Sep '06 - Dec '09
This week's readings for Buildings Texts and Contexts:
-Hitchcock, Henry-Russell. "The Architecture of Bureaucracy and the Architecture of Genius." Architectural Review 101, no. 601 (1947): 3-6.
-Adorn, Theodore W. "Theses Upon Art and Religion Today." The Kenyon Review VII, no. 4 (1945): 677-82.
-Adorn, Theodore W., and Max Horkheimer. "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,"  in Dialectic of Enlightenment, 120-131. New York: Continuum, 2000.
-Wiener, Norbert. "Progress and Entropy" in The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1950.
Through all these essays we are exploring the following argument laid out by Hitchcock:
"The distinction between the character of the operations of a lading bureaucratic organization like Kahn, Inc. and an individual practitioner of established fame like Wright is real, but can be exaggerated if applied ruthlessly to the whole architectural profession... But conceptually the two types of work are distinct and should not be subjected to the same type of analysis and criticism..."
I am not sure that I buy the argument that we need to think of the built environment in these two simplistic ways. What is interesting is that it is an issue we are struggling with today probably more than back then. Also, it would be interesting to study the Libeskind-Childs WTC debacle through this lense.
Anyhow, the real reason I was inspired to post is Theodore Adorno's essays. His essays are very much applicable today and can be seen in issues discussed far and wide: should wally-world be allowed in our community? how come all music/movies (buildings?) sound/look the same? How come I cannot distinguish politicans?, etc... I recommend reading "The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception," specifically.
My reading of the argument (all my bias included):
Increasing organization since the enlightenment comes out of an 'instrumental reason'* that started then and has led to the industrial and capitalist revolutions since. He argues that a few with power are bringing an artificial order in the disguise of progress to control the many. He concludes that art (with its lack of usefulness) is the last refuge from 'instrumental reason' and thus very important for society and humanity. The question this brings up is whether architecture can be separate of a society ruled by 'instrumental reason' or are we too intrinsically tied in to the larger society and its methods of manufacturing and production to do so.
*'instrumental reason' is what we call rationality and that in all reality sees everything (including people) as mere instruments of a larger organization. This thinking allows for children to be exploited in the name of progress, for communities to fail in the name of lower prices, etc...
since i dont like entries without images here is one of adorno chilling, trying to avoid the society of 'instrumental reason'.