Why is architectural theory so hard to read?

i r giv up

hi tammuz

gtfo tammuz.




4chan teaches better writing skills than architecture school.

Jun 12, 12 3:44 pm

I think I finally get it.  Everything related to architecture theory after modernism,Bauhaus, or possibly the École des Beaux-Arts was only about form.  They quickly realized they were useless, so they had to create a new language, so only those in on the joke would understand it.  That's when theoreticians separated from practicing architects, since some us still had to get stuff built. 

No, I don't think that's it.  I sure thought I was close though.

Jun 12, 12 5:34 pm

Modernism is easy to understand now. Nevertheless it did appear from complex interactions.

The problem is when theory overdoses on references to literature and poetry. It gives architectural discourse a bad name and its understandable why this insults people trying to get shit done.

Jun 12, 12 5:54 pm

Theory is crucially important to the practice of architecture. It's so important that it should always be clear, concise, and intelligible.

Jun 12, 12 7:02 pm
boy in a well

yeah, Viollet-le-Duc couldn't put two stones together.

fuckin theoreticians!

Jun 12, 12 7:19 pm

wasnt a citation game.

i thought it was logical and interesting

and succinct.

you can treat it like bingo if you want.


hey - I thought it was funny and relevant  too - but mildly obscure literary references make you sound like an idle bourgeois academic.  If I wanted to discuss Borges, I'd go to whatever forum the Swarthmore grads hang out at.

Jun 12, 12 10:31 pm

wait, was that onion article an attack on phenomenology?

Jun 12, 12 10:49 pm

Honestly, I think it all comes down to what audience each writer is aiming for. The Deleuzes and Guattaris of the world are going to write a very different text than the Peter Zumthors or Sym van der Ryns of the world, since they're targeting totally different audiences -- other academics/theoreticians for D&G (hence all the specific terms, references, citations, etc), and practicing architects or laypeople for Zumthor and Sym (hence the comprehensibility).

I used to be totally in the "architecture theory is full of obfuscatory bullshit" camp, until I had to write a thesis. My (absolutely excellent) thesis advisor, who also happened to be the chief editor of the University of Minnesota Press, made sure to beat the "KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE" point into our heads at every point along the way. It totally changes the way you present your work, especially the way you word things, and how much detail/references you include.

In the process of writing an academic paper for other academics, while presenting my work to practicing architects and students each week (who had little background knowledge), and giving a final presentation to members of the community (who had essentially no background knowledge and little interest), I started to realize just how important playing to your audience is, and how huge of an impact it has on how the final wording and text are structured. Now it makes perfect sense why so much theory seems incomprehensible to beginners: it's simply not written for them.

Jun 13, 12 11:45 pm

Also, I should add: give it time, and it will make sense. Once you elbow your way into the network of academic in-references by reading a few oft-referenced texts, the next text you read gets way easier to understand.

In terms of just beginning, the skim-once-then-deep-read-a-second-time technique is FANTASTIC. I cannot stress that enough. Never try to fully understand something the first time. It'll save you a headache.

Jun 13, 12 11:47 pm
boy in a well

You can't work hard and be well-read?

You have to be bougie to have read borges?

I happen to love that fact that if i want to talk about borges i can talk to my architect friends, amongst all the other nuts and bolts we talk about.

Jun 14, 12 2:43 am
i r giv up

you mean if you want to have a go at misinterpreting borges?

Jun 14, 12 9:34 am

I happen to love that fact that if i want to talk about borges i can talk to my architect friends, amongst all the other nuts and bolts we talk about.


right - because you're bougie and they're bougie.  ;-)   I am guessing you are of a very different generation.  my peers want to talk about whatever jersey shore d-bag was arrested recently.

Jun 14, 12 10:55 am
boy in a well

I think its a use of Borges for this thread without any interpretation or misinterpretation.

I think its a pretty damn good use in fact. Spot on actually.

But why don't don't you school me some?

Tell me to go read some books maybe?

Tell me how I missed.


Jun 14, 12 5:16 pm
25 characters in length

I agree, it was "a pretty damn good use in fact!"

But, because I've found myself singing the song all week, I have to say something. It is indeed my favorite of all the James Bond themes on the CD I bought 22 years ago, and my car CD (again) two weeks ago. I even told my neighbor about the CD and the song in particular this past Friday night as we played pinochle in her back yard. And then at eleven o'clock on Sunday night, there is was for all the world to hear. I almost couldn't believe my ears when I heard those opening chords.

Jun 14, 12 5:48 pm
boy in a well

is "pinochle in her back yard" an esoteric euphemism? A misinterpretation? A bingo game of references?

I need a primer . . .

Jun 17, 12 5:07 pm

@Y:BR, The Onion piece is, like everything in The Onion, first and foremost a satire of American news media. They've done a number of Advice columns, each with a different protagonist. The joke works on juxtaposition and recontextualisation, but doesn't attack the positions of the 'columnist' so much as the absurd and formulaic quality of what is somehow considered a part of journalism.

Jun 23, 12 12:14 pm

thx for the clarification, i never take their content serious, so when it was written with some accuracy, it just made me stop and think for a minute.

Jun 24, 12 10:17 pm

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