Failed Architecture is a podcast on architecture and the real world. By opening up new perspectives on the built environment, we seek to explore the meaning of architecture in contemporary society. FA challenges dominant spatial fashions and explores alternative realities, reaching far beyond the architectural community. We combine personal stories with research and reflection, always remaining committed to the idea that architecture is about social justice and climate justice, pop culture and subculture, representation and imagination, and everything that happens after the building’s been built.
#12 How Beyoncé Seized the Louvre
The Louvre and its surroundings have served for centuries as a dramatic expression of French imperial might, this symbolism was dramatically challenged in 2018 when Beyoncé and Jay-Z used the site to film the video for their single Apeshit.
#11 Architects Unionise!
We tend to think of architects as professionals rather than workers. Architects design, create, delegate, follow a special calling, but they’re not often seen as “working for a living”, and they’re certainly not much like the workers who actually construct or extract the resources for the buildings they design. And yet, architectural work in the twenty first century has become ever more precarious. As with other white collar workers, architects are becoming increasingly accustomed to short-term contracts, overtime without pay and other traditional hallmarks of exploited labour.
In light of this new reality, for this episode we’ll be talking to architectural workers from the UK, the USA, and Brazil, about the role a labour union could play in the contemporary architectural profession. We’ll discuss the difficulties, limits and challenges of organizing architectural workers and speculate as to why architects have, until recently, been relatively absent from the history of the labour movement. We’ll also consider how unionisation could give ordinary architectural workers greater control over the buildings and spaces they design as well as over the wider spatial production sector.
Keefer Dunn is an architect based in Chicago and a national organiser for the Architecture Lobby
Fernanda Simon Cardoso is an architect based in São Paulo and a former Director for the FNA (Federação Nacional dos Arquitetos e Urbanistas)
Sam and Alex are architectural workers based in the UK and organisers for Workers Inquiry: Architecture
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes/Jake Soule/The Failed Architecture Team
#10 Mecca to the Max: The Holy City Transformed
Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religion and the birthplace of the prophet Mohamed. Located just off Saudi Arabia’s western coast, all Muslims are required to visit at least once in their life if they are physically able to. With air travel becoming easier, the number of pilgrims has been rising rapidly over the last few decades, with a record number of 3 million people visiting Mecca simultaneously during the 2012 Hajj. More recently, visa regulations have been made more strict to keep the situation under control.
In this episode, we discuss with various experts how this rising number of pilgrims is fueling a radical makeover of the city. While Mecca has always been changing and under construction, the current developments are of an unprecedented scale. What does Mecca’s radical makeover look like? Who is profiting from these developments and what does it mean for the city’s spiritual character? What does the current building craze mean for older buildings, and what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of people who live in the city’s informal settlements?
Amna Solati is an architect and urban researcher based in London, until recently working with Rotterdam’s Het Nieuwe Instituut
Hussam Dakkak is an architectural designer and one of the founders of the Architectural Association’s Visiting School to Mecca
This episode was directed by René Boer/The Failed Architecture Team
#09 Listen to the City, It’s Trying to Tell You Something
Contemporary urban discourse relies overwhelmingly on visual representation. While it may be more effective both in conveying the actual appearance of a particular urban space and in communicating the intentions of the architect and the planner, this kind of representation leaves little room for individual interpretation and cannot possibly capture the full range of feelings and emotions that people attach to particular places. For this, we must also turn to the more immediate sensations of touch, smell, taste and sound. This episode explores the last of these sensations, considering what it means to represent cities and architecture through sound.
Unlike the visual, sound cannot be so easily contained, it flows freely, stimulating memories, helping to create a collective urban experience and bridging gaps across space and time. As such, recording and discussing the built environment through the medium of sound offers a vital means through which to challenge the dominant ways in which architecture and cities are represented.
The main part of this episode comprises a conversation between hosts Mark, Rene and Charlie, unpacking the work involved in producing a podcast about architecture and discussing what it means to represent architecture through sound and how music, in particular, can convey certain urban moods. But in the breaks, we will also introduce a series of other sounds found on Aporee, an online map tool on which people can post geo-located sounds.
Track listing (in order of appearance):
Streets of Rage 2 Soundtrack, Go Straight
Burial, Night Bus
Melania de Biasio, Blackened Cities
mahrajan hutat miniy, halbasat haysat alsuwisi, 100 nuskhatan
(مهرجان حتة مني – حلبسة هيصة السويسي – ١٠٠ نسخة)
Transcript of Tsan-Cheng Wu explaining the Taiwan Sound Map project:
You can call me Tsan-Cheng. In Taiwan maybe some people would call me a sound artist, in visual art. I have been producing this Taiwan Sound Map project for seven years. I will do this project for ten years, so it will end in 2021.
The choice of my recording is very random. I record as many ambient sounds as possible. I just see the map and say ok today it’s here, I do not have any goals, any view, just walking in this place, and then maybe I want to turn right or turn left, just recording.
If I’m in a park, I can hear the birds, bird song, most of the recorders, they just want the bird song, but I will record the birds and where, in this park, they have a big wall and they have noise, like the traffic noise, I record at the same time and I will keep the traffic sound because the noise is very important for this bird song. When I record many many parks in the city, I think we can find why the people like this park or why people do not like that park. So with this field recording, I think the data is a different kind of way to think about the city.
In Taiwan we have many traditional markets. Most of the markets will be outdoors, and the vendors will be chatting and it’s very noisy, but in this space in Taiwan it’s very, very exciting, you can go around, you can choose, you can chat, it’s very very interesting, but the new markets in the city maybe it’s just a big building, the market will be boring, yeah so, when I record the market, the new market or the old market, I want people to think about which market you want to go to.
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes / the Failed Architecture team.
#08 Speer in Qatar or: How Architects Stopped Caring and Learned to Love the Client
Albert Speer is one of the most infamous architects in history. During his time working for the Nazi Party he was responsible for designing the Reich Chancellery and the Zeppelinfeld Stadium in which the Nuremberg rallies took place, as well as being in charge of Germany’s war production during the Second World War and having responsibility for the plan to reconstruct Berlin as Germania. Yet by emphasising his detachment from the general conditions in which he was working, he was able to avoid the death sentence after the war.
While his is an extreme example, it offers a compelling jumping off point to explore the wider issue of an architect’s responsibility for the wider system that they work in. Moving from mid-20th Century Germany to the present day, this episode explores the specific role certain architects have played in developing the stadiums and infrastructure for the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Here, gross violations of human rights and international labour law throw up serious questions about the moral ramifications of designing projects in such a country. How can architects balance the benefit of bringing a smooth, shiny new project against the human cost required to produce it?
— Thomas Rogers works as a freelance journalist, editor and translator in Berlin, often for SPIEGEL International.
— Nicholas McGeehan is a Gulf researcher who has worked at Human Rights Watch as the Bahrain, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates researcher and at Mafiwasta, an organisation for workers’ rights in the United Arab Emirates, where he was also director.
This episode was directed by Charlie Clemoes / the Failed Architecture team