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    Isn't it enough to just be a good architect?

    David Zeibin
    Apr 15, '06 5:10 AM EST

    I'm currently slogging through a theory paper that was due yesterday. It's slow-going, but I find the topic interesting. Basically, this is my thesis statement:

    Power and preferred urban form: Coercive infrastructure and the politics of participation
    Is urbanism possible without power? Contemporary theories of urbanism embrace multiplicitous models that empower urban agents (i.e. citizens) in ways that encourage them to engage their environments. Their collective actions make urbanity exist. However, the (infrastructural) elements that make urbanity possible are instruments deeply symbolic of power, be it political, economic or social power - or a combination thereof. The following seeks to understand the role of power in the structuring of urban form and to understand how theories of urbanism tend to encounter and accommodate power.

    Anyhow, as I'm doing that, I'm reading a clip from Tschumi's Architecture and Disjunction's "Spaces and Events" when it struck me: Goodness gracious! What's the point of all this intellectual jibberjabbing? Isn't just being a good architect enough for any of you pompous jerks?

    In other words, can't I just call it an evening and watch the episode of House I downloaded earlier this week?


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      It´s taken me a while, but after being submitted to years of "this is important" "this is not important" lectures and arguments on architecture, I finally realise, too, that there is nothing wrong at all with just wanting to be compentent (which Tschumi is blatantly not)

      However, while I have at last come to this comforting conclusion, I do recognise that we should seek out what really interests ourselves in architecture, rather than worrying about what everyone else is doing (and this includes other students/architects) I think that the sort of stuff we get exposed to at university is 0.0001% of the stuff out there, and while it might sound cynical, I reckon I have an even lesser chance of being involved with any of it (while also retaining my sanity and some money for food)

      So I will try - if I can- to make good architecture, with some elements of what I hold valuable - and then go have some beers with non-archi friends, go home and watch the newest 24 episode.

      Ahhhhh that's better

      Apr 15, 06 6:08 am  · 
      Arnaud M.

      Urban planning definitely requires a coercive power to be implemented. As a libertarian I think that private property is part of the solution. If we allow landowner to do whatever they on their own land without things such as eminent domain or any other infringement on property, the land would end up being what the actual (who is also a user) owner want.

      The bigger it is, the more you can be sure that any form of power (mostly governments) infringed at some point on an individual property and fundamental freedom.


      Apr 15, 06 7:15 am  · 

      read anything by peter hall for very informed and intelligent discussion on urban planning and its value. "Cities of Tomorrow" is particularly good.

      for an intro to the role of the fatcats in our society, "seeing like a State" by james scott is a good rant. he offers no solutions but if you wanna hate top down thinking but still understand why it is necessary scott is your man...

      tschumi is fun to read, but not to read seriously...;-)

      as an aside , here in japan property rights are strongly protected and eminent domain is pretty much non-existent. a very bottom-up, laissez-faire, system. as a direct result of this sytem, however, most cities here are ugly as hell (though in an interesting way to my eyes) and basic services like sewage only reach about a 3rd of ALL households. SO, there is a downside to anarchic systems...

      Apr 15, 06 9:05 am  · 

      I think Tschumi is one of the most important contemporary architects/academics out there right now.

      Apr 15, 06 12:32 pm  · 
      David Zeibin

      Before this degenerates into why Tschumi is good/bad, let me say that in the context of discussion, Stan Allen might be a better one to consider (if we want to talk about post-structuralism), vis-à-vis his interest in infrastructural urbanism. Tschumi was only referenced per his interest in so-called event space, as prompted by Rowe & Koetter's Collage City, which speaks of the architect/bricoleur who uses events to create structure, unlike the scientist who uses structure to create events.

      Come, let's get back to the topic of my essay. I have a lot of work to do today, and I can't be distracted by Tschumi right now.

      Apr 15, 06 1:05 pm  · 

      tschumi is def an interesting architect. not so sure about his work as an preference lately is for the ladies. christine boyer and nan ellin are old favorites...both have very intersting things to say about the city and the role architects have in it, if you are looking for more stuff to read...ellin's book "postmodern urbanism" is still one of the best intros to contemporary archi-urbanism that i know of...

      Apr 16, 06 8:53 am  · 

      an ugly city, that's an interesting idea...

      Apr 16, 06 9:44 pm  · 

      i know exactly what you mean about just doing what you want to do and not get too involved with the academic/intellectual side of things.

      For me, the dilemma comes about balancing my economic needs and also whatever artisitic or architectural principle that i believe in. How does one make architecture and yet not sell your soul to the economic devil?

      Is this dilemma nothing but a cloud pulled over my eyes by the academics who make you believe that architecture is a divine art? Or is it a balance between principles and needs?

      Apr 25, 06 9:04 pm  · 

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