‘Considering the recurrence of the question “what is architecture, for you?” in interviews, Q&As and autobiographies, architecture must be a discipline that is hard to define. Or, at least, it must be a discipline that elicits multiple definitions.
In the introduction to S, M, L, XL, Rem Koolhaas offers his own: “Architecture is a hazardous mixture of omnipotence and impotence. Ostensibly involved in ‘shaping’ the world, for their thoughts to be mobilized, architects depend on the provocations of others.”
This particular definition places architects in a complex position, halfway between their aspirations and their actual opportunities or, to put it differently, between their learned attributions and their usual tasks. Educated as instigators and drivers of societal change, most architects hardly live to see any of their designs become a reality. And yet, this ambivalence is hard to overcome. Indeed, it can be traced back to the modern definition of the architect as an independent professional, or rather as a professional that does not “shape” the world with her own hands, but always through an intermediary object – the project.’