"The vast majority of the built environment is of an unspeakable ugliness"

In the short term a professional scene of many small offices will lead to a larger number of visionaries, listened to by fewer people. The man goes unheard, but that hardly seems to discourage him. A person assuming to possess privileged knowledge, to whom everyone around him appears to be deaf. What better way to fill the time between one project (some time ago) and the next (not any time soon)? Not the great inventors, or the announcers of every next revolution (in architecture there seems to be one happening almost every week), but the custodians of centuries of secrets. Imagine the ultimate outcome of this trend – a fully atomised situation where eventually the number of practices equals the number of architects, all of them desperately in search of someone willing to give them serious responsibilities. But how much longer can we continue to boast the relevance of our profession, before our complicity   in that which is being done in its name catches up with us? He screams at the top of his lungs, the contents of his speech are eloquent and melodious, but the drivers below, shielded by their steel harnesses, remain immune to the depth of his words. Still from Paris Texas by Wim WendersReinier de Graaf is a partner in the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) where he directs the work of AMO, the research and design studio established as a counterpart to OMA’s architectural practice. Modern architecture’s true legacy is not Modern architecture, but Junkspace. Opinion: the legacy of the Modernist movement is   a “God complex” among   contemporary architects that is turning architecture into its   own worst enemy, says   OMA partner Reinier de Graaf   in his first column for Dezeen. The great inventors are long dead and mostly not known by name. The smaller the offices, the smaller the audience for the architect to talk at. Let’s face it: architects talk for architects. Actually, a strange sense of progress emerges the further you go back in time, independent of – and often largely at odds with – technological progression. In the central pavilion, deliberately dressed up as a building trade fair, each room was dedicated to an individual element of architecture; together these elements make up the body of architecture. Where does it come from, this “God complex”?Modern architecture – the kind of architecture most of us claim to admire – hasn’t helped. Even while writing this (on a train on my way to work) I could not help but be overcome by a sense of shame when I paused to look out of the window. Campaigns focused on the importance of individual architects mainly seem to serve as a disguise for architecture’s failing as a collective – a kind of pre-emptive disclaimer, where our failures are invariably the fault of others. From architects talking for architects, we “evolve” to every architect talking to himself. The world at large seems largely disenchanted. Where does it come from, this “God complex”, this desire to view ourselves as an authority, essentially on everything? Shortly after I graduated, someone asked me: “Why did you study so intensively for so long? Isn’t architecture basically four walls and a roof?” The bluntness of this question took me aback, and 25 years later I still struggle to come up with an answer. The hype around contemporary architecture, and the myth of the individual genius that comes with it, seems little more than a convenient decoy that allows us to shed any notion of a collective responsibility – a disingenuous crusade against what are ultimately our own sins. After the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, my answer could be: “No, it is four walls, a roof, a window, a stair, perhaps a ramp, an elevator, perhaps an escalator, a balcony and possibly a (long) corridor…” A more elaborate answer, yes, but I doubt if it would have sufficed to dismiss the skepticism that underlay the question. The delight is in the discovery of a kind of intelligence that appears to have been there since the beginning of time. Here, the future seems mostly a well-forgotten past: a kind of progress in reverse. Never had this been more apparent than in this year’s edition of the Venice Biennale. It has largely proved a “facilitator”: an extension of the means to conduct this pointless contest only at a more intensified pace. To what extent does this man resemble the contemporary architect?There is a scene in the film Paris Texas by Wim Wenders: from a highway overpass, a clearly deranged man delivers prophecies to six lanes of passing traffic below. of four walls and a roof. A person who stands motionless, while everything around him is in motion. But it is invariably the history of each element that sparks enthusiasm.

Updated: 10.12.2014 — 20:30