Christophe van Gerrewey

BP 4144 (Bâtiment BP)
Station 16
CH-1015 Lausanne

Administrative data

Fields of expertise

Criticism, History and Theory of Architecture (and Literature and the Visual Arts) 
Philosophical and Cultural Views on Architecture and Urban Planning

Infoscience publications


1 Some architectural writers of the 20th century

In 1972, Nikolaus Pevsner published the book 'Some architectural writers of the nineteenth century'. The current state of architectural theory, history and criticism asks for an update to his study: overspecialization in the architectural humanities has made combinations of historical research, critical judgments and theoretical speculation quite difficult. Nevertheless, only some decades ago many important 'architectural writers' were active in the architectural culture of the Western World. The aim of this monographic research is to define their intellectual projects, and to interpret their ideas on architecture before the fragmentation of its cultural and scientific field.

2 The fate of architectural singularity

In an essay from 1989, American writer John Updike asked himself if architecture can be criticized. 'Isn’t one duty of architecture', he wrote, 'simply to be different – to give us a sense of change and renewal in our lives?' Updike as such unwittingly defined architecture as the production of 'singular objects', in for example the postmarxist vein of a philosopher like Jean Baudrillard, who declared, in a conversation with Jean Nouvel: 'A work of architecture is a singularity, and all these singularities can create holes, interstices and voids in the metastatic fullness of culture.’ Given the worldwide - mostly visual - 'success' of architecture, this critical tradition has without a doubt come into affliction, not in the least because its roots in old and often premoderns traditions has remained unexposed.

3 1989: a year in the life and work of OMA

The year 1989 can be regarded as a turning point for contemporary Western architecture: after the fall of the Berlin Wall, its social power and pretensions were gradually replaced by a mere 'cultural' presence; instead of creating or defining urban environments, architects fell back on the construction of 'merveilles'. One architectural firm embodied this shift emblematically: the Office for Metropolitan Architecture of Rem Koolhaas. A micro-historical inquiry into the projects of OMA from 1989 - such as the Très Grand Bibliothèque, the Sea Trade Center, the completion of the IJ-plein social housing project, but also the Villa dall'Ava - can help to circumscribe this historical, theoretical and critical evolution.