Posts Tagged ‘no ideas but in things’

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Monday, August 30th, 2010


I just wanted to quickly share one of the comments on my design imperialism post that was sent to me by a friend. Of the many I’ve received, it’s one of the more intelligent. Here’s what (s)he has to say:

“Not considering the moral aspects of the conversation it seems that architects are often at their best (most interesting, most socially useful, most poignant) when they are questioning and speculating, and that is in a sense at odds with the concept of designing solutions. I’m not sure how you interpret ‘no ideas but in things’, does it hint at a possible bias on this topic?

“The notion of architecture as an expression of power is interesting, it aligns architects immediately with politicians. This is inevitable in a sense given that architecture, like politics, resides outside of, or parallel to, the biggest force in our American lives, the economy. Because architecture isn’t bought and sold in a market of producers and consumers it cycles separately, it has it’s own peaks and valley. There is unfortunately no Keynesian theory that can explain the great PoMo bubble of the early 80′s. (Somewhat unrelatedly, Mumford’s history tracing the development of the city at the birth of the modern market economy is amazing in its illumination of the sometimes subtle sometimes overt relationship between urban centers and mercantile interests.) But I also think it’s misleading to describe architecture as a kind of politics. The differences between politics and architecture are ultimately too great to hold the two together for very long. Politics is power, explicitly. Every governmental system is an application of an idea about the holding, distribution and application of power. Architecture merely expresses power, sometimes. It’s more interesting to think about the fact that architecture has an expressive ability at all, and it has it in spades. The design colonists effect to abdicate expression for blunt problem solving (no ideas, just things), while their detractors accuse them of being destructively expressive, of in effect repressing other forms of expression (ideas over things).
“I saw Radiant Child, the new Basquiat biopic, this weekend and one of the talking heads frames what’s good about his work in a way that I like. I’m paraphrasing poorly, but he says something like Basquiat’s best work essentially says to the viewer, ‘open your eyes, the world is a complex place full of beautiful, terrible and contradictory ideas; start noticing them; here are a few hints.’ This might also be Koolhaas’s gift.”