THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS AT AUSTIN
This companion to ISSUE is a collection of essays, written by students, for the annual student-produced publication featuring graduate and undergraduate work from the University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture
ALL THE LIVELONG DAY
We Met on the Steps ADA: Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s The Law ADA: Again An Argument Against Pinterest Design
4 23 31 6
Conflict of Agency
The Meme Aesthetic in the Uncertain Present of the Built Environment
A Contemporary Re-Examination of No-Stop City Two Hundred Words
Conflict of Interest The Power of Clarity
Alicia Chen Fatima Betts MaKayla Rutt Cole Bennette Camille Vigil Zeke Jones Robbie Anderson Heather Corcoran Ian Amen
have your attention?
Trent Sexton, M.Arch
We live in a time where everything is competing to be the object of our desire. As more and more receptacles of entertainment open up, as more and more books are released, as more and more political scandals are uncovered, we have to be more and more selective of the information we consume — that, or consume it all more superficially. Even when this book is released, I won’t have time to read through every project. I will likely flip through until something catches my eye. The same goes for the firms reviewing our portfolios. The structure of selection for architectural merit favors speed of comprehension. A project is more likely to be selected if it can be appreciated quickly. We know this, and thus we design for it, and this is perhaps the most critical issue of architecture we face today: the singular image rules. Buildings that look good from one specific angle, at one specific moment, and have one clear, simple concept have advantage over those designed for multiplicity, simply because it takes more time to dig into a plan than it does to appreciate bold colors in a render. Architectural representation is becoming more meme-like: snappy, sardonic, ironic, because a chuckle goes farther than a “hmmm.” As representation becomes more consumptive than reflective, room for subtlety is being lost.
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CONFLICT OF Do I INTEREST
We Met on the Steps New Architecture refuses age, like plastic refuses breaking down. It won’t accept the patina of time, instead it flashes, an instant, for Insta. Architecture, distracted by fame and the thrill of the cutting edge, forgot the simple sublimity of letting people know they, as humans, exist. But here, I know for certain you exist(ed). I can tell from dimples resting on each step, gentle reminders of feet long since on their way. I might even know who you are. But I have no way of knowing if I’ve followed in your footsteps or if you’ve followed in mine. Even as strangers, we’ve been more intimate than most. Our hands held each other through a banister, once bronze, now gold.
Mitch Avitt, M.Arch
I’ve touched the world you knew and you’ve touched the world I know. The same place. A different time. You took some atoms with you while I left some behind. Your determined steps causing predetermination in mine. I wonder about you, the one from before. Do you wonder about me, the one from after? This thought travels, like a reflection between two mirrors, inextricably towards infinity. This is the subtle comfort in breaking down, in wearing out, in age. It’s us - moving atoms Not at the same time, But together.
* This poem won the Bee Breeder’s Poems of a Modern
Day Architect competition, and is featured in Archive Books Spring 2020 publication
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An Argument Against Pinterest Design I’ll never forget the instant, I was caught cheating on a spelling test, in the second grade. The worst part was, I actually knew how to spell ‘Valentine’ The worst part about that day, aside from missing out on heart shaped cookies, was the eternity of a five minute drive home, with the Grand Inquisitor affectionately known as Mom. I was as good at deceit as I was at cheating on spelling tests So, needless to say, my transgression was found out, and the car returned to the scene and I apologized, again. But you haven’t had to apologize have you? Will you pretend to ask? You know it’s you. So do we…we whisper about it all the time. You, the copy and paste designer, scrolling through Instagram, Pinterest, and Arch Daily to cut your sections,
Mitch Avitt, M.Arch
Designing for Pinterest is one thing (still not good) designing from Pinterest is another (pretty bad) I’ll be honest, in the beginning I was mad, But I’m more like my mother, than I’ll ever care to say, I’m more disappointed in you And the place that lets you get away with it, Even praises you for it. But at least most of us can say our designs our own. Even though you might imitate your way to the heart shaped cookies, they’re already stale cookies from last season, no longer fresh. (FYI that was subtle symbolism) No matter how it all crumbles out You don’t get to say “That’s mine, I did that”, and when you do end up saying it We won’t believe you. Although, you might have time to change and I hope you will. What a waste if you don’t. An argument for spelling tests and against stale cookies
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The Meme Aesthetic in the Uncertain Present Of The Built Environment Alexis Benton, M.Arch
...And the crowd goes wild. 1
