Distância Crítica [Critical Distance]

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale

“I’m not afraid of getting the future wrong, as I almost invariably will. I’m actually intent on exploring our very mysterious and unknown present moment.” William Gibson

We’re living in the era of data paranoia —”too much world,” in the words of Hito Steyerl. Twitter bots, alternative facts, blockchains, AI, fake news, DNA hacking, false leaks. What once we recognized as “the real” has been transformed into a set of blurred realities created through digital personas, avatars and social media profiles, generating landscapes of uncertainty where we can say that Lacan’s categories overlap: the imaginary, the symbolic, and the real creating a common ground in which architecture has to play it’s role. It is undeniable that this data flows affects how cities evolve, affecting our social context, the political system, the way we move, consume, dream, and live.

In this context, more and more architecture is becoming a mediated discipline unfolding many different forms of production and circulation — from buildings, to research projects, exhibitions, books, and other media — where communication tools and interfaces can be powerful instruments to provoke a meaningful shift in the way theory and practice are intertwined; while at the same time, they can present a confuse vision of the social and political context where we need to act. Immersed into this massive set of layers, it’s easy to lose the critical distance that is often necessary to envision where are we going as a practice. Although “critical distance” doesn’t refer to a physical distance; it refers to the needful time and space to reflect, discuss, and confront the status quo to see things from different perspectives, in order to create new understandings of the role of the architect nowadays.

Having a critical distance to our practice can be enormously consequential for the future of architecture, if there is such. Or at least, to explore in many diverse and active ways our “mysterious and unknown present moment”.

—Ethel Baraona Pohl, dpr-barcelona

The Lisbon Architecture Triennale held the conference of the Distância Crítica [Critical Distance] in October 2017. They invited four architects, professionals and thinkers (Lucia Tahan, FAKT OFFICE, Bika Rebek and Léopold Lambert) whose work goes beyond the spectrum of the constructed object and, working in different fields, create other narratives for the architectural practice, in order to build against -imaginers needed in the limited agenda of the present and use them to provoke possible different futures. The debate was moderated by Ethel Baraona Pohl (dpr-barcelona).