Book Review: Beyond Patronage—Reconsidering Models of Practice

Edited by Martha Bohm, Joyce Hwang, Gabrielle Printz. Actar, 2015.

The recently published Beyond Patronage begins with the premise that we now live in a “post-world”: post-industrial, post-bubble economy and post-Kyoto Protocol. The book wrestles with the subsequent implications for emerging and experimental architectural practices. But where this edited volume begins to navigate especially fraught territory is when it inserts questions of identity politics into this supposed seamlessly pluralist and globalized “post-world” of architectural practice.

Edited by Martha Bohm, Joyce Hwang and Gabrielle Printz, Beyond Patronage developed out of a symposium hosted by the School of Architecture and Planning at the University at Buffalo. As an extension of the symposium, the volume includes both collected essays based on presentations, as well as subsequent participant interviews generated from event discussions.

The material is thematically organized around three identities that allow the architect to address the 21st-century challenges of this “post-world”: architect as initiator, architect as detective, and architect as advocate.

Examining a range of applied examples in professional practice, the architect as initiator is modelled on the entrepreneur. The architect as detective highlights skills at sleuthing out hidden social and environmental potential. And the architect as advocate studies professional strategies f or identifying and reaching new clientele who are typically neglected by the field.

The choice of contributors deliberately engages questions of identity within this rich exploration of contemporary professional practice: all of the authors are female. With this overlapping between the identities of those who are challenging the norms of architectural practice, and the methods by which they do it, the book begins to illustrate the challenges of engaging with identity politics. At once equitable and protective, it points to the complexity with which the field of architectural practice has shifted in the 21st century.

Christina Gray is a PhD candidate in architectural history at the University of California, Los Angeles.