This is the 19th incarnation of Architecture Without Content. The series originally started as an investigation into the big box but quickly turned into a discourse on architecture reduced to the perimeter. Over time this focus has shifted, first the main preoccupation was scale, big boxes were supposed to have certain qualities due to their sheer size. Gradually scale and strategic location became our obsessions so as to turn the original concerns—about an architecture “that big that it can contain anything”—into architectures that due to precise proportion and intricate positioning are able to organize the landscape.
Current in all projects of Architecture Without Content is the conviction that no architectural project formal and autonomous as it is, is able to be relevant without tackling the commons, the shared.
Any project, from box to perimeter has that as part of its DNA. If we want to tackle the fields of the United States of America, this can be in no way different. Thus ‘Almost Classicism’ carries it in its core. Almost Classicism starts where Neo Palladian left us. It starts in full conviction that the current project on the United States has to focus both on the countryside and on an attempt to reintroduce some kind of commons. We feel the best way to illustrate this, is to start where the commons has left us, there what used to be called ‘the village’.
In the field the village is the shared core. This studio wants again to develop projects to formalise this. But how? Perhaps a kind of classicism light, or pragmatic classicism can show the way.
We find traces of a possible architecture in the production of Roche Dinkeloo and Vicenzo Scamozzi.
We find traces for a possible project in Robert Venturi and John Rauch’s project for the city centre of North Canton, Indiana. The last project was never realized, but did leave us with a set of coherent buildings trying to define a ‘commons’ for a small town.
Can we take the challenge of Venturi, and read a possible answer in the axis Roche-Scamozzi and thus define a prototypical project for the village in the countryside? The current infrastructure of the American town is in a dismal state. It is urgently time to update. Complex, often politicized discussions make change and transformation seldom possible. We would argue though that the relative small investment in the commons of such places outweighs easily the benefits in that it might be able to bring back a sense of hierarchy and, who knows, a sense of belonging to the American field. Starting with a set of simple and perhaps related buildings that replace the outlived infrastructure of today —city halls, police stations, fire stations, schools…—we hope to present a portrait of the village of tomorrow. Not as some kind of weird tech dream but rather as a few elements to anchor the increasingly pulverized life we live in the new land once conquered and transformed in the (un)even covered field it became. The stakes are high, but the weapons of choice are relatively simple. It is purely a matter of precision.