We do not have a precise definition as to what Neglected Territory means rather, we have many definitions for it. At a visceral level this term Neglected Territory best describes the position we find ourselves in as practitioners and educators every day. We see ourselves as a projective practice rather than a critical one. Neglected Territory should not be construed to be “theory” to which the work presented here proscribes or is an illustration of. Indeed, it is our belief that architecture cannot limit itself to the illustration of theory. So rather than start with one definition of Neglected Territory several independent ideas must be woven together to develop a sense of its potential implications. It is an exploration as to how we come to describe our work as operating in NT.
Neglected Territory = The types of clients we work with…
Many contemporary architects describe their work as operating within “the un explored potential of modernism”. Robert Maxwell in his excellent little pamphlet “The Two Way Stretch”, describes the efforts of the avant- gardist in challenging the status quo by creating “a space of movement” -stretching as it were the boundaries a bit for all the rest of us to move into. Our practice experience has made this notion seem mandarin. A blurred preference for originality over creativity perhaps? We have begun to wonder whether we really move into the gaps created between the “as it is” and the “as it might be” very often- and when we do, what is left behind as regards all that cannot be moved into the new space? Often we speculate as to what should be moved into this new area. Is the new territory really an advance or is it nostalgia for invention at all costs?
Neglected Territory = The types of projects we work on…
Neglected Territory is not a theory that circumscribes our work nor a goal the work aspires to. Rather it is a zone of operation created by the territory left over from the excesses of the avant-garde as they leave in the wake of their nostalgia for the new- unutilized and un explored potentials. To be clear this is not necessarily an argument for every day architecture as much as it is a reexamination of the potential for every day opportunities. We view this zone as a kind of debris field of discarded inventions both good and bad that can be activated in a relevant way in the context of real architectural problems…
Neglected Territory = Our openness to “low tech” construction technology as having Architectural potential
For us Neglected Territory allows a preference for the more eclectic output of a James Stirling, Macintosh, Butterfield, or an Edwin Lutyens- architects not in good critical currency nowadays. We prefer the eclecticism (more particularly the specificity to site and openness to the methods at hand- constructive or aesthetic) of these architects to the eerie sameness, homogenization and stylistic stability of “starchitects”. So this implies a kind of comfort in not being in pursuit of the zeitgeist as it were and a position more akin to seeing ourselves as stewards of the public good. This circumscribes an interest in invention but not at the expense of ignoring the long developing traditions of architectural knowledge.
Neglected Territory = The site types we are often confronted with….
Our practice does not conduct an hour-by-hour check to verify that each design decision fit within the ideas outlined as Neglected Territory. The notion exists as a kind of critical framework that survives and unifies sub-rosa or at least sotto voce- just in the background but not in the way or inhibiting the analogical leaps required in architecture. Rather architecture and theory have a relation akin to the probably apocryphal story of Mondrian painting in a public exhibition –“I will just change the theory” he said. This is very true for our working method and us. NT is a consciously pregnant term, both polyvalent and prosaic. By it we mean the project types we focus on, the ideas we utilize in solving them, the social arena in which they take place, the urban implications they create and ultimately the City in which we operate.