the Politics of Aesthetics, Jacques Ranciere argues that the invention of abstraction in modern art extends beyond the innate flatness of the page, signaling an aesthetic shift that took form during the twentieth century in art and also in the way the world was perceived.2 Looking at the twenty-first century, it is easy to argue life has “flattened” further with personal technologies acting as mediating devices between people and their environments. However, digital technologies and the resulting changes in communication and data consumption have had the opposite effect, acting as the physical environment’s lovingly chaotic pageant mom. Through analyzing this aesthetic shift, the idiosyncrasies of this new reality unveil its distinctly qualitative multiplicities towards an exponentially accelerating postmodernism. I will define this third wave of aesthetic experience by breaking down the qualities of this new aesthetic media (memes) and will begin to form a set of considerations which respond to their media with enthusiastic indifference. Thinking 1 Ryan Scavnicky “Ask your prof to explain their research agenda.” Instagram, October 20, 2019. https://www.instagram.com/p/B31-BAnp25j/ 2
Rancière, Jacques. 2004. The Politics of Aesthetics: The Distribution of the Sensible. London: Continuum.
in the age of memes has become more complex and more convoluted, more niche and difficult to decode than any other pre-post-modern-anti-aftermeta-hard-to-define movement of the past, and designers must consider this evolution as a new addition to context without falling into stereotypical digital architecture tropes. How do designers mediate between the nuanced aesthetic and semiotic digital existences to create meaning while integrating and accepting architectureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s new role whether it be as a backdrop, air conditioning container, minion, or da bob? It feels trite to dwell too long on the history of memes or to argue for their relevance. Are memes the authority on contemporary culture? No. Memes here act as a device to demonstrate how we zoomers view the world: their freshness guarantees a loyal example of this experience as they could not and have not existed before. The memes of the early aughts have developed into images telling more complex narratives. The meme is never what appears on the surface, but a palimpsest requiring the instantaneous analysis of written and visual information layered with complex meanings and cultural references in order to decode them. Memes are the nervous laugh uttered after an offensive joke. They are the imagification of the unease associated with the terrifying political and social climate of the twenty-first century. The absurdity of the truth is frequently exaggerated, and irony acts as a knee jerk reaction to bad news. The root of all this humor is fear founded in genuine existential concern about the future. Climate change, economic instability, social unease, war. Like the postmodern architecture that peaked in 1970s and 1980s, parody and referentialism are present, however, the biggest joke of all today is not the surface level humor, but the fact that the whole joke is not a joke at all. In this sense, the meme aesthetic is modernism without a solution. By employing self referentialism, parody, irony, and surrealism, memes have formed jaded non-idealism idealism. This condition could be defined by the concept of metamodernism elaborated on in the work of theorists Robin van den Akker and Timotheus Vermeulen in their essay â&#x20AC;&#x153;Notes on Metamodernism:â&#x20AC;? Ontologically, metamodernism oscillates between the modern and the postmodern. It oscillates between a modern enthusiasm and a postmodern irony, between hope and melancholy, between
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naïveté and knowingness, empathy and apathy, unity and plurality, totality and fragmentation, purity and ambiguity. Indeed, by oscillating to and fro or back and forth, the metamodern negotiates between the modern and the postmodern.3 Humorously to the architect, the authors go on to describe metamodernism as a “both-neither” between modern and postmodernism. Modernist aesthetic practices depended heavily on visual sensibilities informed by the aesthetic dogma of learned “good taste” which still reigns in design education and practice today. In order to free interpretation from appearance, rejection of these tasteful terrors can act as a pathway to imbue political undertones within a piece of work. This can be seen in memes that are intentionally unappealing, in some cases, deep-fried. The “bad” design choices allow the work to extend beyond the visual manifestation and open doors to dialogue. If something is too pretty, would it still upset you? would you even notice it? would it look too complete? By employing double meanings and grandiose design decisions that 4 exist outside institutional concepts of good taste, the prevailing aesthetic present in memes comes close to camp. Susan Sontag writes that “camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense in which some things can be taken.” Camp simultaneously acts as metamodernism’s foil and star student. While metamodernism uses humor to engage with a serious topic, camp “involves a new, more complex relation to ‘the serious.’ One can be serious about the frivolous, frivolous about the serious.” 5 Camp is metamodernism plus extra joy. Or maybe despair. How is space interpreted in the meme era? Belgian artist Pieterjan Ginckles provides one contemporary example with what he calls “speed Vermeulen, Timotheus, and Robin Van Den Akker. “Notes on Metamodernism.” Journal of Aesthetics & Culture 2, no. 1 (2010): 5677. https://doi.org/10.3402/jac.v2i0.5677
By author, deep fried villa savoye, 2020.
