by Michael J. Crosbie
A recent symposium entitled "Performative Architecture: Instrumentality Plus?" at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia was, understandably, focused on defining "performative." An international collection of architects, engineers, designers, and academics grappled with the question, each (seemingly like the blind men of ancient lore) sizing up the "elephant" by grasping a different part.
A warning that consensus would not be easy came early in the conference. In his opening remarks, Branko Kolarevic, an associate professor at Penn, author of Architecture in the Digital Age: Design and Manufacturing, and one of the conference organizers, talked about performance as a "comprehensive approach to design," placing it above form-making as a design principle.
This in itself was an auspicious start to the conference, suggesting that we were on the track of a fresh new way of looking at architectural design that would be more inclusive than past approaches. During the rest of the two-day conference, the discussions wove around this promise, without ever quite tying it down.
Architecture as Performance Art
Penn professor David Leatherbarrow described performative architecture as an emphasis not on what a building is, but what it does. He cautioned, however, that this was not to be confused with the "old style" view of a building meeting quantifiable functional criteria. >>>
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Waterloo Station by Grimshaw.
Photo: George Stowell
A new building at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute by Grimshaw.
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