Every fall, I begin hounding my thesis-writing graduate students with a single question: “So what?” As they wade through primary research and cultural theory, it’s intended to be blunt force shock that cuts through all the other questions swirling around in their heads. “So what?” asks each of them to take a hard look at their own hypothesis and consider: Why does it matter? Why is it relevant?
At Oculus we have an opportunity to ask those same fundamental questions in our quarterly issues, going beyond the analysis of a single, finished building to connect the dots among current projects by observing trends, raising questions, and putting current practice in context. We hope what you read in these pages will stick with you and, ideally, prompt you to start a conversation with colleagues about why something matters to the profession, to the city, or to you personally.
From this issue, you might pick up the gauntlet thrown down in the op-ed by Jane Smith, who argues that fundamentals of professional practice should be better integrated into the education of architects (“Design + Business,” page 38). You may be intrigued by an expert insight in one of our features around the theme “Agile Spaces” (starting on page 19), regarding how interior spaces—and the design process behind them—are becoming evermore adaptable.
Amid these stories focused on change, we’re thrilled to premiere a new series of images by photographer Christopher Payne. His visual essay on the Stiles and Hart Brick Company (“House of Bricks,” page 39) is an ode to an ancient building material that remains vital today, perhaps for its sheer versatility. Louis Kahn thought so, anyway (see Stanley Stark’s review of You Say to Brick, page 46).
This issue also spotlights Archtober, the annual month-long celebration of architecture in the city. In honor of one of Archtober’s central events, Open House New York (OHNY) Weekend (October 12-14), contributor Claire Wilson explores one of OHNY’s listings in the borough of Staten Island, the Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden, which, at press time, had just announced some exciting new architectural plans by Marvel Architects.
Finally, check out a new and newsy column “Street Level” (page 15), in which writers Alex Ulam and Cassandra Gerardo point to improvements in the urban environment that alter our experience of the city.
In the next issue, we look forward to celebrating the 80th birthday of Oculus with some of the legendary editors and writers who’ve made their mark on the publication. We’ll discuss a digitizing project that will ultimately make Volume 1, Issue 1, and all that follows just a click away.
In the meantime, we’ll also be making content from current issues available online at centerforarchitecture.org.
On the Center’s calendar, look out for upcoming Oculus Book Talks, with authors including Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen (Exhibit A: Architecture Exhibitions that Made History), Mark Lamster (The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century), and Richard Sennett (Building and Dwelling).
So hit the books! As we all know, architects never really leave school.