trips.” In order to exist between fantasy and reality, students document their findings through ethereal modes that do not always tell the whole truth: Instagram, Vine (rip), haikus, Snapchat. The resulting findings create a “compiled portrait of the visited landscape: incomplete, speculative, superficial, disembodied and open to change.” 6 These hurried, fleeting modes of documentation hold more truth today than long contemplative sketchbooks from architectural education’s past (well, out-dated present). When visiting a place, the image held in the mind is always paired with a snapshot, a Wikipedia article, the content on your phone. These speed trips are of the new metamodern condition in that the researchers actively play a role in the place, but do not attempt to understand it in totality. The analysis of these Speed Trips differs from that of Learning from Las Vegas is that they are tied strongly to the subjective and highly personal form of documentation. The experience of a place is never one dimensional but like memes, multifaceted with the addition of your personal footnotes of experience. How do we ascribe value in this third wave of meme-entrenched aesthetic experience? The Blur Building by Diller Scofidio + Renfro serves as the most fruitful example of an architecture that extends beyond a singular perception. The pavilion acts at once as a machine championing human achievement, and a visceral sensual experience of foggy cloud-ness. From afar, the perception of either or both of these faces is dependent on environmental factors like wind. The dualities continue with the god-like hubris of creating a fantasy environment with the dewey dark reality of moving through the structure. The narrative told by the Blur Building is non-linear and complex, a common feature underlying architecture and art of this era is a narrative of complexity and ambiguity. The implementation of nuance should not forfeit the potential for additional pedestrian readings of a building. Sylvia Lavin warns of the slippery slope of base iconography in her essay “Practice Makes Perfect”. 7 Like memes, the references employed by architecture today should aim for suggestions in their readings rather than singularity. The value of one-liner buildings collapse when their message fails. The nature of employing overt or specific symbolism in buildings is usually 6
Ginckels, Pieterjan. Solar Safari. Art Paper Editions, 2018.
Lavin, Sylvia. “Practice Makes Perfect.” Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009, Princeton Architectural Press, 2010. 7
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noon-democratic: the point of entry to appreciate and translate most buildings being much higher than what is falsely agreed upon within the architecture community. The (you would think uncontroversial) proposition here is that buildings exist in the world with people, most of whom have little to no architectural education; therefore, architects should design buildings for the enjoyment of all, placing equal value on function and poetic merit. While I am convinced, after some expensive and arduous architectural training, that Venturi and Scott-Brown’s Guild House is rich with meaning, I am completely unconvinced any person outside of this exclusive club would get there on their own. The answer to building in this meme era is not to build The Museum of Ice Cream or Heartherwick’s Vessel at every corner.
Every building cannot and should not be a monument. Not everything should be universally Instagram-worthy. By learning from these structures, less egotistical buildings can find form. If the Bilbao Guggenheim is grapefruit juice packed with sugar, most buildings should aim to be Pamplemousse La Croix. In his essay “Awkward Position,” Andrew Zago describes how some architects, namely OMA, have chosen to “uncouple architectural production from assumptions of mastery,” 9 in response to the totalitarian dismissal of technique in architecture following the postmodern architectural movement. Zago defines architectural mastery in terms of how skillfully awkward and clumsy conditions are produced. Under this premise, successful buildings are “uglyhot:” not conventionally attractive, but appreciable for their strangeness. OMA’s Seattle Public Library is the Adam Driver of architecture. The 1building successfully acts as an icon, but this iconic form serves a purpose, shifting to hold different programmatic elements.
