Kaitlin Miciunas

Kaitlin Miciunas

New York, NY, US


why is architecture becoming obsolete?

Thesis: It is without utopian vision, but rather an attempt to question the current state of the discipline, what it means to do architecture, as an individual, a student, an artist, a member of society. Architecture is a conversation, around which the subject remains an exploration for potential. Architecture is opportunistic, fantastical, creative, mundane, the container, a realization of existing potentials. It deals with issues of enclosure, connectivity, permanence, use, organization, aesthetics, form, disposability, digestibility...

Architecture is the manifestation of an ongoing conversation - one of social commentary, radical exploration, dynamic technologies, political discourse, and artistic expression. The potential of the practice goes beyond utility, beyond service. More than providing space, solution, identity, buildings  - skepticisms allow for dialogue to occur. A dialogue that references history, questions the present, and provokes the future.

The intention of the work is largely a study of experience. There is a translation that exists between concept and design medium, which gives meaning to each chosen mode of representation. The design intentions overall act to question meaning of that which is normally understood, provide for social occurrence and provocation, and expand realized potentials of repetition and simplicity to create dynamic affect. Architecture is more than resolving the complexities involved in the essential function of a building, but acts also as discourse - as a communicative device, a provocative experience , a compelling question.


i am quite interested in posing something to the extent of 'why is architecture becoming obsolete?' this sort of question would then not only require a definition of term 'architecture' as well as allow for instant debatability.

architecture is too passive, too submissive to the requests of the consumer, of the client, of the current trends and lifestyle. architecture is no longer influential. its no longer ahead of its time or even the definition of its time - its become about making ends meet and about improvement from the non-sustainable problems created in the past 100 years or so by the profession.

Space is in constant combat of interpretation. Whether or not realized, we negotiate space. We 'read' space in order to understand relationships. There is an inherent layer of abstraction in perception. Buildings as objects become perceptive abstractions in which reference and relationships are drawn.

Architecture is consistently in dialogue with a long train of history of building and thought and culture and tradition, constantly in reference to its own history within a sequence of development. There is no reinvention, simply a long conversation.

People have a  constant necessity for adaptation of spatial constraints. Changes are made whether for utilitarian or emotive purpose. Space has consequence, and its in constant flux.

Architecture defines as it reacts to the contained. It is reflective of time, resolution of process, execution of process; defining hierarchies, choreographing adaptation, identifying authenticity, while providing, activating, inhibiting, and relating. Architecture is born from the environment of idea,  speculative as an exertion of thought, experimental, implemented within the fabric in time, realized in the imagination of man as an interpretation, a series, a process, a dialogue, a moment.

m not interested in saving architecture, or proving its a dead discipline, or memorializing the romantic historical perspective of Architecture. however, i am interested in potentiality - people always talk about what was and what is, but what is most intriguing is what could be.  however, in order for architecture to reach its potential, or even grasp for it, desire for its existence is required.

Architecture, to me, is the intellectual practice recognizing potentiality in a context/situation/history/projection and develop a response in terms of rational, spatialization, speculation, innovation, and expression to be manifested, physically.

i find the use of 'becoming' to be important to suggest that architecture is not yet obsolete. the difference between endangered species and extinction is rather extreme

Buildings wont ever be obsolete. but i don't think that building and architecture are the same thing. perhaps architecture can result in building, but building is not necessarily architecture.... but the necessity of building cannot be impacted by the digitization of society, or infrastructure - we need to inhabit built objects i think.

Furthermore, architecture that exists cannot really become obsolete - in my mind. even with loss of use - these icons of history and of identity of place, could not possibly be obsolete. Greek ruins have more meaning as architecture than a high rise. the pantheon will forever be architecture, and is not obsolete.

