Posted on: September 10, 2020
Practiceopolis: Stories from the Architectural Profession
By Yasser Megahed
With the increasing specialisation in contemporary building production, the value and the role of architects have come into question in construction discourse. From literature about architects losing leadership position in the industry to others arguing that architects must follow the more specialised members of the building team, this book is illustrating the architects’point of view in this debate, showing one important dimension of the story of the building construction process. Practiceopolis: Stories from the Architectural Profession is a story about the contemporary architectural profession, in which it acts as the protagonist in the form of an imaginary city called Practiceopolis. Practiceopolis is a fictive city-state, located within a union of states representing different members in the construction domain that together form ‘Constructopolis—the confederation of the building industry’. The novel narrates quasi-realistic stories that exaggerate the architectural everyday and the tacit, in order to make it prominent and tangible. They depict and dramatise the value conflicts between the different cultures of practicing architecture and between the architectural profession and other members of the building industry as political conflicts around the future of Practiceopolis.
Practiceopolis: Stories from the Architectural Profession is distinct by the instant appeal of its graphic narrative. Given the power of the images, students, who are often visual learners, are able to build mental images of key events from architectural history, the contemporary architectural paradigm and routines in the day-to-day of professional practice. The graphic novel provides learning material that builds on the visual side of the architecture discipline, using cartoons to help to explain things that are complicated and not easily reduced to simple points. Its accessible format enables students to find their way more easily into academic material and build mental images of key events from architectural history, the contemporary architectural paradigm and routines in the day-to-day of professional practice. Compared with other competing books, the graphic novel is much more exciting visually.
The book provides a hands-on practice-based case study in applying research by design methodologies in architecture. It reflects upon architectural graphic novels as a credible tool for practice-based research that can tear off the barriers that obstruct such research from being accessible and transferable. It speculates on the possibilities for design as a means of rigorous investigations that would not otherwise be possible. It will be a useful reference for students and researchers interested in this developing research methodology which is acquiring greater capital in architectural academia. It can specifically be an important reference to doctoral students who adopt practice-based research methods.
The book presents an academic argument about forms of knowledge and values especially the use of design fiction, cartoons and graphic novel as an accessible format to communicate architectural ideas. As a blend of ethnographic observation with design and fiction, it represents a special creative space combining traditions of writing and storytelling with the crafting of cartoon drawings. The graphic nature of the novel permits values to be caricatured in a more extreme way and allows the claiming of a temporary authority to interrogate arguments from different intellectual positions in a politically correct way that otherwise cannot be possible.
The book is based on critical reflective study on my own practice in the Middle East and the UK developed parallel to my PhD research about how the relationships and value-conflicts among the members of the contemporary building industry give clues onto how the future of the architectural profession can be.