Another Architecture

by Mitch McEwen

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    What we allow ourselves to know

    Mitch McEwen
    Dec 27, '17 2:34 PM EST

    This is more of a musing that a full post.

    I've been thinking more aggressively these past months about what we allow ourselves to know in the discipline.  Because a discipline doesn't just deliver unending knowledge or create knowledge out of nothing.  It defines what is relevant, it collects and groups skills, delivers terms to make some things known at a refined and transferable level that not every thing can live up to.

    How much of the practices that we consider to be economical or common sense or simply ‘practice’ are ways of covering up-- even destroying-- what we don’t know?  For instance, how much is demolished because it is too difficult or too expensive to survey, draw, record, measure?  And how much of that difficulty, even impossibility, is a function of how we are defining our discipline, not what we-- as thinking, knowing people in the world-- even consider to be difficult or possible?


    • "how much is demolished because it is too difficult or too expensive to survey, draw, record, measure?"

      This is an interesting question because it brings up work and value as active agents in articulating the discipline (how much work will it take to place this in the canon, and what value will it have). and isn't this always a question someone pursuing a PhD has to implicitly struggle with? 

      Dec 29, 17 11:44 am  · 

      HOME DEMOLITIONS Come on guys, is that the best you can do? 

      If you don't know the answer to a construction question do some research before you dribble on the keyboard. Some of these answers were so psychedelic and peculiar they were giving me flashbacks to 1969 conversations I had with Tommy Beardo after he rolled up big Fat-ones! 

       He had philosophical conversations like this with himself all the time. 

       I'm sorry Marc, you couldn't get a straight answer here. I guess this is the next generation Archinects. 

       First, it's a great question and I'll try to be comprehensive and brief. I think your concern is that we may be wasting money and or resources when we remove these semi-old buildings. You may be thinking we could be losing some architectural value in this process too. 

       I don't know where this photo was taken but it looks similar to Michigan, maybe the Detroit area. Most of the units being demolished there and many other places are actually abandoned homes that the city or county owns because the taxes were not paid. They are so shitty nobody buys them at the tax sales because the cost to repair up to code is more than the value of the investment. Municipalities can not afford to repair them either, nor do they have the wherewithal to complete such tasks short of hiring contractors. Cities want to remove whole neighborhoods and re-purpose the land. The term crack-houses come to mind and there was a government program called Operation Crackdown to remove abandoned houses that were being used to make and sell drugs. 100's of units were removed in Detroit for that reason back in the early 90's. They even had the National Guard doing some of the work. It's disheartening to see a nice looking brick home being demolished like in the picture above but they are hazardous to enter for all the black mold and rot growing in the walls and under the homes. Thousands of these units are being removed all over the US and have been since the housing recession. Many of them are 50 to 80 years old so they are way out of code and unsafe. Some even have the old-fashion knob and tube (burn my house down) wiring in them ;-). Just fixing the wiring system in one of these units could cost $10k. Fixing them is like putting a brand new dress on an old whore. At the end of the day, all you've done is disguised an old whore. Architecturally we aren't losing much, but personally, I'd like to see a little more recycling of the building components instead of sending it all to the landfill. Some reclaimed bricks from old factories, commercial buildings and houses are actually very desirable and cost more than some brand new brick. But they have to be a certain type of brick (without holes) in order to reclaim them. They are beautiful, and I love the look of reclaimed brick when used on a fireplace and hearth. Today there are places like Illinois where people are just leaving the state because there aren't enough jobs, they are upside down on their mortgages and the land taxes are going thru the roof, pardon the pun. Thousands of people are just packing up and leaving the state, whole neighborhoods are being vacated. The recession is technically over yet some areas have seen no recovery in their economy at all. So this trend will continue for many more years. Maybe you can come up with an idea on how to recycle them? OK, sorry this got a little windy and I could have squeezed this into one sentence but I hope this gives you a glimpse into why we are removing these beautiful pieces of Architecture. :-) Randy Keith Robinson

      Jan 13, 18 3:22 am  · 

      I think the answer is outside our discipline, as the world is evolving into an infinite loop of value-less transactions. It is not that is too expensive, It doesn't fit the gluttony for overgrowth.  

      Dec 29, 17 1:57 pm  · 

      JLC, That's a bit of limited argument, no? There is a specific reference to the discipline and not the practice. So while there may be some debate about if there is a difference between discipline and practice (I would say there are), I can't see how you would defer to other to determine discipline to say the least. Discipline would refer to the natures and histories that we prefer to reference. Capital does play a role in this, but not in such blunt manner you are suggesting.

      Dec 29, 17 10:58 pm  · 

      yes, it's a limited argument, didn't realize this was a self-flagellating inquire towards a phd thesis, carry on.

      Jan 9, 18 1:10 pm  · 

      how much of what we build is unlovable by others, and therefore worth spending resources to demolish?

      "Give me the freedom to destroy.  Give me a radioactive toy."

      Dec 30, 17 10:55 pm  · 

      ^ You're suggesting that the musing is about more about why are we not abandoning one style versus one that is more traditional. I'm not sure if that's the point.

      I think a more accurate application would be to ask at what expense do we maintain histories that are described as being traditional to dismiss and/or marginalize others. 

      Or -how much of what we have built is loved by others, but deemed not worthy and demolished?

      Dec 31, 17 1:56 am  · 

      "You're suggesting that the musing is about more about why are we not abandoning one shtyle versus one that is more traditional. I'm not sure if that's the point."

      That's not what I am suggesting. "Style" and "traditional" aren't really the point.

      I think that Mitch is certainly right about this:  I agree that the difficulty is in large part about how we "define the discipline".  It's about how we frame our world view and our relationship to society.  

      I am saying that if we can't build things that are lovable by people, and therefore care about, they will be demolished.

      Dec 31, 17 12:07 pm  · 

      "I think a more accurate application would be to ask at what expense do we maintain histories that are described as being traditional to dismiss and/or marginalize others."

      This is an interesting comment, Marc.  I want to try to understand what you are getting at.  Can you give me an example of someone maintaining an architectural history, with the intent to dismiss or marginalize others?

      Dec 31, 17 12:15 pm  · 


      ARCHITECTURE canon is based on one period of time in history as a point in origin. While there is some validity to that, the canon is not allowed to evolve or to be interrogated by other perspectives. These include other forms of architecture that might be seen as being "high architecture or urbanism" locally, but are dismissed as being vernacular because they were not seen as being relevant to western pedagogy. 

      This is when we get into the game of generalizations and "prove it" which I'm not going to play save to recall the journal of vernacular building which in it's first issues discussed this.  

      Instead I'll offer up a more contemporary issue relative to the embrace of computational pedagogy versus humanism. This abandonment of one method of thinking versus another does reflect attitudes that are larger than architecture, but they are not aligned with capital and construction so much as they are aligned with capital and thinking. Meaning- the sciences and other evidence based methods (not a product)-  have become increasingly dominant in teaching and recruiting.  

      This has resulted in a decreased value in the humanities as they are related to the knowledge base of architecture. History course are being replaced by theory course, because the latter current allows for more flexibility in teaching contemporary practice like computation, mapping, etc. 

      All this construction of knowledge occurs before construction of the building. Hence episteme (v. techne).

      Jan 1, 18 4:59 pm  · 

      " much is demolished because it is too difficult or too expensive to survey, draw, record, measure?"

      This begs the question: is what is demolished demolished for this reason? I don't know if I'd agree.

      Unless you're referring to knowledge being that which is demolished (for lack of a 'demand' for the documentation of that knowledge).

      Jan 3, 18 5:35 pm  · 

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