Opinion 03: 'Alternative Pathways to Practice' in conversation with Rory Hyde
“We hope to illustrate a version of architecture where the limits are no longer fixed.”
- Rory Hyde, Harriet Harris and Roberta Marcaccio¹
Architects after Architecture: Alternative Pathways to Practice edited by Rory Hyde, Harriet Harris and Roberta Marcaccio, maps out the possibilities of a degree in architecture beyond conventional practice. It questions the nature of an architecture degree and its application. For me, this brought the multidisciplinary nature of practice to light and transformed my understanding of the potential of architectural training. I now see it as being a gateway to an array of opportunities and have been left encouraged in this time of uncertainty. So, I reached out to Rory Hyde for a chat, co-editor and recently appointed associate professor at the Melbourne School of Design.
Conceived in a far from conventional way, Architects after Architecture spawned as Harriet Harris, British architect and Dean of New York’s Pratt Institute School of Architecture, was approached by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to write a practical “manual”. It was to cover the how-tos of venturing out into the real world of architects and aid the transition for students graduating from the M.Arch (known as the Part 2 in the U.K). Hyde and Roberta Marcaccio, educator at the Architectural Association School of Architecture, soon joined the team—but quickly found they needed to zoom out. Hyde explained,
“We thought, let's not just look at the conventional path, let’s ask where we can be useful as architects. A big thread throughout the book is public purpose and we felt that this was an important pathway back to the relevance of the architect itself.”
Thus, the proposal they came to realise was one they felt more passionate and inclined to pursue. This led them to publish with Routledge, resulting in the book we read today.
Collating a variety of professionals constituting “new paths forward” in architecture, the editors soon composed the premise into the form of forty examples. These fall into two categories, “Plus” and “Beyond”. “Plus” explores how a selection of architects have extended their architectural practice, whilst, “Beyond” collates professionals who have “jumped out” of the profession and are utilising their training in alternative domains.
Coming to know Chris Hildrey of Hildrey Studio and his project Proxy Address (in the category of “Beyond”)—his design for homelessness greatly influenced my perception. His contribution is a pivotal example that questions the basis of traditional architectural training to realise that the solution is not always a building. Expressing and talking with Hyde opened me up to more information on Hildrey. As we agreed on the cleverness of his addressing to the question of homelessness in London, Hyde expressed,
“This is often the problem – you give any kind of question to an architect and the answer is a building. [Chris] asked, ‘How can we solve homelessness?’ And the answer you would normally get from an architect is that we need more homes. On the surface that's probably true, but what he discovered through looking carefully at the reasons people fall into homelessness, was that it wasn't so much that they didn't have a roof over their head – mostly they are sleeping on sofas or in crisis accommodation – but more so they didn't have an address. And without an address, they weren't able to continue to stay connected to services and institutions after they lost their job and it all spiralled out. Therefore, by giving them a virtual address you can shortcut that system of falling away. So, that’s extremely clever because it has a very architectural outcome but the mechanism is not a building.”
Joining Hildrey, amongst the collation, are also multidisciplinary team Interboro and architect Takeshi Hayatsu. Both demonstrate “Plus”. Interboro, in particular, has redefined their design process and integrate a co-design approach for the inclusion of alternative perspectives and community engagement. Explored in the book, the development of their project The Nature Playscape, engaged local students and children in a series of activities and workshops to develop an inclusive playscape that was uniquely appropriate for them. Hayatsu Architects also invites local communities to collaborate on their projects, allowing their unique ideas and skillsets to contribute to the firm’s goal of continuing to work with those who share a “pride in making things” and “working with people in the most appropriate and effective way for the project”.¹ I bookmarked these practitioners and many others throughout my reading of the book, as impactful examples that I could immediately start implementing as essential considerations in my own design process. I see through actions and approaches like these, change begins. The inclusion and opinions of others shape a more relevant, accessible and appropriate architecture, one that is pivotal for the industry's growth.
Thus, these three and the collective forty, give hope, whilst showcasing a new definition of architecture for students, graduates and professionals. It remembers the 40% of graduates that do not pursue the conventional path and acknowledges them—whether they are “trying to find their direction” or left unsatisfied with the limitations of the role of traditional practitioner.
Learning from the publication and Hyde, I now understand the pivotal role of the redefinition of architectural education into creating more effective and impactful responses. This application of plus and beyond in the built environment is one that seems even more profoundly relevant now—as we confront the current covid-19 crisis. This is similar to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008, compelling practitioners to “redraw the boundaries of what was possible” when impacted by the realisation that there wasn't a job waiting for them; expresses Hyde. We are drawn to make a correlation that “we are in a similar position now” and with the timely release of Architects after Architecture, Hyde hopes that it can be a useful resource and reaffirm that our “set of skills are exactly what we need right now”. A reminder to realign with how we can be fundamentally useful.³
Architects after Architecture has given a spot to alternative pathways. Inspiring even greater change and impact, it successfully juggles “one foot in architecture but also stretches it as far as possible” for “the broadest horizon of possibilities'', according to Rory. Architectural education is also redefined as a means to ask and answer the difficult questions popping up in our ever-evolving, contemporary world, spurring discussion and reflection for students and professionals. And as an undergraduate student of architecture on the cusp of graduating, I am now thinking about how I can use my learned skillset and rigorous education to further cultivate change, innovation and action in radical ways.
So, even more so now, I know that architectural practice is a constant and ever-evolving education. It is a gateway to an array of opportunities to spark radical transformation. I am left feeling confident facing adversity and reassured that my skill set can remain relevant now and into the future. I cannot help but feel excited.
Photographed and edited by Alissa Ricci
Rory Hyde, Harriet Harris and Roberta Marcaccio, Architects after Architecture: Alternative Pathways to Practice (London, Routledge, 2020)
Rory Hyde, Harriet Harris and Roberta Marcaccio, Architects After Architecture: Book Launch (2020)
Uro Book Launch (Livestream: facebook)
Rory Hyde, Future Practise: Conversations from the Edge of Architecture (Routledge, 2012)