Arcbazar and the risk of Intellectual Stultification

Arcbazar is an online marketplace accessible to anyone who wants to buy or sell an architectural project. As in any transaction there is a demand and supply, there exists a client and a desires’ seller. The idea is certainly appealing: to create a space where a dream may be posted, and see it represented on a digital page a few weeks later. However, there are two fundamental issues to keep in mind: the first concerns the true nature of the client’s dream, the second takes into account the desires of the counterparty, that is to say of the architect. To make it more clear, it is necessary to analyse the structure itself on which Arcbazar is based.

The platform provides four sections for each project: Info, Files, Wall and Exchange. The first space allows the Client to expose his/her own desire, the second contains pictures and drawings of that reality that pushes the emergence of a need, the third is a virtual whiteboard to communicate with the client and all participants in the competition, and the last section – sadly ignored by most of the contenders who are listed as ARC256 ARC342 ARC511 and so forth – is a space provided for the exchange of files, ideas, opinions, comments and anything considered useful to share with the rest of the numbered colleagues. It is important to pause for a moment on the two spaces that might be defined of ‘direct communication’ – the Wall and the Exchange – trying to understand how these are currently used.

The Wall is a one-sided discussion whose hierarchy is markedly defined. On the top of the podium is the Dream of the client, at the bottom instead a series of hands trying earnestly to make a design that resembles the client’s mental image. There is no collaboration between the hands nor true dialogue; the focus of the conversation is a series of investigative questions that struggle to interpret someone else’s desire, wishing to make it as real as possible. Where these hands would be able to establish a combination of ideas in order to really create a creative process, thus in the Exchange, the page remains instead candidly white; ARC256 (*) has decided to dress the patient part of the ignorant executor.

We might switch the role’s characters and think that is ARC256 who now stands on the top of the podium. In this case, he/she will have a dream to build, and every ARC… will have a different one. The client would question the architect from a lower position raising the ARC to Master, thus dressing the role of the ignorant pupil. The task of the Master would become the mere education/instruction of the foolish. We are still facing a one-sided dialogue based on a hierarchy of intelligence between the parts.

What therefore is missing in this architects’ bazaar? And is this lack determined by the architect, by the client or by the space of the bazaar?

Perhaps it is the project that has been forgotten. By strictly defining the roles of the actors, it becomes hard to give birth to an active and spontaneous process that triggers a constant flow of actions, and which does not generate dreams but rather an infinite number of realities. The laziness of a hand that follows orders does not fulfil a dream, rather turns it into an ideal that does not exist. The dream of the client may only be the result of what he/she sees around, but what he/she really wants might be something he has never seen before, something that someone simply points out to him. Designing means paying attention, both in the case of the client and of the architect. If the two figures left those steps of difference and crossed the threshold of equality, it would no longer be necessary to define who is the Master and who the student, because it would be rather the book/project to get these two intelligences closer, by never merging them into a solo truth.

Jacotot Jacques, a French teacher and educational philosopher, was able to make his Flemish students write in an unknown language – French – simply giving them a book written in French, not a dictionary of French. Without knowing grammar nor syntax, every student created his/her own project, not the Master’s project nor what they thought they may do before starting their piece of writing. What students have faced was a pleasant discovery, something  they did not know they could do (create) until they did it.

Arcbazar is fostering a system of submission hidden under the name of progress.

(*) I am using this number only for narrative reasons


Arcbazar :  ;

Rancière, Jacques : The Ignorant Schoolmaster, 1991.


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