Take One


01. January 2005

The contemporary modes of mediating architecture through exhibitions and publications are linked by a common thread - the attempt to get away from literal descriptions of houses and from the aesthetic of well-composed photographs with adjusted perspectives and preferably without people or scenes from real life. On one hand, it is simply fatigue from a certain cliché and the desire to explore different aspects of architectural presentation, clearly taking inspiration from the continuously swelling speed and density of contemporary visual environment. The understanding of architectural foundations has been repeatedly reconsidered; ever since the late 1960s, there has been a growing interest in the built environment from the aspect of events and performances. It has become clear that forms and events equally contribute to the presentation of architectural content; they are not only significantly interdependent, but even interchangeable. The traditional concept of beauty has been replaced by a concept of pleasure that includes both form and event in its origin.
On the other hand, the methods of planning and the issue of authorship in construction have also been challenged. What once was a strong, authoritarian and predominantly male gesture of a personal signature has been fading out in a collective designing process, which is closer to research, to cultural/technical hybrid work, than to artistic creation. Instead of adopting the names of their founders or partners, young architectural practices are often named after a picturesque or neutral concept. Architectural practices no longer have a strict "pyramid organization", but operate through a "cumulative accumulation of intelligence", where the division of tasks in the designing process is more horizontal than vertical.
Aiming for an authentic exhibition appearance, evoking their everyday work and thinking in the lines of the generation of architects under 40, 3LHD decided to try to make a cross-section of everything currently going on in their relatively big practice of 18 people. The employees could make a maximum of 100 photographs to document specific moments and phases of several current projects. It applied not only to architects, but also to the director and the secretary, who make different but equal contributions to the operation of the practice. This is why working materials include not only sketches, models and plans, but also Excel tables and work schedules - everything that keeps an architectural practice going. Photographs are sorted by authors, giving the exhibition a personal flavor and creating a collage of little everyday occurrences; all who work in the practice are entitled to their own arrangement within the common concept. In that sense, the exhibition is both collective and individual, referring to the continuous exchange of people and ideas since the practice was founded in 1994. The landscape of hastily collected documentary pictures weaves intimacy with organization, individual characters of the participants with the collective operating system, entering into the real world of the architectural practice and finding almost forensic clues leading to projects.
In 1971, the Croatian conceptual artist Goran Trbuljak set up an exhibition showing only a poster with the author´s photograph, the title "I do not wish to show anything new and original", and dates of the event. Trbuljak radically abolished authorship and indicated that focus had switched from the art to the artist; the 3LHD exhibition belongs to a different area with similar issues: 3LHD want to point out that the final result of architectural work is the outcome of a long and complex collective effort and process. It is "nothing new or original", of course, but every architectural practice and every new assignment makes it always different, special and exciting, sometimes hard and sometimes joyful, as this exhibition clearly shows. Visitors are invited to take away one photograph they find attractive or interesting in any way, which is why exhibits change with time - they gradually, uncontrollably and spontaneously disappear, while photographs/postcards continue an independent life outside the context of their shooting. It makes the exhibition feel like a performance.
On one hand, the 3LHD exhibition is confessional and told in the "first person plural"; on the other hand, it implicitly reveals general facts about contemporary architecture, although it does not openly display architecture. It is meant to be discovered by the beholder and reconstructed from the viewpoints, cameras and personalities of the 3LHD members.

Maroje Mrduljaš, architectural critic and journalist