Tomorrow's cultural institution will be based on new partnerships with the business community

Interview with Michael Stevns

About the Dedicated to Architecture conference


The conference was supported by Realdania.


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Last updated Thursday, March 19, 2015