What is becoming obsolete, however; is the idea that design is necessary. the architectural response to current social and economic situation. commodity and economics are a strong influence - I'm skeptical the general public, the consumer, values the intellect behind a project [or the architecture of it] enough to find it necessary.

i suspect there is a growing gap between architecture and buildings, at least in terms of today's economy and social values and priorities. for me, its more of a concern with the relationship with societal values than the use of digital methods - that may play a part, but i don't find digitization to be very interesting i guess - its just technological advancement, bound to happen and enforce other change

architects are allegedly evaluated in terms of three things by the public: cost, schedule, and quality. in that order too, if i remember correctly. that is either the least inspiring or most inspirational statement about the architecture practice I've heard yet [least in terms of passion for the subject, most in terms of desire for change].  i don't think architecture is simply about improving living conditions, especially not only in terms of cost, schedule and quality - its more complex than that isn't it? but the general public view is the majority, and so is that what architecture is, or is it what we think it is?

what the general public values as highest priorities are money and sex. I'm not sure where architecture would fall in the list. but, i mean, the entertainment industry has no threat of obsolescence, but its function is purely pleasure and money is both generated and poured into it.

i also think the fact that less than 7% of realized buildings are actually designed by architects argues for architecture becoming obsolete. i also have been archiving quotes from sources that i think get at the core of the argument, much more articulate than i can.

Then i suppose the question of obsolescence, for me, is in reaction to scarcity of built projects designed by architects, to 'bad' architecture [how do we objectively categorize bad from good anyway - can success be measured by some sort of aesthetic-to-utility ratio?], to architecture as commodity - the control of the consumer

-in response to the commercialization of architecture - i find that proposals become submissive in reaction to anticipated desires of the consumer which i believe are to a greater degree unknown than what is usually projected in architecture.
-in response to assigning specific programs. architecture proposals are nothing more than paper suggestions - and in realized work, original program rarely remains throughout a buildings lifetime.
-in response to issues of scale - i find that the most provocative work [the work of robert smithson comes to mind] has the ability to think expansively - so that the single project impacts or responds to issues at a global scale as well as the most local micro scale

Typology of Range: I find it relevant to reference utility as specific, vague, weighted, mundane, and historical, not in terms of use but in terms of narrative. The range of program is an inclusive/subtractive combination of the following programmed elements:
Museum: not in terms of archive or depository of knowledge, but in terms of enclosure as a series of voids, and for the purpose of provocation of thought.
Monument: not in terms of commemoration of past, rather as a dislocated signifier, or embodiment of an idea. Removed from historical reference, the monument upholds opportunistic relevance within the present.
Vending Machine: as a device which is absolutely inert/useless, until passive user is rendered active via desiring its contents - an agent-dependent and fulfilling functionality
Billboard Advertisement: in terms of systemic self-promotion, marketing through visual medium to stimulate desire
Laundromat: not without connotation, the utilitarian space provided simply to wash and wait, relates in terms of its becoming obsolete, in terms of function, sure; but even more so in terms of necessity. And yet, necessity is what keeps its program relevant, as a ‘last resort’
Cathedral: not in terms of awe-inspiring, but in terms of communicative space- another type of self-promoting medium
Book: the object may be considered an entombment of words, yet its function is coherently active for its ‘occupant’
Transit Hub: not in terms of function, use  or practicality, but in terms  of provision of space, as space of allowance, as connector,  as a small piece of a series of a greater system without totality or whole, but as sequential  parts with service and purpose nonetheless.

the intent becomes that of a glorified billboard, as a feeble attempt of promoting the interests of the intellectual discourse that is, Architecture. The utility becomes an argument for experience rather than some utopian attempt for the ideal.

Program in fact, then is not rigorous in terms of utility of space, however; in terms of experience required to fulfill its purpose, it becomes prescriptive in the way that advertisement is articulate and thoughtfully composed. The objective becomes a problem of translation as well as interpretation.

