Radical architecture: is this the built environment's future?

A new book by Phaidon and curator, convenor and author Beatrice Galilee hails the radical architecture of the future through community-focused designs, site-specific and virtual installations, photography essays and traditional architectural projects

Ocho Quebradas Concrete House, glass fronted, a person stood looking out of the floor to ceiling windows, building set in a hilltop, surrounding landscape of moss, shrubs and mountainous backdrop, blue daytime sky
Ocho Quebradas House, Elemental, Los Vilos, Chile, 2013.
(Image credit: Cristobal Palma)

Radical Architecture of the Future is a bold title for an architecture book that brings together work that is overwhelmingly real, instead of seductively rendered. The thread that binds this collection of often wildly dissonant projects together is not simply radicalism, but the recognition that contemporary architectural design must engage with the very people it is designed to serve. To showcase these ideals, author Beatrice Galilee has assembled a broad sweep of contemporary design, spanning from community-focused designs, both cultural and industrial, to site-specific and virtual installations and photography essays, as well as traditional architectural projects both big and small.

There are bold juxtapositions, from explicitly political buildings like Heneghan Peng's Palestinian Museum in Birzeit, Palestine, through to poetic landscaping projects like Junya Ishigami's Art Biotop Water Garden in Nasu, Japan. There are residential renewal works that add fresh thinking to urgent issues like sustainability. Photographic essays lay bare the beauty, banality and terror of the late-capitalist landscape. 

Radical Architecture inside an open book, landscape, fields, roads, industrial buildings, housing estates, lakes and rivers, tall smoking chimney, cloudy daytime sky

(Image credit: press)

There’s a lot going on within these pages. Radical Architecture of the Future is most successful when it eschews the celebratory and aspirational tone that pervades architectural publishing in favour of provocation and the promotion of hitherto marginalised and overlooked territories. It is a book to challenge preconceptions and expand horizons. Examples include Atelier Masōmī and Studio Chahar’s impressive Hikma Religious and Secular Complex in Dandaji, Niger, and Forensic Architecture’s meticulous graphic analysis of flashpoints within global conflict.

Galilee spent five years as the curator of architecture and design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Her prominent role as a curator, convenor, and creator within the architectural field allows her to tap into the currents of change that swirl around the global modern architecture ‘scene’. As well as the ideas on display, the book also chronicles the end of the modernist monoculture, as architecture starts to live through its own reckoning with representation and power structures.

Radical architecture of the future book front cover in blue and pink

(Image credit: press)

Plasencia Auditorium and Congress Center, blue cloudy sky, surrounding rocky terrain, neutral colour pathway, red bridge leading into the building with visitors walking along, tree to the right

Plasencia Auditorium and Congress Center, SelgasCano, Plasencia, Spain, 2017.

(Image credit: Iwan Baan)

Intimate Strangers cover, abstract art, universe background, colour and black and white images of people, two hands holding mobile phones

Intimate Strangers, Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation, 2016.

(Image credit: Andrés Jaque / Office for Political Innovation)

Andean Architecture, Tall colourful brick building, satellite dishes on the roof, blue sky

New Andean Architecture, Freddy Mamani, El Alto, Bolivia, 2005. from the book El Alto published by EditionTaube

(Image credit: Peter Granser)

Daytime image of a tower block from the ground level up, balconies with satellite dishes and other attachments, airborne drone council monitor camera in shot, blue sky

In the Robot Skies, Liam Young, 2016.

(Image credit: Liam Young)

Two yellow wooden houses, one white house, road, grass verge, pathway in front of the houses, trees to the back and side, blue cloudy sky

Color(ed) Theory, Amanda Williams, Chicago, IL, USA, 2014–16.

(Image credit: Amanda Williams)

DMZ Vault of Life and Knowledge black and white image, white stalk like bird perched on a rock in the middle of a water filled open cavern, mountainous hills fill the surrounding area, grey sky

DMZ Vault of Life and Knowledge, Mass Studies, 2015.

(Image credit: Minsuk Cho/Mass Studies)

Colourful abstract art of young people marching, males in a row drumming and females walking

Marching On, Bryony Roberts, Mabel O. Wilson, and the Marching Cobras ofNew York, New York, NY, USA, 2017.

(Image credit: Bryony Roberts)

Black and white image of the Flint family, three generations of females stood together, brick wall to the left, tall glass windows with curtains to the right

Flint Is Family Part I, LaToya Ruby Frazier, 2016–17.

(Image credit: Courtesy of LaToya Ruby Frazier and Gavin Brown)

Woman stood in a sandy area controlling an airborne drone, palm trees swaying, water and small building in the distance, cloudy sky

Space Enabled. Danielle Wood, with project contributors Fohla Mouftaou, Lola Fatoyinbo, David Lagomasino and Danielle Wood. 

(Image credit: David Lagomasino)


Radical Architecture of the Future, Beatrice Galilee, Phaidon, £39.95

Jonathan Bell has written for Wallpaper* magazine since 1999, covering everything from architecture and transport design to books, tech and graphic design. He is now the magazine’s Transport and Technology Editor. Jonathan has written and edited 15 books, including Concept Car Design, 21st Century House, and The New Modern House. He is also the host of Wallpaper’s first podcast.