The Architectural Imagination

Two years ago, believing that architecture can catalyze positive change in cities, Mónica Ponce de Léon and I conceived the idea of an exhibition for the United States Pavilion at the Biennale Archittetura 2016 that would present new speculative architectural projects for Detroit. We named it “The Architectural Imagination,” signifying both something yet unseen and something that only an architect would envision. When our proposal for the pavilion was selected by the US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in late May 2015, we set out to try to answer two questions: What is the architectural imagination? And why would the architectural imagination be of value in Detroit? 

Figments of the Architectural Imagination

It should come as no surprise that so many architects who cut their disciplinary teeth in the heady 1990s have little patience for “city talk” today. For those whose first forays into city design involved weaving intricate spatial patterns into the warp and weft of an already unruly urban fabric, who honed their skills conjuring complex form from the dynamic forces of metropolitan life, topics that now dominate the conversation – bike lanes, walkable streets, workable public transit, and the quotidiana of the urban milieu – are understandably tiresome. It’s not that these architects necessarily have something against biking, walking, or any of the other activities pursued with docile consistency by the translucent figures that populate every rendering of every new design proposal for every city in the world. It’s just that so much city design today can seem, well, unimaginative.