Make Fast or Die Young

Vitality, impatience, disobedience and impulsivity are the new mottos for emerging architects

Vitality, impatience, disobedience, and impulsivity are shared characteristics for a generation of architecture collectives that have emerged in European cities over the last 10 years. No longer ‘young’ per se, many retain a teenage ethos in their practices: an impulse to disrupt normative career paths and the desire to make things – oftentimes without briefs, budgets, and, sometimes, qualifications.

Assemble is probably the most recognised collective of this generation.

Awarded the Turner Prize in 2015, the collective has a controlled and thoughtful hyperactivity, building, lecturing, teaching, exhibiting, and starting businesses. The multiplicity of their activities produces a curious result: almost none of their projects are still standing; every building they’ve constructed has been dismounted or destroyed.

The Cineroleum – a cinema in a deserted gas station in London’s Clerckenwell, and one of their very first projects – was in action for few weeks but disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared. Today the site of the Cineroleum is under construction and no traces of the cinema are visible except on Assemble’s website, Instagram, and probably somewhere in the history of Snapchat. Immediacy replaces eternity.

Temporary architecture is not new, but that careers are being formed around only the temporary in fact is. Remarkable still are cases where the temporary outlasts its temporal framework. Take MVRDV’s now 17-year-old Expo 2000 pavilion in Hanover, Germany. With a budget of 10 millions euros – the average cost of a building of 100 homes in Hanover at the time – the pavilion still stands, alone in the flat landscape of low-density suburbia.

As a ruin invaded by birds, raves, and nostalgic architects, Expo 2000 is a symbol of a lost European era. It harbored, knowingly or not, a shifting paradigm within the architecture discipline, speaking to the impending end of a certain decadence within the practice. Austerity, sustainability regulations, and political crises, among others, have totally upset city-making rules. Now to get the chance to build, the new generation has to create its own opportunity and path: without rules, certainty, and budget. Build fast or die young!