Interview with Architect Jack Self, London
What was your journey into this field?
Every architect creates their own myth about how they would play with Lego or how they would draw sketches as a child and that from a very early age they knew that they wanted to be an architect. It’s quite disingenuous to present yourself that way. In my case, I stumbled into architecture. It was presented to me by a family friend as being the most holistic profession. If you want to study law, then you have to be a lawyer. If you want to study medicine, you have to be a doctor, but if you go and study architecture almost everything in the world appears to be relevant. You can go and study 15th century Italian fortifications or you can go and study how flowers unfold and see how that might be relevant to new structural forms. There’s a huge variation within it. Not knowing what I wanted to do as a teenager, I thought this would be a good way forward.
Of course, architecture, when I started studying it in the mid-2000s, was very different from the world we live in today. It was a time when there was a huge amount of development going on and very little critical reflection on what this was doing to the world or to society. It wasn’t until I became very involved first in the student protest of 2010-2011 and then the Occupy movement that I began to think that architecture might have a more central role in the way in which society is structured than I had thought previously. I went away and did a masters in philosophy majoring in neoliberal economic theory. Actually, it’s a lot more interesting than it sounds. What I learned from this was, architecture, and space generally, are hugely influential in the way that we relate to each other and the world, much more so than I thought. For example, we discussed the circular table. I do believe my parents divorced because we had a circular dining room table. The head of the table is both literally and metaphorically the head of the table. When you sit at a circular table, it destroys those hierarchies.
You could equally point at something like the history of the bed. In the 1950’s, it was very common for couples to share single beds. Now, that would be considered very unusual. In a way, the politics of what you might call the matrimonial double bed becomes integral to how we think we should relate to other people. As soon as you begin to open that up, and particularly for me in the home, as soon as you begin to explore the home as a site of experimental relationships, it opens up the world of architecture in a completely different way. Suddenly you realise all sorts of things which are about power relations and their spatial outputs. We’ve just published an article in The Real Review about the algorithm of Uber and how that changes the city and how that changes the people working for it. For me, that is a form of architecture. I don’t know if that explains how I got into the field.
Tell us about the concept behind the Real Review, and how you envisioned it as being different from other architecture publications.
The Real Review originally came out of the fact that I used to be the reviews editor for The Architectural Review magazine, and that post was then closed. There is now no English language review of books about architecture, but it comes at a time when there is not only a popular interest in architecture but more architectural books are being published than ever before. Very quickly, Real Review changed its tact slightly to become really a review of what it means to live today. In fact, we use the format of the review, which is not used by almost any other magazine; what makes the review so different is it looks back in order to look forward. It’s not about creating opinions which sit in isolation on the web server somewhere. It’s about using the material reality that we find ourselves in to make a proposition for the future. In that sense, the Real Review is unlike any other architecture magazine as well because it is aimed at a general audience. It is the UK’s only general audience architectural magazine.
Can you tell us about what you are currently working on?
The REAL foundation has a wide range of projects that we consider all to be pursuing the same questions at different scales. They range from actual architectural projects – we have a scheme to design new forms of ownership and new ways of financing housing in the UK, through to more traditional architectural projects like single apartments. The majority of our work is in the cultural sphere, which includes exhibitions in London and in Europe and new publications. We are just about to publish another book we produced and of course the magazine as well as lectures and events.
Source: Something Curated