DESIGNED TO DIE: published in STUDIO Magazine Issue#12 Ephemeral
Designed to Die: Towards an Architecture of Impermanence
A perceptible denial of death pervades architectural discourse. Be it by decay, obsolescence, disaster, ruin or demolition—demise is an inevitable question of time. This essay recasts death as part of a speculative future state of architectural objects and following a object-oriented ontology (OOO) methodology, see how death follows birth, ripeness, and decadence. Pursuing a speculative realist turn in the discourse helps to forego the pursuit of order and permanence which only expands the domain of practice into the realm of designing architecture’s dissolution as well. This essay will investigate architecture / urbanism in their last moments—from Maunsell Sea Forts to the Sanzhi Pod City—by means of fabulation. Giving a voice to the dying objects themselves will help cure the blindness towards the inherence impermanence of architecture. This blindness causes architecture to be perverted into a practice of the search of permanence as an heroic act of meaning-making which masks our own existential fear of our mortality. The essay will uncover a pattern of hints in the history of the discipline towards this impermanence, from Cedric Price’s ‘planned obsolescence’ to Tschumi finding the decay of Villa Savoye to be its most significant architectural moment. Pairing this historical pattern with the ecological and ethical responsibility of architects to account for the full-cycle of an architectural object, the essay will point towards a future where impermanence may become a tool to reterritorialize our disciplinary boundary.