about icam
icam print
icamprint 01
icamprint 02
icamprint 03
icamprint 04
icamprint 05
icamprint 06
icamprint 07

contents icamprint 05 | a letter from the president | editorial |
> PDF icamprint 05 (6.7 MB - complete file)

a letter from the president
Dietmar Steiner, president
We are currently experiencing the ‘fourth epoch’ in the development of the architecture museum. If the first epoch was characterised by the collection and safeguarding of artefacts of artistic merit in libraries and graphics collections, the second epoch began with the establishment of an independent architecture museum in the 20th century. It served essentially to safeguard the heritage of the first modern architecture and its public dissemination. The founding of national architecture museums in Moscow, Budapest and Helsinki are exemplary as locations to be named in this context.

The third epoch coincided with postmodernism, when architecture formulated itself as an autonomous art form worthy of the appropriate museum treatment. Over the last thirty years, a large majority of the members of icam have owed their existence to this epoch. Representative of many other institutions that can be named in this context are CCA, NAi, DAM etc.

However recent decades have shown a radical change in the definition of the responsibilities and aims of architecture museums and centres. So too, with the fundamental changes in the praxis of architecture production and the political perception of architecture, today we are facing an entirely new ballpark in terms of architecture reception.

I can name a few phenomena in this context. Firstly, the architect’s training has changed dramatically. Mass universities around the whole world led to an explosion in the numbers of architecture students, who were no longer taught in intimate courses and classes but developed the programme of events, with visiting lecturers and seminars, themselves. For instance, today many of the programmes of architecture museums are also offered by architecture faculties, many of which have themselves become self-reflexive venues.

Add to this the large number of events, conferences and biennials to have developed new platforms for the discussion and presentation of architecture. Many local initiatives have manifested themselves that feel a responsibility to work with great dedication exclusively on the dissemination and mediation of architecture for a broad public, or on the promotion of the internal debate on architecture.

Moreover, confusion is caused today by the neoliberal trend in politics, and the accompanying eagerness to absorb architecture into the ‘creative industries’ and to degrade its function to that of a discipline for equipping society with lifestyles and consumption patterns. Formerly independent architecture museums have been fused with other museums or collections to this end.

I cannot express a final opinion on the above, only raise questions. Do we have to pursue a consumption-orientated cultural political agenda in the face of this general trend, or does it call for active resistance? Is architecture merely an elitist luxury providing a shape for society, or does it have the strength and the power to impact on people’s day-to-day living conditions?
For this issue of icamprint members were asked to submit archive material on social housing projects. The now documented response has been sensational, and shows that architecture museums do have the capacity to contribute to culture history well beyond the projects of pertinent star architects.

The members of icam show, in key examples from their collections in this issue, that they are capable of delivering a fundamental contribution to the documentation of the types of housing and lifestyles of our society. We are the memory of the culture of building.

And the task for the future? I think we should become lawyers to promote an architecture as sustenance, or resourceful architecture.