Architecture is not essential, threatened to the point of extinction, to be buried in self-indulgence and artistic expression. In the consumer driven society we call culture, the market values prioritize money and sex as commodity, unfortunately I’m not sure where that leaves the discourse of architecture.

In response, I propose to, ironically design architecture. Ignoring the lack of desire and therefore motivation via the public, the idea is to promote architecture by means of visual seduction, entertainment, and commodity.

The outcome, then, is a work in series, architecture of potential, of possibility. the project becomes an issue of mitigation between idea and its communication. By working in series, iteration becomes an exercise of representation, a series of embodied idea, a prosopopeia.

Threats of obsolescence have been documented throughout the history of Architec- ture. Every swift change in societal values, means of production, and every day life brings a new relationship to its encompassing built fabric.

The end of the Classical, caused by its lack of relevance to a period of industry and mass production, gave birth to the Modern. Modernism suffered due to loss of mean- ing in its dependence on utility. Contemporary architecture is without unified iden- tity, becoming obsolete without desire for a built environment as critical reflection of what our world might be. Today’s architecture is without attempt for unification of an unobtainable ideal, without desire, accepting a dystopian future of obsolescence where buildings are made provisional rather than provocative.

Commenting on The Nine Points of Monumentality, by Giedion, Sert, and Leger; Joan Ockman states; “While modern architecture had earlier been obliged to concen- trate on the more immediate and mundane problems of housing and urbanism, the authors argued, its new task in the postwar period would be the reorganization of community life through the planning and design of cive centers, monumental ensem- bles, and public spectacles.”

Today, architecture is obliged to concentrate on the immediate problems presented by global threats on the state of the environment, economical solutions, providing efficient functional space, not beyond what is determined as a necessity, by a society which no longer perceives spatial awe of the sublime, without appreciation of spatial experience.

It is not a formal problem, nor a problem of utility, nor is it a problem due to the economy, but rather a problem of translation; Translation between the discipline and the public sphere, from conception to representation to construction, and a translation that provides a rhetoric, a desire. Is the future of architecture left to produce minimal solution, simply building rather than Architecture?

Function serves as a dislocated signifier, an embodiment of an idea, as a device which is absolutely inert and without use. The use is to stimulate desire, as a com- municative experience of space. If ornamentation is communicative in its utility, than the proposal becomes purely ornamental in order to succeed functionally, as a provocation of the skeptical as well as the potentials of opportunity.


Each Provocation type serves occupation in a rather distinct manner; despite recre- ating a repeating form at a different scale. The point is not for the miniaturization, or for versions of a generic sameness, but rather a realization in the extremities of dif- ference in comprehension and experience each scale involves. This in inclusive to the perceived used and the architectural expression at each scale, through a codification of materiality and techtonics of each scale inherent for constructed realization.
Trifle: The trifle functions at the scale of an object, one which can be held in the palm of one’s hand. It is understood as a closed whole, rather than a series of parts. It is temporal - able to fold up and put in one’s pocket, as a trinket, a souvenir, a memory.
Prosopoopeia; The fabrication services an occupancy load of one, allowing a singular spatial experience. It is understood as a whole, while it functions as a volumetric surface. The intimate scale allows for simultaneous comprehension and wonder.
Concatenation: At the scale of a 20 storey building, the concatenation acts as a series of spaces, filling a definable edge - a closed system. The building functions as an assembly space, for the purpose of internal observation, of the building itself. It is temporal in that there exist multiple concatenations which travel from site to site, leaving a residue of foundation behind for an unknown future use. The occupant is able to inhabit, yet there are unattainable voids provoking imagination and desire.
Ubiquitous Void: The unfathomable extents of the systemmic defines the ubiquitous void. The whole is undefined, appreciated as a limitless series of parts. The purpose of the system is to create continuous variance within a restrained grid structure. The occupiable space is limitless, as is possible use. The ubiquitous void is architecture, a container, an organizational system, a provocation.

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Status: School Project
Location: ubiquitous


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