1999.03.30 12:50
I spent the better part of this last weekend reading extensively from three books: Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture (1996), The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice (1996), and Architecture of the Everyday (1997). Each book is an anthology, and, in the process, I read (so far) the texts of almost 20 architects/authors: Venturi, Scott Brown, Eisenman, Tschumi, Koolhaas, Rossi, Tafuri, Rowe, as well as Ingraham, Fausch, Ruddick, McLeod, Bennett and others. For the most part, I'd say that none of what I read was philosophy, but a lot of it was theory. Moreover, I feel secure believing the notion that architects (at least those that write) are very capable of relating theory through text (and here I want to distinguish that relating theory through the practice of designing and building is a whole other situation beyond what I am writing about here).
The primary reason for my doing all this reading is to come out of it with a greater understanding. So far, I fortunately understand most of what I've read, but, of course, that does not mean that I agree with all the theories. In fact, my agreeing or disagreeing with a theory is secondary to my thorough understanding of a theory. Overall, I want to be careful not to (pre)judge a given theory until I understand the theory--a practice, I fear, many architects do not engage in. For example, G. adds Holl, Tschumi, Hejduk, and Koolhaas as architects whose works intertwine heavily with philosophy. For me, this is not an accurate assessment because: Holl (in text and building) is not particularly theoretical or philosophical -- a good look at Le Corbusier's Ronchamp clarifies much of Holl's work; Tschumi is (ironically) a decent theorist especially when he writes about pleasure and its decadence relative to architecture; Hejduk is above all a poetic and artistic architect; and Koolhaas in his writings (which are very readable and easily comprehended) is insightfully observant in his scope of the current (global) situation of the built environment, and his buildings/designs well reflect "modernism" at one of its furthest points of evolution thus far.
If I were to offer any advise to architects regarding theory (and/or philosophy) it is that open-mindedness and understanding presents an extremely broad path of exploration and discovery, whereas close-mindedness is often a sign of small-mindedness. That said, I found the essays/theories within Architecture of the Everyday the most refreshing (and insightful and meaningful) of my recent readings. The essays within The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice were also poignant, however, I must admit I am not yet in total understanding of all that is related therein. Finally, I found much within Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture faded with age--many of the architectural theories from the latter part of the 20th century appear to be of their time, but not much beyond it.




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