Volume 13: Ambition


Our field, and perhaps every field, is defined by ambition. To know ourselves we have to know ambition. But ambition is far from simple. It is never straightforward, never the singular drive it appears to be. Rather, it is a set of interacting forces in which often the means are mistaken for ends. This issue of Volume on Ambition offers a preliminary map of what has become a landscape of misguided purpose.

Ambition is not the drive for personal gain. Elizabeth Diller reminds us in her contribution, Mediagenics, that it is reductive to think of ambition as the raw determination to achieve power or fame. To have ambition is to have also a particular goal. However, this goal is difficult to ever know. What is disclosed by the ambitious is merely the objective to attain a desired position or status, but not what will be done with it. Someone may declare a desire to be President but who knows what he or she will do once they succeed?

Maybe it is the difficulty of determining what drives somebody that shifts the discussion to what he or she is supposedly driving toward, like a position of power, celebrity, or respect. With all the skill and assistance the ambitious architect has to cultivate his or her public persona, it is easy to get sucked into the ambition effect. The buzz of excitement generated around any given architect's accomplishments makes it seductive to aspire to that level of power or fame. We would suggest that wanting power or fame misses the point that architecture offers much more. For one thing, it breeds other riskier forms of conquest, as Diller suggests. In fact, this myth of ambition so thoroughly runs through the field that it functions in place of an end goal itself, which Mark Wigley explains in Mutations of Fame. Being in contact with celebrity is increasingly the organizing principle of the academy, determining staffing, the transfer of knowledge, and the ambition of students, an all-engrossing economy that mirrors the organization of the architecture office.

That said, this issue is not about proposing to expand our ambitions beyond power and fame. Instead, it examines how much our ambition has advanced as a result of the field having more of both. In their respective interviews, Alejandro Zaera Polo and Bjarke Ingels talk about power and celebrity not as goals to attain but as means. Each in his own way argues that these are newly available channels, and without swimming in them it would be impossible for the architect today to realize a good (or, super cool,) building. In The Knowledge, Keller Easterling observes that they provide access to a feedback loop of give and take. As a public figure, the architect gives knowledge. In turn the architect takes back information about the dynamics of political influence. In recent years we have seen that the ambitious architect uses this information to refine his or her tactics to then pursue even bolder projects: in other words, power and celebrity are sources that strengthen one's means. Moreover, they allow the architect to act as an intellectual. In a position of power or celebrity the architect shares and acquires knowledge, not just to better maneuver politically, but also to gather information about the actual consequences that our field's actions have in the public domain. Who knows what the ambitious will do with this knowledge, but we hope you will begin to share their informed sense of purpose as you read Ambition.
-Jeffrey Inaba

Mutations of Fame
Mark Wigley

Ambition after Celebrity
Danielle Levitt

Question for Karim Rashid

Enjoy the Futures
Charles Jencks interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba and Benedict Clouette

Fifty Percent: In Defense of Public Relations. Questions for Laura Iloniemi, Lisetta Koe, Nancy Kleppel, Jessica Scaparotti and Elizabeth Kubany

Conversation with Ben Katz
Jeffrey Inaba, Harmony Murphy

The Compromise House
Mans Wrange / OMBUD

The Knowledge
Keller Easterling

Tomorrow's Faces, Today's Ambitions. Archiprix International 2007
Arjen Oosterman

Micro-scale and Macro Ambition
Momoyo Kaijima interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba, Benedict Clouette

Content and Discontent
Francesco Bonami

What Good Is a Bad Object?
Sylvia Lavin

C-Lab Presents: New Names
Paul Wysocan

Yes Man
Bjarke Ingels interviewed Jeffrey Inaba

Conversation with Vincent Gallo
Benjamin Bratton and Jeffrey Inaba

Maturing Ambition
Kevin Roche interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba

Richard Prince

Philip Johnson
Interviewed by Robert A.M. Stern
(Introduction by Kazys Varnelis)

Hedged Ambition

Give It Away Give It Away Give It Away Now! Souvenirs for a New Germany
Sascha Glasl

C-Lab Presents: Breeding Tables
by Kram/Weisshaar

Alibi: Kazakhstan
C-Lab and Tanya von Preussen

A Conversation Between Shohei Shigematsu and Mohsen Mostafavi
with Margaret Arbanas and Benedict Clouette

Ambition Then and Now
Thom Mayne interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba

Jeffrey Inaba

Still Ambitious After All These Years
Jerry Brown interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba

Elizabeth Diller interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba and Benedict Clouette

Alejandro Zaera Polo interviewed by Jeffrey Inaba

Architects Before the Make-up
Todd Eberle

Tonal Ambition. Brian Roettinger's design for the Theremin
Martha Read

C-Lab Presents: Theremin Sans
by Brian Roettinger

Richard Holbrooke, Architect

Model Urban Development and Modeling Urban Development
Natalie Jeremijenko

Ambitious Acts
Doug Aitken

Yehuda E. Safran









Volume 20
Bootleg Edition Urban China (C-Lab)
Volume 18
Volume 17
Volume 16
Volume 15
Volume 14
Volume 13
Volume 12
Volume 11
Volume 10
Volume 9
Volume 8
Volume 7
Volume 6
Volume 5
Volume 4
Volume 3
Volume 2
Volume 1
Volume Magazine
Purchase Volume 13