Raumplan is an Italian online magazine founded by a group of former and current students from Milan. Their editorial staff consists of students in the field of architecture, urbanism, philosophy, graphic design and strives for a multidisciplinary forum for debate among its scholars and alike. The question is, how could a magazine like this be interesting for students in Italy?
Tin Phan, student at AHO, Web Editorial KOTE.
KOTE has had the pleasure of talking to the editors of Raumplan. One of them was an exchange student at AHO. During conversations about our two very different didactic systems and facilities’ availability some of the central points of raumplan came about. Besides more obvious issues such as, the dramatically different teacher/student ratio or the incomparable availability of workshops and laboratories, we spoke about the AHO awards as a mean to further individual excellency among students. Such tools, which Raumplan argues that the Italian universities is lacking, have a double potential, through reaching a transversal audience ranging from academics to professionals and public opinion, they both ensure a wider visibility as well as opening up the projects for critiques and debates across a broader public. Raumplan is thus an attempt to propose an alternative to some faults and defects that, for a complex set of reasons, have invested the italian academic context throughout the last 40 years. We asked Raumplan what exactly it is criticizing and how Raumplan can make an impact.
What does Raumplan mean?
- Raumplan, which means, “space plan” in German, is a nod towards Adolf Loos body of work. His tectonic variations gave a rise to new dynamics of living, expression of a new bourgeoisie class renewed in its habits and practices. This allegory serves as the very essence of the magazine. In an increasingly plan libre state, in which the horizontal condition dominates without opposition it is, in our opinion, necessary to reintroduce mechanisms of fruitful interaction meant to vary and diversify a context that tends to a sterile standardization of relationships. It is a necessity to introduce new possibilities for critical thinking, bring controversy and debate across the disciplines.
As what kind of platform do you see Raumplan? As mentioned your context is quite different from the Norwegian context, surely it affects the ways you proceed?
- Raumplan is a platform for displaying, archiving and debating projects ranging from graphic design to architecture and urbanism. Architecture is thus a pivotal point for the definition of a shared ground involving several disciplines: in fact Raumplan will also feature theoretical essays related to other branches of knowledge. With Raumplan we try to propose an alternative to those functions the university is lacking. We refer mainly to the italian context, the one we live in and we have more experience of. Yet, the majority of the issues are global since are closely linked to a relatively general condition, that is the so called mass university. For us the central focus is trying to reestablish the vitality and seriousness of those structures and places where once the cultural debate was taking place. On our side we have the power and peculiarity of the new media, a powerful engine of exchange and interaction that we are trying to use, avoiding at the same time its features that are flattening and dispersive in turn. The challenge is using new tools for creating a space where our cultural tradition (the one of our historical references as well as our contemporary one, the one built by our generation) could unfold through multidisciplinary interaction and mutual fertilization.
What specifically in the academic circles are you criticizing?
- The university is supposed to be an engine of progress and cultural growth, yet the large number of students poses difficulties for individual progression. In most cases, university lowers the overall level demanded by the students, in order to preserve its current status of educating and a fixed amount of students. In other words, education has become prey of massification in a market oriented university. Education has become a product made available for a broader market of students. For the good and bad.
Elaborate on the consequences this has on the students?
- There is a political correctness in the belief of democratic knowledge, where all students has equal conditions. As a consequence it has perversely resulted in leveling down the true potential of each student. The mass university it is both a result and a cause: a vicious circle that condemns future generations to a state of intellectual minority (largely self-inflicted), relegating them to impotence and irrelevance. Our aim is to contrast an evident trend of our well-off western contemporary society, where the comfortable wellness we got used to, in most cases, is preventing any true engagement of our generation in the understanding of the society we live in and the cultural tradition we inherited. There is a lack of engagement into things that condemn us to powerlessness, as we live in a space that is not ours, in a naturalized vision of the events completely unaware of its being historically and culturally determined.
What do you feel absent the current predicament and what do you propose to improve this condition? In other words, what is your ambition with Raumplan?
- Actually, we are dealing with another familiar crisis to the one stated above. There is lost potential in the transmission of knowledge. A shared intellectual strategy is seemingly absent, as well as a common cultural milieu, a place to gather, but also for a collision between different generations and different areas of knowledge and work. It is necessary that the value and meaning of any work is evaluated and discussed in relation to its plausible reasons and on the basis of specific cultural references that both parties involved need to share.Without a structure of mutual recognition, qualities, talents and good ideas are lost. We believe this absence as a byproduct of democratic knowledge. What we are talking about is a common platform. And perhaps this is the main ambition Raumplan is trying to fulfill. We aim to reactivate mechanisms of comparison and recognition in what we strongly believe is still fertile ground. The attempt, looking away from any mere value’s judgment, is to oppose the logic of the market and the majority through the constitution of a debate in which individual opinions do not matter by themselves, but where the arguments, the skills, the historical and cultural references and the credibility of a process are the truly important features. A showcase but, above all, a "test bed" for ideas and productions: a public space in which each work is enlivened by debate and criticism, and in which it is possible to develop new directions and criteria.
Looking away from opinions and how the magazine has taken a stance, we also have to ask about the technical aspects of your site as we ourselves use this as a medium. As I understand Raumplan also wish to challenge the run of the mill platform for discussion website? What quirks can we expect, opposed to the traditional blog of contents?
- Nowadays “classic” publishing and the new media are shrinking between two opposite conceptions: on one hand there is an attempt to translate the newspaper’s graphic and conceptual scheme into the new media, on the other hand the editorial product is seen as a complex ensemble of aggregators, readers and social magazines that tends to modify the classic format of the magazine, giving rise to new possibilities . We are trying to traduce in a new medium the dynamic qualities of the “analog” debate into the digital possibilities offered by web connectivity. The necessity is, in our opinion, neutralizing those aspects we believe are the main faults of the online interaction: anonymity, lack of reliability, dispersion: this leads to an incapacity of aggregation ad interaction of contents, that is a necessity for a truly communitarian and shared knowledge: It is still an ongoing process, yet this is the direction we are following. As a practical example, we are developing tools for debating on specific points throughout a content. Through a system of notes one could discuss and dwell on specific parts of a contribution by expanding, debating or criticizing “point on point”. The aim is thus creating a system that would discourage extemporary comments or the bipolar logic of like/dislike since it obliges to be precise and punctual on objections and critiques.
In these days Italy is getting worldwide attention with its 14th international Architecture Exhibition in Venice, curated by Rem Koolhaas. In this occasion OMA made several diagrams etching out an image of the potential market per architect in every European countries. On top with the most flexible market was Norway with 1,7 million euros and in the bottom was Italy with 133 000 euros. In terms of the conditions of national context, KOTE and Raumplan is bound to have different perspectives, views and outputs. Further along the road, the web editorials of KOTE and Raumplan hope that our platforms combined can expand the reach of our readers and understanding of different conditions by sharing relevant articles from the opposing magazine. Thus we come closer to one of the essential goals of KOTE, to become a collective intelligence, to usher individual voices among students in which the masses can benefit from. We hope this is a mutual goal we share with Raumplan. The website has been running since the 18th of July and published its first article 7th of August.