Friday, 25 September 2009
The retrospective epochal terminator, an MP orginal (more or less).
Millennium People. It is as it sounds: a blog for the People of the New Millennium.
But I thought I would just recap, for those latecomers at the back, and reiterate what MP is really all about: the uncertainty of the current architectural (and epochal) situation. Zaha's on the out, Dubai is quickly becoming a sandblasted stillborn, and I can faintly hear Ballard's Chelsea housewives murmuring into their martinis "someone really ought to do something".
Its a bad situation. Architects and theorists everywhere, lets take a moment to prop ourselves up on our unemployed elbows and take stock of the situation: the sub-prime crisis has come, and the boom has gone. Like so many Rip Van Winkels we naively now awake to the fact that China, the Gulf, and the endless stream of dubious commercial constructions we merrily knocked up, were morally moribund white elephants (or ivory towers).
Worse, the favourite pastime of so many students and young professionals – I am referring to digital formalism – has been murdered in its bed. No longer is there any hope that it will one day dominate the world of architectural construction, it has been relegated to nothing more than a stylistic dead end, like those typical of the beginning of last century (art nouveau, etc). On the upside, at least now when I speak out against meaningless form-finding I don't sound like a Luddite.
How are we rallying ourselves? MP is seeing two general trends in architectural thought emerge: the retrospective and the reactionary (I am simplifying by presenting the extremes, but I think the spectrum generally holds true).
The former have decided to seamlessly splice 1968 (and the years directly after it) to the present day. Through the re-examining of groups like archigram and the infamous lessons from Las Vegas they aim to by-pass all of that post-modernist, post-post-modernist, bullshit and reconnect with their roots. Soggy with nostalgia, they lovingly recount tales of simpler times – utopias were only a few years away and for a young architect anything seemed possible. Glorified is the architect-citizen, who told the Man where he could stick it (there is of course no mention of the architect's subsequent punishment, doomed to a half century of quibbling over occupational health and safety).
Then there is the reactionary camp, who seem to be led by the unlikely figure of Kengo Kuma (though there are certainly many others). This camp is following Toyo Ito's Digital Tarzan theories (of the city as the interface between the digital and physical realms) to their logical conclusion: by treating architecture as both a membrane for the individual/virtual and individual/real. In other words, a thinking founded in Heidegger's forest clearing (see The End of Philosophy and The Task of Thinking) and Levinas' Other.
I find this the more attractive of the two, and the discussion revolves mostly around the 'architectural object' (see Rosin-Melser's and my own exchange) and the notion of 'specular/speculative architecture'. The only problem with this movement is that it is a reaction to the current conditions. As such, it limits itself to merely describing the present. Where are the architectural revolutionaries? Where are the forward thinkers and dreamers for tomorrow?
In closing, I make mention to MP's wordy manifesto (as soon as the blog gets a regular editor it will probably be rephrased).