press release

The worldwide dissatisfaction among young architects and planners with the dominant practice of architecture is growing. The examples of contemporary construction taught at universities, promulgated in magazines and rising on construction sites do not offer adequate answers to the pressing issues of a global society. Indeed, they contribute to the problems. They have lost touch with political reality, are caught up in classical role models, placing too much faith in the old tools of the trade, ignorant and uncritical of their economic, political and social significance and effect, and too affirmative towards the neo-liberal hegemonic concept of society. The consequences of the erosion of social states, the globalization of markets, and exploitation mock what little remains of the ethical rhetoric in the architectural community.

There is much resentment in the various regions of the world at all levels of society and in the various disciplines, a dissatisfaction related to the status of society and the purported lack of an alternative to it. A critique of the logic of late capitalism and how it structures everyday life must address particularly the production of our built environment. A truly critical contemporary architecture must be conscious of the conditions within which it acts and it must join the struggles for a better world. An “architecture of reality” is on the agenda – an architecture that faces up to the facts of our segregated and thoroughly economic world.

There is a growing opposition to the established practice of architecture and its political significance. But can there be an oppositional architecture? If architecture is political both in its definition and its effects, if it is bound by social relations of power, then acts of resistance are imaginable. The extensive involvement of architecture in economic and social aspects of society does not contradict this possibility, but is rather a fundamental precondition for a committed opposition.

At issue is what a new field of work for planners would look like, in what kind of reality architecture could happen, what ought to be criticized or strategically attacked, and what theoretical models we can refer to. What progressive social roles can architects take over? Where are the opportunities for action in planning?

Are there any possibilities to challenge and oppose the social order from within the field of planning in a productive way? What are the relevant oppositional stances, practices, strategies or coalitions that might be imagined and realized today?

The Camp for Oppositional Architecture, organized for the first time in the summer of 2004 in Berlin, has attempted to unite the scattered experimental efforts of critical architects and planners. With its open congress on the possibilities of opposition within architecture and planning, an international exchange of experience between these positions has been initiated. Here, perspectives of oppositional activities were presented and discussed – activities stemming from the field of planning that criticize the capitalistic demands upon the production of our built environment and attempt to acquire non-affirmative roles in these powerful relations. The focus of this first meeting of about one hundred persons from over sixteen countries was the exchange of personal activities and of more extensive opportunities for activities. Those involved presented their approaches, their projects, and their theoretical work. In three workshops with various focal themes we discussed the potential of these efforts. One group dealt with “oppositional social engagement” and raised the question: “how can we grasp and relate to contemporary social reality?” Another group discussed “oppositional design concepts” and tried to answer: “how can we imagine and design critical forms and architecture?” A third group concentrated upon “oppositional strategies of intervention” addressing the question: “how can we reflect on and intervene in the built environment?”

Continuing in the tradition of socially committed groups of architects such as C.I.A.M. or Team 10, we discussed the framework and opportunities for a politically involved contemporary production of architecture. Goals were formulated, new activists were sought, scopes for design were considered and methods were developed. In distinction to the members of C.I.A.M. and Team 10, who at certain times dominated the discourse on architecture, we were forced to study the various potentials for opposition to the dominating, economically determined practice of architecture. That was precisely our goal: to reassess the more marginal considerations, themes, working methods and projects that do not appear in the dominating discourse, and to take the offensive.

This volume documents the 1st Camp for Oppositional Architecture, which took place in a vacant factory and office complex in Berlin-Wedding. It contains not only the papers of the participants and the key lectures of our guest speakers, but also various versions of the preliminary “Charter of Oppositional Architecture” developed there, as well as a series of photos of the Camp. The documentation is prefaced by a conversation with former participants of the IKAS (International Congress for Architecture and Urban Planning), which was initiated by Jos Weber and Frei Otto and has taken place six times from 1982 to 1989. Their more than two hundred participants from some forty different countries discussed the social and ecological questions of architecture and planning. IKAS, the self-proclaimed successor of C.I.A.M., wanted to work within the emancipatory and socially responsible traditions of Modernism. They sought to discuss primarily the social task of architecture, and not its formal or constructive aspects, which were the subject of post-modern discourses running parallel to it. The themes were: democratization, user participation, construction in continuity, ecology and sustainability, construction in developing nations, and the differing planning programs in the former socialist states and in the countries of the western world.

But faced with an entirely different political context with comparable problems, the Camp for Oppositional Architecture had to confront the contemporary social, political and economic conditions of architecture and to study the potentials of infiltrating architectural practice with the ideas and results it has developed “from below”. The initiators of the Camp regard this first meeting as the beginning of a new movement. The discussions will be continued in other gatherings in the hope that new forms of oppositional architecture can be explored and tested. The Camp is a common platform for a renewed and socially committed architectural movement. Join the Camp for Oppositional Architecture!


Camp for Oppositional Architecture
An Architektur