“We are doomed to repair,” reads the editorial of issue 250 of the magazine Arch+. In view of a world that is ageing and decaying at every moment, this is not a surprising realisation: “Capitalist modernity, with its emphasis on innovation, growth and progress, its economic system based on consumption, use and waste, and the accompanying ruthless exploitation of natural resources, has, however, anchored a throwaway mentality in our minds: everything is replaceable”. The logic behind this is that the better product is always ready, which is why it is not worth repairing. “In architectural discourse,” it continues, “this way of thinking culminates in the euphemistic term ‘replacement building’. And so it is not surprising that construction and demolition waste today accounts for more than half of the total waste produced in Germany.” The fact that the extent of what needs to be repaired is constantly increasing and that the need for repair is great in view of the degree of destruction in the world is being suppressed.
Repair, however, is “an unglamorous Sisyphean task” that is carried out in secret, on a daily basis and on a small scale. This is where “The Great Repair” comes in, “to go beyond the pragmatic level and point to the geopolitical, socio-economic and ecological dependencies behind the material assemblages, infrastructures and social interactions of our societies. It is these large contexts in need of repair that are meant when we speak of the Great Repair.” Despite the prevailing throw-away mentality, cities, infrastructures and buildings are more often rebuilt and reused than demolished. A large number of technical devices are also repaired and maintained on a daily basis. Maintenance, repair and servicing thus represent an important branch of the economy; worldwide, more engineers work in repair than in development.
“The Great Repair – Politics of the Repair Society” (in German) aims to “create a counter-narrative” that focuses on the ability of human beings to reshape their relationships within the social and natural environment. The current issue is intended to form the basis and theoretical introduction to a project being developed in cooperation with the Berlin Academy of Arts, the Department of Architecture at ETH Zurich and the Department of Geography and Spatial Planning at the University of Luxembourg. In autumn 2023, an exhibition and event programme at the Akademie der Künste will further explore the topic before a further issue of Arch+ is published as a catalogue to accompany the exhibition.
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