01 October 2011

Neil Denari Lecture

Pretty much all architecture schools have a lecture series, and Wash U is no different.  Sometimes they bring in people no one has heard of, but other times, like this past Monday, they get starchitects (that’s architecture speak for celebrity architects) to speak about their own work.  A lot of architects tend to look down on these starchitects, but I won’t lie, I get a little star struck when it comes to people like Steven Holl, Winy Maas (of MVRDV), and in the case of Monday’s lecture, Neil Denari.

Photo of HL23 from designboom

Photo of HL23 from Neil M. Denari Architects


Although there were parts of Denari’s lecture that I wish had more clarification, on the whole, I was truly inspired.  I always come away from the Monday Night Lecture Series reinvigorated and wanting to get back to my own architectural explorations.  I found myself relating my personal design interests to key points in Denari’s lecture (as I’m sure a lot of people in the room did).

The title of his lecture was “Solutions to Problems that Don’t Exist.”  He defined the “problems” as two types: “Functional - things that need to be fixed (solutions)”; and “Disciplinary - things that need to be worked on (obsessions)”.  A statement he made early on really seemed to resonate with me.  “Everything that’s new is something that culture does not want.”  Primarily, these things tend to solve needs you never knew you had.  This is why innovative design can be marked by fierce resistance.

Denari seems to invite such resistance, openly admitting that he’s trying to do his part in prompting critical debate and agitating people with his work.  When a student in the audience asked him about the image-based nature of his projects, Denari said that he adamantly embraces the 2D world in which we live.  He stated that he is “still trying to make architecture permanent, but welcoming the the ephemeral as well, which is in fact the majority of the world.”  He emphasized that architects must build in the context of the world.

Image of GQ Bank Concept from Neil M Denari Architects

Photo of Vert-Eco from Neil M. Denari Architects

Image of New Seifullin Center from Neil M. Denari Architects


While not everyone will agree with his ideas or like his style of design, I feel that people should respect someone who is willing to push the boundaries for the sake of advancing our profession.

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