The Crisis of Aesthetic

Behind the Scenes: The Making of my Master's Thesis

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    The aesthetic of the Machine

    Joseph Raffin
    Oct 25, '13 4:20 PM EST

    I would like to prematurely call my thesis, “the crisis of aesthetic”.  This is because throughout my research I try to deal with the new paradigm and the future of architectural language as the basis of my interests.  The term “crisis” is in reference to a few situations.  The first being my own crisis, embodying a personal pursuit to answer various fundamental questions held from about the second year of my education at the university.  One could see this as a soul searching procedure.  The second crisis is the precarious situation of the contemporary aesthetic which I hope to illustrate here soon.  The two crises tend to fold in and out of each other.

    I’ll begin with the personal endeavor by asking two questions I have formulated over the past few years. The first being, “Why does Rem Koolhass, in the Areen Lecture series of 2010, idealize the Parthenon?”  The second being, “Why does Peter Eisenman, in an Architecture Association critique, stand behind Classicism as a necessary foundation for a good architectural education?”  The question becomes increasingly pressing when one considers the second crisis.  That is, the current progressive aesthetic, that seems more interested in challenging the brink of technology and building envelope or an almost fetish-like nostalgia towards kitschy eclectic classicism. One could argue that both architects (Eisenman and Koolhass) as well as the majority of the “important” contemporary architects of our day, partake in the former conversation despite their classical idealisms.

    One could begin to answer this question in many ways, as for me, I would like to look at the problem with a very general assumption.  That is, “The current aesthetic is a reflection of the current culture”.  And if we look at culture as being this cross road between (1) a need to survive “better” and (2) a need to retain a sense of ourselves and our histories; then, architecture can also be seen as (1) a need to shelter ourselves and (2) the need to retain these histories of sheltering.  This is a balance severely upset by the turn of the century where an explosion of technology has made it easier and easier to survive at a compounding rate.  The dualism has become a relationship in which the architectural language swings either to one spectrum or the other.  Buildings either exhibit qualities of stainless technological progression, or shrink to severely nostalgic eclectic expressions. 

    My thesis exploration seeks to consider a new cosmology sensitive to our species need for culture.  The cosmology lies between the lines of “our need to survive” and “retaining our histories”, not-so-much as a compromise between the two.  But rather, like a new cosmological radioactive wavelength that brings closure to the flux.


    • Do it!  Sounds cool. 

      How often do you intend to post?

      Oct 30, 13 1:25 am  · 

      If you don't understand classical architecture - what it is, how it's composed, why it's emotionally resonant - you will never understand architecture at all, "progressive" or otherwise. I heap criticism on Rem for the poor quality of his built work and the narcissistic exhibitionism of his designs, but he's absolutely right about that.

      Oct 30, 13 12:57 pm  · 

      Thanks for the feedback!  

      Christopher, I intend to post again either later today or tomorrow.  After that my goal is to make it a weekly thing.  

      Nov 7, 13 5:37 pm  · 
      chatter of clouds


      I think the thesis brief  above is a little too fond of the word "crisis" (and that it might lead you to your own thetic crisis in turn :o) 

      I would suggest that removing this chronic need to point out to everything as a crisis will get you to focus on the rationale behind the connections that you're forging (i don't know whether rightfully or not) and qualify the need for such connections (or in fact disqualify). 

      in any case, will be interesting to watch if there's going to be anything to watch. 

      best of luck

      Nov 7, 13 10:27 pm  · 

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About this Blog

I am a few months into the beginning of my thesis year at the University of Detroit Mercy. The thesis is an investigation in how dominant culture and technology shape the new paradigm. The blog is a good way of documenting and organizing my thoughts throughout the process as well as sharing my ideas with the Archinect community. It would also be a cool look into the mind of a student working though a thesis. I intend to post images I've been working on and thoughts about them.

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