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'Architecture is a fiction.' With this provocative thought, Aaron Betsky opens his contribution, 'The Alpha and the Omega', in Beyond Short Stories on the Post-Contemporary, Issue 1: Scenarios and Speculations. A bookazine launched yesterday at the Architectural Association.

The book/magazine edited by Pedro Gadanho (architect, curator and writer based in Lisbon) is a collection of shortstories/fictions that open up a field for reflection on issues such as: urban conflict, social interaction, ecological resources, the evolution of cities, technology and techniques. Beyond arrives at a time in which 'architects and urbanists tackle fascinating issues, offering a fresh take on urban scenarios and speculations of a near future'.
The publication gathers an array of 'young and upcoming European architectural writers' such as Bruce Sterling, Lara Schriver, Shumon Basar, Wes Jones, Kobas Laksa, Superstudio, Aaron Betsky, Gilles Delalex, Michele Provoost, Knut Birkholz, Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss', Boris Jensen, Silvia banchini and Luis Falcón and Antonio Scarponi, that in one way or another, joined us yesterday at the AA, where myself, Colin Fournier,
Liam Young, Sam Jacob, Pedro Gadanho, Ines Dantas and the audience discussed the premises, the aims, and the relevance of this new publication.
Pedro was one of the first to arrive, directly from the United States, where he had just launched the publication in Harvard.

After the usual formal introduction by myself and Ines Dantas who introduced our guests, Colin started by saying that he had just read the whole book cover to cover that morning. And although he was intending to make the announced presentation 'Urban Fictions', he would rather present some of the main issues that he gathered from his readings of the compiled texts. Colin began by proposing a series of questions on the vitality of fcition, the identity of the authors, the nature of the affect of fiction, referring to beloved fictional authors such as Jorge Luis Borges and Italo Calvino, the balance between visual and non-visual, the role of ideology, the relation between past and future, the question of the materiality, the question of what is fictional or not and lastly, the notion of place and utopia. Although not presenting 'Urban Fictions', we had a glance over 14 of an array of 60 something fictions that he had pin-pointed, from the arcadian city to the endless city, from the endless city to the cybercity, In presenting a series of images representative of the fictions around the city, Colin pinpointed a central point of the discussion.
Beyond architecture, the focus of the fictions present in the publication is the city, the urban scenarios and its speculations.
Returning to fiction, the discussion was kicked off by Liam Young and from then on to Sam and to Pedro, returning to Colin who at a certain point dennounced a certain dystopic emphasis in the major part of the texts compiled. Pedro Gadanho, although admitting that part of the texts describe dystopic scenarios or speculations of a near future, pointed out that even the most dystopic point of view has in itself a latent positive approach or outcome, has fiction here is being used to criticize a sitution.
Discussing the reader and the potentiality and limits of the use of fiction in architectural/academic writing, Pedro pointed out that the reader is the one deciding the scope of implication of the actual fiction: one reader can read it as a text and not take anything out of the story being told, but in fiction there is this potential for the reader to read beyond the fiction, recognize a situation that is understated or disguised and in this way, become crucial in the critique of reality, even if this is depicted in a fictional format.
At a certain point, Sam Jacob picked on this critique of reality, and in very plain terms emphasized the somehow fictional approach in the relation between architects and clients, stating that architects always present the positive side of the project and the 'fictional' world-changing capacity of the project itself. Stating that he would never try the dystopic approach with a client, Colin rightly referred that he could be on to something there. Architects always use the positive approach, mainly in the photomontages and renderings produced, but what would it happens if the imagery created depicted a more real, and maybe more dystopic near future.
Questioned about the presence of only a couple of image-based contributions in the publication (the graphic novel 'Re:Doing Dubai' by Wes Jones and the photomontages 'The after Life of Cities' by Kobas Laksa) Pedro referred that more than trying to bring the word back to a proeminent place, he was trying to make a balance between written fictions and image-based fictions, broadning up the scope of the publications, not only directed to the academic and/or architectural circle, but directed to a general audience, interested in the urban scenarios that they live in and move through in life.

[ images: top and center, Beyond publication and AA Dinning Room, photo by Emanuel de Sousa; above, from left to right, Pedro Gadanho, Sam Jacob, Laim Young, Colin Fournier, photo by Kirk Wooller ]

The discussion foccused on many issues around fictions and the city, written techniques and visual techniques, utopia and dystopia and moved from one to the other, as in a gripping novel, when events unfold before our eyes and our imagination constructs a world that although not real could become a reality. Beyond, Issue 2, is indeed becoming a reality, and it is leaving behind the speculations, and returning to values and symptoms, still using the fictional techniques to alert us not about a fiction of the near future, but about the reality of today.

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'Beyond' Book Launch and Roundtable
Short Stories on the Post-Contemporary
Presentation 'Urban Fictions' by Colin Fournier (The Bartlett) + discussion panel
Organised by Emanuel de Sousa (AA), Ines Dantas (Studio3.\ WUDA)

and AA Bookshop
Wednesday, 23 September, 6.30, AA Dining Room

'Beyond' is a new book series dedicated to new, experimental forms of architectural and urban writing. A bookazine in which an extended network of young and upcoming European architectural writers will be given the freedom to survey the outline of themes and things to come.
In an age when conceptual thought is undoubtedly one of the rules of attraction, it is expected that writing may provide again an arena where images are returned to their original frame: the speculative imagination. By seeking expressions that may escape the academic circle and the simple service of the prevailing photographic image, 'Beyond' will propose stories and essays that come near to fiction’s ability to prompt a deeper, appealing reflection on themes that concern us all.
The invited guests are Colin Fournier (The Bartlett), Pedro Gadanho ('Beyond' editor,, Liam Young ( and Sam Jacob (

Support: Studio3.\institute for experimental architecture Innsbruck

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Emanuel de Sousa, arq