Is Architecture the ultimate ideological anesthetic, or can it be?

Is Architecture the ultimate ideological anesthetic, or can it be?                     

     How can a profession whose education and practice - based on selling projects through visual manipulation and redundant, subjective, apolitical rhetoric - maintain a critical stance when the condition in the real world are completely fueled by politics?  


"Please, feel free to share and discuss your own views about this issue "

Bilal Nigm                                                                                                                                                  student - Dep.of Architecture, HU | FineArts College

Oct 10, 12 11:28 am

Why do you think a "critical stance" is a priori a good thing? That's a very loaded, doctrinaire, and highly problematic political position all on its own.

Oct 10, 12 12:26 pm

the condition in the real world is fueled by money not politics...Just so happens that politics is also fueled by money. 

So if you want to control either you must control the money. 

Oct 10, 12 12:58 pm
i r giv up

what jl said.

also, i don't where the hell you're practicing, but apolitical rhetoric not that common in nyc, especially in large projects. past a certain scale, politics and money permeate client-architect discussions at every single phase of a project; in this place.

Oct 10, 12 1:10 pm
chatter of clouds

jla, garnering money implicated you politically. money requires consensus (politics)...politics needs facility(money). so i would not put money ahead of politics especially where money is not a critical issue (those who have lots of it) . within the context of money (your clients' world views, the inculcated ethics of your business and culture, the nature of  micro/macro government...), there will be a certain habitude; something expected from you to be palatable to your audience, be they edgy artsy metropolitan types, hail from a nobility, simple folk. so, quite bluntly, even a consensual apoliticism is political not because it is apolitical but because it is consensual - there is an audience paying heed and enforcing limits of comprehension

.  ...of course, its not always that discrete- there might be always be some flower power in the 'redneck', some steel in the flowers, some flesh in the abstract,  some heart in hitler...

as a comprehensive network of minds and variety of contexts (intellectual, societal, legal),  the culture of architecture, rhetorically, accumulates different sensibilities - some very abstract and self-referential, some empirical and based on cause-effect , some political (realpolitik, humanist...etc)  and indeed some that sound very lofty and existentially-centric (whatever). we are either assigned or we choose one of those sensibilities or, within the full scope of architecture, we cross  the veils seperating these parallel rhetorical worlds depending on context and audience. in tandem (otherwise, little would be done), we employ an arsenal of associations (blank wall= defensive , glass= transparent, accessible, alum cladding = institutional (practical) , masonry/earth= homey, couryard= social...), whether conventionally or subversively, in tandem with the sensibilities.  even architectural style itself is associatively cannibilized- gothic to imbue with sombre reverence or filmic horror or mock-horror; modernism equals idealism, dissociated intellectualism, luxury  or dystopia (hello theperrenialwhole), and the avant garde of the day seems mostly to implythe implicit fatalism of the status quo, however it imagines it to be...until it is superceded by another and may breathe a richer air of interpretation and infuence.

however, behind these veils, and beyond particularities, Salome is bound by the mettle of the imagination that time and in that place; although she might be presented as a loyalist or a rebel, she will always be defined and will define the territory (contents and limits) of the imagiantion. i would therefore say that, fundamentally, architecture as a discipline is hyper-political and not merely political or apolitical. it is political whether it is deliberately political or intentionally apolitical.

Oct 11, 12 7:20 am

tammuz - your posts are too long, and once one starts reading them it's the equivalent of a mental strip-tease - except you catch glimpses of a flabby middle-aged man underneath.  I like my text completely opaque, like a burka.

Oct 11, 12 9:56 am
chatter of clouds

i am not the topic here so stop barking my way. you needn't read my posts.

Oct 11, 12 10:34 am
chatter of clouds

more pertinently, Bilal, are you egyptian? i was wondering about the spelling of your name...g instead of j. otherwise syrian/ lebanese? your question might gain richness by being contextualized. can one say that the reconstruction of either beirut's downtown  or the rebuilding of the razed part of the southern suburb by hezbullah were not political? what about the parts of syria after the ongoing war depndig on the outcome?  the construction industry in the era of mobarak? the impact of escalating (i use that word deliberately)  religiosity on egyptian city planning (with saudi arabia as a precedent). these all are or would be examples of politics translated into architecture.  

