International debates

International debates

Past November, the Lisbon Architecture Triennale travelled to Madrid and London to promote two debates to present the title of the next edition: The Form of Form.


The videos of these two moments of discussion about the form in architecture are now available online.


Under the title “The Crisis of Form”, the Madrid debate happened at COAM on 13 November with the participation of Nicolás Maruri and Juan Coll-Bareu. The debate “Communicating Forms” in London was held at RIBA with Mark Tuff and Tim Abrahams. Both events were moderated by chief curator André Tavares.


Link to “The Crisis of Form” debate in Madrid.

Link to “Communicating Forms” debate in London.

The Form of Form

International debates in Madrid and London

November 2015

Last month the Lisbon Architecture Triennale had the opportunity to publicly present its programme for the 2016 edition, The Form of Form, in two international debates. Under the titles The Crises of Form and Communicating Forms, the debate was taken up by Nicolás Maruri and Juan Coll-Barreu in Madrid, and Mark Tuff and Tim Abrahams in London, responding to the title presented by the curators André Tavares and Diogo Seixas Lopes.  Although we aim to nurture a certain curiosity about what is to come, there are already issues worth sharing and discussing.

The economic crisis that has harassed Europe has been instrumental in splitting architects in two radical verges: either the criticized and often irresponsible formalism of star architects; or the activism and, apparently, socially responsible action of informal architects. Juan Coll-Barreu called it “The Crises of the Form of Crises.” In between, the normative codes of the European construction industry seem to be restricting the field of action to an experimental or innovative approach to architectural forms. As Nicolás Maruri pointed out, “architecture is becoming more a process triggered by multiple actors than the result of conscious decisions.” Is this good? Is it inevitable?

And if you thought that the relatively still landscape of Madrid is a long way from the frenzy of construction in London then perhaps you should think again: there, architects are losing terrain too, their designs are more and more the result of others decisions, be that taxation policies, security regulations or financial strategies and as Tim Abrahams put it, criticism is too keen to judge architecture by focusing on the client: their wealth or social position. This approach tends to overlook the architectural quality in itself. Abrahams quoted Aldo Rossi to clearly state the limits of such critical bias: “There is no such thing as buildings that are politically ‘opposed,’ since the ones that are realized are always those of the dominant class.”

Mark Tuff gave several sharp insights into this discussion: “the act of building takes so much energy and effort that it needs to be considered carefully, as carefully as possible, since places that keep their usefulness throughout time are not recognized by their cleverness but instead because of their robust simplicity”. That is to say, there are intrinsic disciplinary qualities to architectural forms that cannot be dismissed by focusing on socially-motivated, informal practices. Form revealed itself as a powerful leitmotiv to encompass a range of arguments and ideas which the Lisbon Triennale will be keen to address and present in 2016.


André Tavares

Chief curator of Lisbon Architecture Triennale 2016