Review: „Re-Inventing Construction“

Ilka & Andreas Ruby (Ed.): Re-Inventing Construction. Ruby Press, Berlin, 2010 (eng)

Do you recall the modernist joke about western societies, and how they are evolving their cultures, arts, and crafts forward in an avant-garde-like-style? – The initial argument of “Re-Inventing Construction” is: What we understand as construction today is based on concepts, technologies, materials, and social models, which are more than hundred years old.

Right after stating this, the editors open up the meaning of construction beyond the mere act of production. Construction becomes a multilayered process of re-organizing matter, re-considering scales, and re-framing time. It needs to deal with new dynamics between architecture and engineering, an updated understanding of the (urban) commons, hedonistic approaches to sustainability, or rediscovering principles of the vernacular. Accordingly those themes circumscribe the discursive horizon and are reflected in a variety of case studies and essays by 38 international architects, engineers, and scholars. But what makes this book outstanding, is its lavishly illustrated index containing more than 230 dictionary entries compiled by a group of three young architects called “Something Fantastic”. Here one could skeptically read about the “Kajima Cut and Take Down Technique”: a deconstruction method that demolishes a building floor-by-floor from the ground to the top and thus increases the ability to re-claim, re-use or re-cycle materials. One could casually skip over pictures of “Rammed-Earth Tires” used in DIY kit houses; get lost in between the thin lines of an analytic drawing of a Columbian “Paisa house” constructed from bamboo with high structural stability and a specific device to sun-dry coffee beans; or slightly drift away by reading about the polar bear’s water-repellent pelt and his black light-absorbing skin underneath. For a real modernist this must be bittersweet fun – and it’s not going to stop!