Oct 11, 12 11:38 am
won and done williams

Critical stance - you read too much Tafuri. Furthermore, architecture is far too slow to have any real critical impact. In such a fast world, I often wonder if architecture is even relevant anymore. All we really need is a box to keep our heads dry as we navigate the world with the ever-increasing speed of communication. If you want to be critical, target the internet.

Oct 11, 12 1:33 pm

Money and politics are a condition of place [city-state] and infrastructure.

Oct 11, 12 2:33 pm
boy in a well

Come now, friends - let's not be unbalanced . . .

you forgot to crticize the first part of the question.

Who had an education that was about selling projects? or about visual manipulation?

'redundant, subjective, apolitical rhetoric' - sounds like youre looking for a choir to preach to - plenty of that to be found here.

Why not actually go read some Tafuri (doesnt actually sound like you have) -  it might provide some helpful reflection.

Oct 11, 12 8:31 pm

"How can a profession whose education and practice - based on selling projects through visual manipulation and redundant, subjective, apolitical rhetoric - maintain a critical stance when the condition in the real world are completely fueled by politics? "


That's because architecture and architectural education is based on a worldview of ideals. Not that ideals are bad, they give us something to shoot for, an end goal to shoot for.

But in political science (and in economics and philosophy), there are 2 types of arguments - The Normative (i.e. what things OUGHT TO BE) and The Positive (i.e. What things really are)

An example of a Normative statement is, "People *should not* litter". A Positive view is "People will do what is convenient, not what is right. Hence people will litter, because it is the convenient thing to do."


This is important to the discussion of politics and economics (both tied to one another) because a business man does not set prices based on compassion and benevolence... It is unrealistic to think otherwise. He always sets as high a price as he can, before he loses his customers.

I quote Adam Smith from The Wealth of Nations:

"But man has almost constant occasion for the help of his brethren, and it is in vain for him to expect it from their benevolence only. ...  Give me that which I want, and you shall have this which you want, is the meaning of every such offer...  It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

"The real price of every thing, what every thing really costs to the man who wants to acquire it, is the toil and trouble of acquiring it."


Some people read Adam Smith's statement as an argument that justifies greed. I read it in a different light - it's simply a Positive statement  about how it is impossible to expect an economy based 100% on mutual generosity and charity, despite best efforts and intentions. It is impractical.

The only practical and predictable system which one can operate in is one that is based on mutual agreement of exchange of benefits. These benefits are not based purely on charity and generosity, but it is also based on self-interest. (self-interest doesn't necessarily mean greed - there's a difference).

This sets up a system where the market is "self-regulated", where competition will cause the price to reach "market equilibrium". (Too low a price and you don't cut a profit, too high a price and people won't buy from you).


In a world of ideals, we certainly hope that everyone is able to buy things cheaply and sell their own goods at a high price for a good profit. But in a market of buyers and sellers, "my price is good for me", doesn't make it a "good price" for others. There's no way to set prices fairly except through competition and free market.

Likewise, politics are based off of moral beliefs and personal values, which is usually Normative in nature. But whose/which values?

There is always a co-existence between the Normative (ideals, what things should be) and the Positive (pragmatic and what actually works in reality) and there's always a tension between the two.

Unfortunately, architectural discourse has been tilted towards ONLY the ideal - "People should not litter", rather than see from the perspective that "People will litter out of convenience." - that businesses are regulated by market forces, not by ideals of what a utopian city should be like.

(But it doesn't mean we shouldn't work towards that ideal either, even though we know that an ideal (i.e. perfection) is never reachable.)

Oct 11, 12 11:57 pm

C- you confuse the normal with the ideal, and it makes your argument unintelligible.

Oct 12, 12 12:38 am

Politics is the toxic waste of democracy.

Oct 12, 12 1:55 pm

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