I made this I think it is kind of cringe tho lmk
Zago, Andrew. “AWKWARD POSITION.” Perspecta, vol. 42, 2010, pp. 205–218. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/41679238. 9
A complete architecture may have been possible as recently as the modern era, but now it is time to step up, and step on up, and get stepped up onto the meme aesthetic train. By achieving a critical fragmentedness which can be read through multiple references of varying degree, architecture can be both minion and da bob. The relevance of architecture today exists in the relationship to the personal. It is not until construction is completed and a project is unveiled, that the final brick is laid; composed of jagged aggregate of intangible elements out of the architectâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s control.
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A Contemporary Re-Examination of No-Stop City 1
Hailey Brown, M.Arch
Nostalgic for the Future
oth No-Stop City by Archizoom Associati and The Air from other Planets by Sean Lally yearn for a day beyond superficiality and mass consumption. Neither is caught up in the ideas for conservation or efficiency, but rather the opposite, by consuming the planet in a whole new way. Whether the reason is to reconnect with Mother Earth or to display the ridiculousness of the current state of consumerism, Lally and Archizoom propose radical new worlds that create endless cities.
Shifts in Thinking Lally poses that architecture is purely a mediator between humans and the natural elements.â&#x20AC;&#x153;â&#x20AC;ŚArchitecture has elected to define its shape and spaces through devices of mediation (surfaces, walls, inert masses) that temper the
energies that make up the environmental context rather than strengthening and amplifying them as defining boundaries themselves.” This waste of energy by converting resources into a new form can be completely avoided if architects stop thinking about architecture purely in the traditional sense of construction materials. Rather, according to Lally, if they work with energy researchers and bio-engineers, architects can learn how to harness energy and shape it into a new type of architecture that responds to environmental and human energies. This line of thinking is radically different from Archizoom’s No-Stop City. Archizoom doesn’t consider architecture at a building scale, but rather at an urban scale and therefore, they don’t challenge the traditional paradigm architects have surrounding what architecture is. They only challenge its necessity by taking consumption of building materials to the extreme and creating a new human crust on the planet. In both cases, the architecture recedes into the background where humans may only subconsciously notice it providing a new-found freedom for humans to have mobile lifestyles. They both also begin to develop a more horizontal social structure by making architecture accessible to all.
Architecture of Energies In this comparison of No-Stop City and The Air from other Planets, architecture becomes an invisible energy shield surrounding the entire earth that allows inhabitants to travel everywhere and be protected from the elements only when necessary; truly a No-Stop City with the capabilities of enjoying the great outdoors. As the built environment disappears, the need for social connection grows. The continuous digital grid connects humans anywhere in the world, maintaining a strong social awareness, while providing the freedom to roam and develop social collections based on values; unlike No-Stop City in which social settlements were based on styles and consumption of goods.
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The Power of Clarity I presented a building today. It was all about lift. The volume shot off the side of a cliff, its light steel frame cantilevered authoritatively, reaching as far as it could go without a single support. Glass wrapped the flying bar, emphasizing its soaring quality and providing views to all sides as if no walls were there. Its base was legibly anchored to the cliffside: light materials were light; heavy materials were heavy. It made sense. The reviewers loved it. “Bravo!” they said, “Your intent is very clear, and you’ve carried it out admirably. Every move contributes to the main idea.” I walked away feeling great. Buildings are not built to be understood. Buildings are not built to be objectified. Buildings are built to house life in all its complexities.
I presented a building today. It wasn’t about any one thing. At some points it was about lifting, at some points it was about falling, and at some points it was about resting. The heaviest points were the most suspended, and the lightest points were the most grounded. The most intimate spaces 16
Trent Sexton, M.Arch
were put right next to the most exposed. Public and private were not clearly separated. The exact same wall felt thick and monolithic at some points and thin and layered at others. The reviewers weren’t impressed. “I can’t find a thesis for your project,” one said. “What’s the diagram? What move is most important to you? This needs a clearer hierarchy of design moves.”
