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Fall/Winter 2011

IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN MAY Joseph Scherer: In relation to this idea that architecture or architectural theory is failing in some way, I’m thinking about projects that were radical in the 60s and 70s… Archigram and stuff like that. There was a desire to actually have those things become real projects. There’s a time when Banham actually expects that he’s going to open the door and there’ll be a circus out there, and everyone will be free. That faith seems like a very unique moment when theory and design were bridged, yet it was still unsuccessful. So: if architecture is doing the best it can, and if theory is failing, and together they didn’t really get anywhere, doesn’t that suggest a complete inability to change the situation?

that shape daily practice might count. We should also remember that theory constitutes a form of representation, and in this historical moment it might be more in need of attention than other forms, which I realize is not a very satisfying answer. You can avoid becoming despondent by keeping a longer timescale in mind. It’s not your job to solve the numerous crises of habitation we face collectively. It’s simply your job to begin to sort through the reality of our technological lives, with the hope that a patient description might teach us how to not repeat our mistakes, or at least help teach us how to live – not merely survive – amidst the decaying fabric of modernity. In that sense, the notion that there is a ‘solution’ to our current predicament reveals an already instrumentalized conception of thought, which imagines life first and foremost as a set of problems in need of planning and management: a truly negative conception of life. Instead, what has to take place is a much longer historical-philosophical project that dives beneath that psychology. The analogy that I usually draw is with feudalism. Feudalism was not ‘solved.’ It was slowly dissolved, over several hundred years, and ultimately replaced with an entirely different mode of existence. That process required the invention of countless concepts like ‘rights’ and ‘democracy,’ which previously had not existed, and the patient discrediting of other ideas, ‘divine right’ and so forth. Part of the problem right now is that we aren’t doing any of that. Instead, what we’re doing is passively receiving representa-

Eileen Witte: Another question comes to mind when we compare the current state of architectural theory to that of the 60’s and 70’s. Archigram and others of that time were inadvertently critiquing the notion that architectural representation – in a particular, the plan – could order a society through planning and the creation of fixed spaces. Their eccentric use of representation suggested that the plan, as an architectural tool, was too deterministic. And so I’m interested to know if you think that today we need (or have already developed) reactionary forms of representation that critique the statistical project. John May: I think any project that aims to discover or reveal something buried within the rote technical processes

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PLAT Interview Part 1  
PLAT Interview Part 1