Architecture. Or else.  

Jeffry Burchard is an Architect. He is a Principal at Machado Silvetti and he is a Design Critic in Architecture at the GSD at Harvard University.  

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A Love Letter:
Architecture’s uniqueness and promise lies squarely in the commitment to both the professional and the intellectual. This convergence signals design as a discipline of negotiation, in the violent and certain oscillation between the probable and the ideal. These equally repellent extremes are the explicit similes of architecture’s axiomatic tensions: between practicality and desire, necessity and philosophy, gravity and volume, money and vision, conventional boundaries and contemporary promiscuousness. In all of these a designer’s responsibility is to sift and prioritize conditions to achieve progress in excess of production. That this remains possible is a testament to the vitality of the discipline. I believe that architecture is serious business where possibilities for pleasure exist via intimate confrontation with its’ obvious, obscure, and emerging problems. And while many of my contemporaries exhibit unlocatable hipness, I revel in the commitment to a trajectory of heightened architectural design expertise.

Negotiation occurs in both practice and academia, though opportunity exists almost exclusively in the schools to be fanatically invested in the oscillation itself. The academic pursuit is to both understand and exploit; to learn from and build upon, within, under, and all around the naivety and desire of the students, the intellectual imperative of the faculty, research funding, investments in theory and history and the requirements of professional training. In teaching students new to architecture I believe in mining the confluence where personal interest and desire meet a working knowledge of history and a deep understanding of the fundamental constituents of architecture’s production. This should result in work that despite heavy-handed constraints emerge with incredible diversity. With experienced students the reverse is in order, where students laden with their own developing bias are subjected to the demands of rigourous evaluation vis-a-vis conflict with contrarian imperatives Extrinsic pressure must at times be resisted and at other times be empathetically entertained and even adopted.

Advanced material and fabrication technologies should continue to be an important outlet for sheer ingenuity and creativity but this work must be increasingly subjected to rigorous disciplinary integration. Fashions of fabrication need to be set in direct tension with the spatial, formal, utilitarian, historical and theoretical frameworks of architecture, and should be held responsible to address built work larger than a back-yard gazebo. Indeed the scale of production is a limiting factor in school, but this unfortunately persists as an excuse for production without progress. As a foundation and litmus test for any advancement, I believe that the onus is on Architect’s to understand and expose the existing limits of a generally risk-adverse, but extremely innovative, building industry. In this research we might discover what it is precisely that we want to achieve with new or more advanced technology. These topics are salient given the emerging national commitment to math and science initiatives, making previously inaccessible funding available, increasing the exposure of the work and our ability to pursue it with greater resources.