History/Theory

1273544_Jenks

  • 1970’s: critical theory focused on labor (or the social)/ this theory did not transition well into neoliberalism
  • theory that involved  Derrida, Heidegger, Deleuze, and Foucault tried to replace the theory that came out of modernist intellectual formations as the intellectual energy spent on mastering a difficult literature—mostly in translation—would enrich architectural discourse and trickle its way down into practice (…) It was hoped that architecture could be taken out of the deadening nexus of modernism and professionalism and be given a “thicker” disciplinary identity (…) The trouble was that the epistemology of delayed gratification could find its resonance in advanced history/theory work (i.e. PhD work), but not in the normative world of the studio (…)  with the arrival of computation, “intellectually-oriented” classes became increasingly impossible to justify in the curriculum (…) Furthermore, and importantly, with the arrival of the globalized student population in American universities, it became increasingly unclear how this Eurocentric reading list dealing with issues from a pre-globalization era could related to the wide range of issues coming from the global realities.
  • the semiotic approach evaporated away. Like the intellectualist stand, it proved to be too difficult to teach
  • Theory, if we think of it at the level of phenomenology, promised to enliven the inner spirit of the designer (…)  it promised a disguised spirituality residing not in humans alone but in materials, or even, more importantly, in joinery, in that proverbial tectonic
  • Theory tried to open up an awareness that history and its critical role in defining the “consciousness of the young student.” (…) Today, out of the around 120 or so architecture schools in the US, one half—if they teach history at all—still teach the old curriculum from pyramids onward
  • Theory—in whatever formation—could only barely deal with the problem of global warming (…) an alternative disciplinary horizon allied, correctly or not, with ethics, management theory, and building technology.
  • Theory—in whatever formation—failed to address the rise of nationalism in the post-colonial context (…) In a complex, global world, is it really a victory when Eurocentrism is replaced by nation-centrism?
  • Theory—in whatever formation—could not cope well in the expanded field of “historical architecture.” (…) no one knows how to teach architectural history, and there were few “theoretical” takes, especially since most of the effort at “theory” now tries to address issues in the contemporary world, a world often conveniently stripped of historical and cultural backgrounds. We have moved from modern architecture to environmental architecture, which serves to bring modern architecture towards its teleological end.
  • Theory—in whatever formation—passively, though in some cases actively promoted the emergence of Modernist Majoritarianism. Most schools of architecture came to emphasize the history of modernism as part of its core epistemological project (…) theory failed to critique the important institutional changes within the world of history/theory, the most important being the split between Modernism and Tradition, and now, more recently, Modernism and Pre-modernism
  • Theory—in whatever formation— failed to adequately address the digital until it was too late.
  • Theory—in whatever formation— failed to deal with the humanitarian crisis of the twenty-first century and still struggles with issues of violence and trauma (…) e need to recognize that normative theoretical systems do exist, they are just not called history/theory.2 They go by other names such as preservation, digital architecture, modern architecture, sustainability, pre-modernism, etc (…)  the very success of the last decades is now coming to haunt the system, creating immobile boundaries that mitigate against interdisciplinarity. Advanced scholars who now work in the domain of “history/theory” do indeed often bridge into the realm of political science, anthropology, colonial studies, philosophy, geography, and other disciplines in the humanities. But whereas these other fields have made strong and important inroads into developing critical positions, architecture as an educational platform has in the last decades moved in the opposite direction, cleaning out its curriculum from disciplinary entanglements, placing the entire weight of that operation on the narrow ledge of “history/theory.” (…) To make matters worse, many elite schools decided to follow the neoliberal model of labor by tenuring only a few people and farming out the rest of its curriculum to hired guns who had little vested interest in—and no power to—transform the curriculum

Excerpts from: The School of Architectural Scandals, written by Mark Jarzombek, full article available here

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