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What’s the use of facts?


We’re offering you the opportunity to contribute an article, a project review or to nominate a likely suitor for either. As with all issues of the magazine, the last page is reserved for a preview on the issue to come. In AR138–Margins (on sale December 2014) you will see a preview to AR139. Here is the text. Take a look and see if anything springs to mind.

“Former US President Richard Nixon addressed the nation on August 15, 1973 in regard to the Watergate investigations, believing that ‘full disclosure of the facts’ would render him unimpeachable. Needless to say, his edited version of the ‘facts’ did not prevent his demise and yet the current political context again yearns for full disclosure and greater transparency. A prescient example is funding disclosure thresholds.

However public scrutiny is now infinitely more difficult, with the flow of information and critical commentary significantly controlled.

In business transactions, disclosure means to tell the ‘whole truth’ about a contractual arrangement so to prevent anyone knowingly falsifying or concealing any significant fact. While other manifestations of contemporary aspects relating to disclosure are security risks, surveillance, privacy measures and the declassification of secret records or factual accounts in the public interest. In philosophical terms, Martin Heidegger theorised ‘world disclosure’ – how language informs the average everyday understanding of things. Language is not simply an instrument for expressing ideas; it is the very dimension that brings the world to be.

The term ‘disclosure’, then, is a curious one when thought of in terms of architecture for reasons akin to those found in the political example, where silence or secrecy appear the most effective measures in critique and inquisition. There is an unwillingness to critically discuss architecture; to be engaged in decision-making, where competitions for prominent projects are invariably shut down to public enquiry; an intensifying problem between public/private; and, a lack of academic inspiration. The culture of architecture is subsequently privatised.


Architecture must look at its critical and pedagogical approaches, at its grassroots level, to assess where and how the profession should change. As practitioners we are apathetic towards criticism (or the need for critical dialogue) and, more disconcertingly, we are apologetic for the fodder factories that churn out graduate architects for use in the profession.

Are we more concerned with the mindless production of drawings than ideas? Are we hell-bent on the need for young practitioners or recent graduates to complete drawing sets or to conceive ideas? It is easy to assign a student body the task of imitating a sectional drawing from a notable architect and to then assess this as adequate or not, but it is quite another to empower the student with the tools required to take ideas into the profession.

AR139–Disclosure is focused on how we perceive our role and our work. The practice of architecture requires its own full disclosure of the facts, to scrutinise our own methods or approaches, to evince critical commentary that moves away from studied indifference. We should actively encourage rather than dissuade. It may not be straightforward but the direction is clear: we need critical enquiry and pedagogical intuition, but we will need to hide the medicine in the mashed potatoes.”

If you have any suggestions, ideas or comments then be sure to send them to submissions@arasiapacific.com or to comment below. We’re eager to hear or read your thoughts.

Text: Michael Holt


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