I went to a building today. It was all about lift. I walked off the side of the cliff, immediately feeling an exhilarating sensation of suspension. The all-encompassing views were gratifying, and I stood enjoying that single moment. After basking in the thrill for a time, I sat down to read a book. “No, this spot doesn’t feel right.” I moved. “No, this spot feels the same... So does this one.” I went back another day to try reading again. Maybe today would feel different. It felt the same. The building was made to accommodate one thing, one feeling, one experience, and, while that one experience was great, there wasn’t much beyond it. I walked away feeling... ok.
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I went to a building today. It wasn’t about any one thing. The plaza was ruthless and bare, the building towering above, muscular and solitary in the center. I uncomfortably sidled up to the door, only to find it was locked. Uncomfortable and somewhat relieved, I left to come back the next day. When I came back and braved the plaza to get inside, I discovered a different building than the one I had known before. Roughness had become smooth, hard had become soft, and enormous had become human scale. “Ah,” I thought, “This is the story the building’s trying to tell. A callous façade and a delicate interior. This makes sense.” Then I got to the atrium. Suddenly, the building became angry again, human scale reverted back to the scale of gods. As I moved through, these switches kept happening. Supports that had felt robust started to show strain, walls that had felt thick started to suggest thinness. Conflicting narratives of power and weakness, discomfort and repose, and exposure and intimacy. I felt different things every second I was in the space; it opened itself up to different atmospheres constantly. It was amazing. Clarity is often a cherished ideal in architecture school. Buildings that are clearer in intent and execution are deemed better designed, and consistency is championed. If it’s powerful, it’s powerful everywhere. If it’s modest, it’s modest everywhere. Is that right? Who has ever gone to a building and said, “Ah yes, I love how easy to understand this is! Wonderful!” Who prefers an IKEA manual to Tolstoy? Who prefers a commercial jingle to a symphony? The IKEA manual and jingle are clear—they get their ideas across—but they aren’t giving us anything we deeply crave. So why are we designing buildings like the jingle, selling their main points as clearly as possible, making sure never to have any fat, never to deviate from that core idea? 18
No, we love in the shadows, not under a spotlight. What person doesn’t look more beautiful in low light, when you have to lean in close to make out their features? Their features become more beautiful, more poignant, more distinguished when they’re held back. The shadows sharpen them, casting a shade below a cheekbone, the height of which you never really noticed before or adding a glimmer to an eye that was snuffed out in the sunlight. Thus, I suggest an architecture of seduction rather than of the explicit, the complex rather than the clear. It doesn’t tell you what you’ll get, but it begs you to find out, delighting in its fogginess and moonshadows. Not an architecture that delights in its ability to confuse, but one that is comfortable offering multiple narratives. At some points it may be hard. At some it may be soft. At some it may be both, and at some it is in between. When the inscrutable as well as the contradictory are welcomed, the amazing, the unexpected can occur. So, we must stop relishing clarity as an uninterrogated value judgement unless we aspire to invalidate the profession. To change one’s view, to see the world in a different way, one must engage the unfamiliar, the unknown, the unclear. Clarity is not always wrong, but it cannot be the only option. We must not be afraid to venture towards the inexpressible, that which can’t quite be expressed in words but that which we feel in some other way, maybe in our senses, maybe in our souls, maybe in our dreams. Architecture is not words after all, and if we hope to reach the liminality between ourselves and something other we must move beyond the clear figuration of an idea and towards something more real. Our attempts to objectify architecture may kill its mysteries and silent beauties.
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CONFLICT M. Janssens, M.Arch
here’s all sorts of baggage with the word: sustainability. And using the word with architectural adjacency elicits a broad range of responses, from a groan (see: Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne) to a sigh (see: everyone working for Pritzker Prize winner Thom Mayne) to an extended sort of anticipation (see: me looking over elective options 18 months ago). But release it from the grasp of actualized architecture, and sustainability becomes a conceptual apparatus for conflict, pitting the optimists against the pessimists against the realists in philosophical battle for a sort of existential glory — bragging rights to the timeline of the apocalypse. There is power here, in the topic’s ability to divide or inspire. Concerning parties, it is especially clear — on a macro level — that participation requires a side to be taken. And in this current climate, not taking a side is taking a side. The debate then takes any fuel, meaning that even criticism of the means and methods of the thing called sustainability burns it brighter in the zeitgeist.
