In the last 10-15 years there appears to be a new stream of architectural practice emerging across several continents concerned with the objecthood of architecture. At the same time influence of phenomenological, particularly a Heideggerian, orientation of architecture has continued its influence on architectural practice and theories across the world.
For the phenomenologists, architecture always recedes, withdraws, moves into the background and its spatial qualities or atmospheres, take over the human body experiencing the space. Architecture, like art, is expected to act as a portal to connect to the oneness of being. Architecture, assumably, does this by framing and intensifying atmospheres, the textures of building materials, play of light and shadow,Like, as John Dewey tells us, the geologist is expected to tell us that a mountain is ultimately earth itself, the phenomenological architect is expected to offer the human body the aesthetic experience that alludes to the grand and always subliminal being of the world. To that extent, the architect looks not so much for rational or thought in the practice of constructing the work, but for more emotive, evocative, pre-thought feeling, tantalizing senses that guide us to some form or quality of space from a place of je ne sais quoi or aesthetic judgement. Almost always, there is a spiritual undertone, sometimes overtone, to the thought and practice of such architecture. More importantly, there are only three things considered in this interplay: the space of the building, the experiencing human body and the being of the world.
Contrarily, for the architects concerned with the objecthood of architecture, what is important is the multiplicity of beings i.e. not one overwhelming being of the world or the universe, but the being of everything. Not an easy segregation of nature and human but a renewed acceptance of equality and solidarity among all life and non-life forms. This has radical implications for architecture and its practice. It broadens the ontology of architecture and keeps it radically open for the worlds of many kinds of built-forms and practices. It accepts the human limitations along with the limitations of all other beings and the limitations of their engagements to create their own worlds. By being aware of the limitations it makes room for all other beings to claim their worldliness alongside human claims. Their works allude to not the ultimate being of the world. Instead, they allude to the reality of either that specific thing or the reality of something specific. That is the mountain has its own being above and beyond the being of the earth. This means, for the object-oriented architects, their plans are one among several other plans or the lack of plans of all things. Simply put, the form-oriented architects are realists of some kind. This also means that solidarity and friendships among the beings of the world is an integral aspect here. In that sense, the work of the object-oriented architects is closer to the object-oriented ontology developed by Graham Harman, Timothy Morton et.al. (including the spectre of ideas developed by Bruno Latour).
This opens questions on formalism in architecture once again. Are we seeing a new form of formalism, a new reading of formalism, today?
One can draw a tentative list of form-oriented architectural practices at the moment. But I would leave it for another post.