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Monika Platzer, editor (2012)
In 2009 icam celebrated 30 years since its founding. Although there were only a modest number of early members, membership has increased dramatically since then, showing that the subject of architecture has become a fixture on the cultural establishment’s agenda. Almost all architecture museums were founded in the 20th century and based on modern or postmodern concepts that stemed from a period which has itself become museum material. The 21st century requires a re-evaluation of the role of architecture institutions, not only because of the financial crisis but because the framework and conditions of production for architecture are fundamentally different now, they have become more heterogeneous.
In his contribution ‘In transition. Three notes on the situation for architectural practice in Europe’, Karl Otto Ellefsen addresses these changes in architecture production. At the same time, the political context has altered, too. In Holland, for instance, the decades’ old Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment has been abolished and fused with the Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management to form a new Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment, while public housing has moved to the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. The fusing of architecture museums with, for example, design institutions, or their incorporation into larger structures, has been an everyday occurrence in recent years, especially in Scandinavia. The ushering-in of a new approach to the subject of architecture and design is signalled by the interviews with Lena Rahoult (Stockholm), Juulia Kauste (Helsinki) and Nina Berre (Olso), all museum directors who are increasingly engaged in the reinterpretation of their tasks. The previous century was based on the notions of growth and development towards an audience- and public-centred museum bound to the market and neoliberalism. The Art Newspaper annual visitor statistics for blockbuster exhibitions published in April feed the desire for ever-expanding audiences. Top of the list of the Top 10 in Architecture and Design for the past two years have been the MoMA with its exhibition on Ron Arad held in 2009 (347,995 visitors), and Bauhaus 1919–33 held in 2010 (397,101 visitors). The interview with Jean Dethier, the first architecture curator at the Centre Pompidou, is to be read in this context—taking us back to the early days of the blockbuster exhibition.
The idea of providing an architecture platform for almost all strata of the population is to be found in almost every member of icam’s mission statement. Making the numbers of visitors the sole criterion for quality in a context of the question of the future of architecture museums seems wholly inadequate. One ought instead to concentrate on the questions of the socially relevant roles that can be played by architecture institutions in the broader public realm and how the direction of the content can accommodate the new situation. Two architecture institutions provide innovative examples in this context: the CCA, Canadian Center of Architecture and the NAi, Netherlands Architecture Institute. The founding of icamAustralasia is to be welcomed, and we look forward to the new input. The flagships under the art institutions like the Tate are already reacting to the new situation with a new approach based on becoming more “open, diverse, global, entrepreneurial and sustainable”. A key issue will be the question of how local expertise can acquire new significance in the face of globalisation.
In conclusion, I should like to express my heartfelt thanks to all of the contributing authors as well as to the icamprint editorial board.