The micro is trickier, restricted to anecdotes. It’s different to understand sustainability on a personal level. That conflict now is not exactly the same — it is internal and individual. Sides of optimism, pessimism, and realism are replaced by concern, confusion, and apathy. Last semester saw my development of a studio project for Laguna Gloria. An art gallery, or three, intended to expand the Contemporary Austin’s potential on the north side of the historic Driscoll Villa. Inherently rife with possibilities, I rejected all
mechanisms of approaching the program in a typical sense, and proceeded to bash sustainability into the mix. But this was not about orientation, or energy analysis, or being particular about materials in a traditionally sustainable sense. This was about considering what happens to a building when humans no longer occupy it. Not empty in the sense of vacant, empty in the sense of “there are no people at all” — an imagining of the apocalypse from the buildings point of view. This was about embracing that pessimistic side of the conflict. In a phrase adopted from Paola Antonelli, it dealt in building form with the opinion that: “designers don’t have the power to stop our extinction.” There was good intention. On a very, very personal level, adding sustainability in this mode aimed to at the very least elicit a conversation: concerning architects’ range of complicity and complacency with climate change; concerning professors’ role in introducing sustainability as a topic for studios; concerning the mental health implications of studying the relationship between global warming and architecture, between mapping the direction we are taking and the direction we should be taking, even at the basis of studio project. I abandoned it for something else; and I’m fine with the result. I jumped into a topic brimming with conflicting conjecture and conclusions, a liminal zone between practice and pedagogy; and I can only be happy, to be spat out from the void. I’m conflicted in a different way, though: how to go back in without losing myself?
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Two Hundred Words Hailey Brown, M.Arch
We’ve never met, but I know you. The wallflower at the party. You linger in the background, with dark sunglasses masking your eyes, watching everyone. Make no mistake, your presence is no secret. A gradient of silence surrounds you. You want to participate, but not be the center of attention. You know if you step in, you’ll steal the limelight.
People gossip, whisper, stare, avoid, but secretly they admire you.
Your brutal appearance portrays your burdens, yet your wrinkle-free skin exudes confidence in your life’s decisions. There’s a softness to you, an approachable quality, a sleeping grizzly bear. I want to know you, but your monumental demeanor is belittling. You never smile, but your face relaxes every time your girl kisses your cheek as she flies past en route to greet your guests. She breathes life into the party, with a contagious energy that keeps people coming back. She is your soft-side. Maybe your better half. Two opposites never more perfect. You are forced to extend a hand and introduce yourself before you sip your scotch and return to your post. Why do you hold so much of my attention? I suspect there’s more to you than meets the eye. 22
ADA: It’s The Law Mitch Avitt, M.Arch
They easily say: “The first step is the hardest.” But how easily they forget the first step might be completely and utterly impossible. Assholes. A L L T HE L IVELON G DAY
PEDAGOGICAL CONFLICT Henry Rose, M.Arch
he built environment is not the architect’s playground. It is our common property, and it follows that when architects operate on this common property they have a duty to act for its betterment. Why? Because too much is at stake, and because architects can do something about it. It is hard to overstate how directly healthy, resilient built environments contribute to the well-being of those who inhabit them, especially given the frequency of catastrophic climate events and the great flows of migration that these trigger. Similarly, the crisis of ‘affordability’ in certain cities is destroying lives, and is impossible to ignore. These are not just problems for policy-makers and economists. They are architectural in scope, too. Architects have the unique ability to work creatively in difficult spaces, to resolve complexity across disciplines, to advocate for quality of life and, finally, to deliver the product. On the whole, though, I do not find the field has risen to the challenge. Despite decades of protestation, the discipline seems as self-absorbed as ever: too easily consumed with its own problems, the factionalized pursuit of aesthetic agenda, and with winning self-congratulatory awards. Beauty, aesthetics, or “design intent,” as it is known in contract documents, are tools. They are not ends in themselves. Here I draw a hard line: architecture is only worth the good that it does for the world. Whatever abstract interest it holds in the minds of academics is no more valuable to the rest of us than a curation of trivialities, no more important than a fine collection of vintage stamps. Until it acts, it is simply a hobby. Schools have an important role to play. First: the distinction between teaching architecture as a fine art and teaching architecture as a social
science needs to be made clear. This would engender more precise and fruitful discourse. Following this, I would hope to see a curriculum that stops denigrating pragmatism in favor of ‘design,’ that commits to teaching substantial technical proficiency across multiple platforms, and finally, which eschews the antiquated pageant of critiques as the seminal evaluation of student work. Changing the name to “reviews” is hardly enough. We need to develop new ways of measuring, and delivering, real value.
