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Criticism and Theory

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A Perverse View of Architecture

Buildings, although inanimate, are often assumed to have “life." And the architect, through the act of design, is assumed to be their conceiver and creator. But what of the “death" of buildings? What of the decay, deterioration, and destruction to which they are inevitably subject? And what might such endings mean for architecture’s sense of itself? In Buildings Must Die, Stephen Cairns and Jane Jacobs look awry at core architectural concerns.

Why would an architect reach for a pencil when drawing software and AutoCAD are a click away? Use a ruler when 3D-scanners and GPS devices are close at hand? In Why Architects Still Draw, Paolo Belardi offers an elegant and ardent defense of drawing by hand as a way of thinking. Belardi is no Luddite; he doesn’t urge architects to give up digital devices for watercolors and a measuring tape. Rather, he makes a case for drawing as the interface between the idea and the work itself.

Disappointment and Failure in Architecture

The usual history of architecture is a grand narrative of soaring monuments and heroic makers. But it is also a false narrative in many ways, rarely acknowledging the personal failures and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the underside of architecture, the stories of losers and unfulfillment often ignored by an architectural criticism that values novelty, fame, and virility over fallibility and rejection.

Error

Architecture never goes entirely according to plan. Every project deviates from its designers’ expectations, and wise architects learn to anticipate, mitigate, and sometimes celebrate the errors along the way. Perspecta 46 argues that error is part of architecture’s essence: mistranslations, contradictions, happy accidents, and wicked problems pervade our systems of design and building, almost always yielding surprising aberrations.

A Candid Guide to the Profession

Since 1985, Architect? has been an essential text for aspiring architects, offering the best basic guide to the profession available. This third edition has been substantially revised and rewritten, with new material covering the latest developments in architectural and construction technologies, digital methodologies, new areas of focus in teaching and practice, evolving aesthetic philosophies, sustainability and green architecture, and alternatives to traditional practice.

Attention in the Age of Embodied Information

The world is filling with ever more kinds of media, in ever more contexts and formats. Glowing rectangles have become part of the scene; screens, large and small, appear everywhere. Physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented. Sensors, processors, and memory are not found only in chic smart phones but also built into everyday objects. Amid this flood, your attention practices matter more than ever. You might not be able to tune this world out.

Architecture can no longer limit itself to the art of making buildings; it must also invent the politics of taking them apart. This is Jill Stoner’s premise for a minor architecture. Her architect’s eye tracks differently from most, drawn not to the lauded and iconic but to what she calls “the landscape of our constructed mistakes”--metropolitan hinterlands rife with failed and foreclosed developments, undersubscribed office parks, chain hotels, and abandoned malls.

Domain

Architecture exists in the public sphere and is the product of collective work and knowledge. Yet the defining boundaries of the discipline are often contested. Architects can and often must embody a spectrum of characters in their practice: politician, artist, physicist, entrepreneur. Likewise, a building is the nexus of multifaceted economies, legislations, and information systems. Since "architecture" has become a metonym for increasingly distributed persons and practices, how--and for whom--do we establish its domain?

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki sees buildings not as dead objects but as events that encompass the social and historical context—not to be defined forever by their "everlasting materiality" but as texts to be interpreted and reread continually. In Japan-ness in Architecture, he identifies what is essentially Japanese in architecture from the seventh to the twentieth century. In the opening essay, Isozaki analyzes the struggles of modern Japanese architects, including himself, to create something uniquely Japanese out of modernity.

Digital technologies have already changed architecture—architectural form as well as the way architecture is designed and built. But if the digital is a revolution, which tradition is being revolutionized? If it is a "paradigm shift," which architectural paradigm is shifting? In The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Mario Carpo points to one key practice of modernity: the making of identical copies.

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