Dead Letter Office

Disciplining. Associate Professor Martin Gundersen during studio reviews of work in progress. Architectural Design Four, Spring 2014. Photo: Mark McGlothlin.

Disciplining. Associate Professor Martin Gundersen during studio reviews of work in progress. Architectural Design Four, Spring 2014. Photo: Mark McGlothlin.

To speak of “live” projects is also to acknowledge the presence of “dead” projects, those for whom there is no client and at the end of which there is no plan to implement or full-scale project to occupy. The dead project is severed from implementation and/or actualization, disconnected from productive processes, and often lands in the architectural dead letter office, a place of unbuilt or unbuildable ruminations that cannot quite find a way into the world of built things.

The dead project gives us a way to frame a reconsideration of live projects by reflecting on the role of speculation and incompleteness in architectural education as contrasted with similarly fertile possibilities of the specific and determinate. This paper does not set these two aspects of practice in opposition to one another, but rather sees each as a vehicle through which it is possible to better understand the possibilities of the other. By intertwining these processes, we have an opportunity to allow more projects to come alive, to unfold into or across productive streams, and to inform our discipline in inventive and unanticipated ways. This paper offers a fundamental reframing of the live project by challenging distinctions between life and death.

This paper was co-authored with Mark McGlothlin and was first presented at the 2014 conference of the Association of Architectural Educators in Sheffield, UK. It was first published as:

Walters, Bradley and Mark McGlothlin. 2014. “Dead Letter Office.” In Living & Learning: Proceedings of the Second International Conference of the Association of Architectural Educators, edited by Rosie Parnell et al, 94-99. Sheffield UK: University of Sheffield.

The paper was subsequently expanded and substantially revised, independently peer-reviewed, and published in the journal Charrette as follows:

Walters, Bradley and Mark McGlothlin. 2015. “Dead Letter Office.” In Charrette: Living & Learning, Volume 2, Number 1, Autumn 2015, edited by Rosie Parnell, 32-45. Sheffield UK: Association of Architectural Educators (AAE). ISSN: 2054-6718.

The full text can be accessed through Charrette’s website here.

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