I firmly believe it is the invisible, basic, utilitarian aspects of our world that define its greatness, not its glittering anomalies.
Until this dictum is embedded deep into the mission of our institution—that ours is a profession of service—we will continue to validate the intellectualist art-object nonsense that has been suffocating the field for decades, and fueled its oft-lamented marginalization. I encourage UTSOA to make the hard choice, to cut the hero-worship, reject the ivy-colored glow and the allure of slick displays of personal genius in favor of something that is less obvious, and more noble. This also means we must develop new markets for this architecture, and new ways to service these markets. But that is what schools do best, they innovate. UTSOA has been in the vanguard before. We should do it again.
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Alex Gagle, M.Arch
The No-Stop City exists as a homogenous interior condition composed of a repetitive grid on an infinite scale, born from the initial specimen of the supermarket and the factory. The outside world, or great outdoors, is replaced by an endless structure which is centered around the act of consumerism. A ripple has appeared in Archizoom’s quantitative utopia which grows vertically and breaks through the infinite ceiling. This ripple confronts the No-Stop City directly with a contrasting language of ornament and clustered, small scale spaces, built from the materials of other Archizoom projects including their own furniture and graphic design. It is an agglomeration of the excesses which No-Stop City is built around, piled high perpendicular to the thin planar space frame. Is this the rejection of No-Stop City? Or is it the result of fully embracing it? Over time, a consumerist utopia (or dystopia) would have a trajectory either toward doubling down on the consumption of production or rejecting it entirely. In the case of embracing the vacuum of consumerism, a mitosis of more goods than space which pile and cluster would distort or warp the inner workings of an endless interior structure. Eventually this distortion becomes a crack in the system which is overcome by its own programmatic intentions. On the other hand, the rejection of these conditions would result in goods themselves being utilized to break out of the monotonous expanse. In their words, Archizoom states, “Up until now, the mass of the general public has been excluded from the architectonic phenomenon: being temporary guests of the integrative Existenzminimum…(No-Stop City, 179).” A habitable, ad hoc hive of interior spaces within the greater interior of No Stop City arises from these temporary guests which challenges the so-called free field of spontaneity. This cluster is the production of spaces instead of goods, and a result of intuitive spontaneity as an act of construction rather than a behavior, from a mass of production that has grown beyond the confines of the city. Spatially, the act of defining spaces which negates through perpendicular construction stops the no-stop city. It creates orientation, division, and spatial reference. Formally, ornament defies the pallid conditions by adding scalar reference and visual nuance that may imply hierarchy or human intervention. But this result is not necessarily humane or even positive, as it is still the inevitable result of over-production and mass collection over time.
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CONFLICT OF AGENCY Alex Bala, M.A. Modernism sought to extend architecture’s agency towards fulfilling political and socioeconomic goals; those that were, by and large, aligned with utopian visions. It believed that architecture would be the catalyst for political and socioeconomic change. This conviction was most forcefully expressed in Le Corbusier’s rallying cry: “Architecture or Revolution.”
The choice is clear, either architecture fixes society’s ills or people will revolt. This conviction was short-lived, however, as Modernism was co-opted by neoliberal forces that continued the status quo of capitalist expansion in the twentieth century. Manfredo Tafuri points out that Modernism was used to accelerate the growth of capital, which in turn led to increased social and economic inequality. As a reaction, Postmodernism understood that any form of direct agency was misguided. It retreated into negative critical/rhetorical modes that abandoned the question of agency altogether. In our contemporary condition, architecture needs to find a middle-ground, one that resides between Modernism’s over-extension of architecture’s agency into extraneous domains and Postmodernism’s non-agency through negative practice. The challenge today is to reclaim architecture’s agency in its own right; to locate where it has existed all along; and to adapt it to meet our present and future needs.
I propose that, as its primary axiom, architecture adopts a dialogical model based on subject-object relations. Such a model excludes all extra-disciplinary concerns, such as those that Modernism sought to take on. At the same time, it retains empathy for the human experience, as opposed to Postmodernism’s treatment of architecture as a critical/rhetorical game that is indifferent to the subject or to any referent existing outside of its own self-imposed rules. Such a model leaves the relationship between the perceiving subject and the architectural object as the only legitimate frame of operation. It recognizes that architecture is an artistic practice, not a political, economic, or technological one. Unlike music or sculpture, though, architecture is the permanent backdrop of our daily lives. It cannot be avoided. Due to the persistency of its effects, architecture’s true work, its agency, often goes unnoticed and is therefore unappreciated. The subject-object model focuses on how architecture physically positions the subject in space and how it affects our existential being in the world. Likewise, it focuses on how the subject assimilates architecture into its daily experience as a sense-making device. As Jeff Kipnis suggests, this model relates to the way that architecture works on our lives, not in our lives. From the subject-object model, architecture can venture into other domains while being aware of its own limitations, by what it can and cannot do. It forms the basis of architecture’s disciplinarity. Only in pedagogical environments (e.g., the university), can architecture’s agency be preserved and applied to external circumstances to help meet society’s needs at any given point, as effectively as it possibly can.
A L L T HE L IVELON G DAY
Amaya D’souza, MAAD
“I like a view, but I like to sit with my back turned to it.” Gertrude Stein Most of us are hoarders by nature. Hoarders of things, experiences, people. We do not live in the moment but in many past and future moments; floating around, cancelling and neutralizing each other. Our idea of balance is static equilibrium – a flat, gray line. Because nothing is special when everything is. We are afraid of committing to one thing because it means going without something else. It is not enough to know that a thing exists temporarily beyond our reach, we must collect it and keep it with us, muddying the water for everything that is to come. Our idea of fulfilling desires is to have no desires in the first place, to freeze comfortable moments rather than experience any extremes of uncertainty. As children we did not question the validity of our individual desires nor measure a moment for what it was not. It was enough to be elated one moment while climbing a tree and secure the next, building a fort. The tree was not expected to be a fort and vice versa. Individual experiences deserve their own space and time. They do not need to do everything, convince everyone, exist at all times. It is enough of an accomplishment that they make us feel anything at all.
Mitch Avitt, M.Arch
The way you know he walks The way you know he talks You know the way he sighs loudly when hearing How long a ramp must lawfully be. You can tell just by looking at him, He is the kind of man Who has never had to hunt for a bathroom to meet his needs. Or maybe that is to say “a bathroom has never let him down” And it shows. Asshole.
A L L T HE L IVELON G DAY
Design Build Lucas Strzelec, M.Arch
my naïve youth, architecture represented the ideal balance between the technical and the artistic; imaginative but somehow rooted in the reality of construction. A field filled with passionate makers, staying up late in the metal shop scribbling over drawings stained with coffee and beer. Architects, in my imagination, inherently knew how to build. When I learned about Samuel Mockbee and the Rural Studio, I shifted my attention to a pedagogical system that married speculation and construction, that engaged the needs and desires of a client. Not only did he take on projects that taught assembly of architectural pieces, they were based on social decency. This is not an argument in defense of the self-important-master-problem-solver based in the modern dictum -- or whatever -- which we fondly study; this is an argument for a system that allows speculation through real construction, that allows a physical manifestation of a thought through a practical process. I saw schools doing this well. The Yale Building Project, studio 804 at University of Kansas, Auburn’s Rural Studio, Design Build Bluff and The University of Texas at Austin’s Gulf Coast DesignLab. Not only do I think representation of design-build in architectural education is needed, I think it would be irresponsible to shelter students from the very thing that makes architecture actual. I’m not saying there isn’t room for the highly speculative, the conceptual narrative, the computational fantasy, I just hope there will always be room for the practice of building in education. There’s a moment when two pieces of steel, half inch thick, 36,000 PSI, are welded together—an understanding of the process—that changes your worldview. It is profound and simple. The best part is, if you don’t get that dream job you applied for at Gensler, you can always move to New York City and be a welder. you’re bound to make more money anyway.
A L L T HE L IVELON G DAY