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.
Response to Donna, re: Traditional Architecture
Coincidently read these two paragraphs a few hours ago while sitting next to a person in (temporary) isolation hooked up to an oxygen machine:
Having no faith in the efficacy of any single, universal, world transforming principle, Whitehead's obsevation that there is no reason to suppose order more fundamental than chaos would seem to appoximate his [ie, a famous architect] view; and this feeling for the empirical multiplicity of any given situation rather for any cosmic vision of a millennium also carries over into what seems to be anxiety to emancipate architecture from the grip of historicism--meaning not from the styles but from the very Germanic supposition that history, irrespective of persons, is an irresistible force, that obedience to it a moral imperative, that to deny the Zeitgeist is to invite catastrophe, and that the architect's most elevated role is to act as no more than the agent of necessity, as midwife for the delivery of historically significant form.
Given the arguments of reasoned disbelief, the procedure via collage and innuendo is, in principle, not to be faulted, but, if it is a procedure which can produce the most enviable results and also a genuinely Twentieth-Century discovery, the idea of the ironical juxtaposition of things taken out of context has, in general, been profoundly antipathetic to the conscience of the so-called Modern Movement; and, even though Le Corbusier was himself a great master of the architectural collage, the general bias of the contemporary architect's "morality" has contrived to inhibit the use of any technique so obvious and so rewarding.
Call for Denise Scott Brown to be given Pritzker recognition
Scott Brown collaborates with the then brand new firm Venturi and Rauch on the Monumental Fountain on the Benj. Franklin Parkway Competition in 1964.
Scott Brown invited Venturi to a four day trip to Las Vegas in 1966.
Museum of Modern Art published Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture in 1966, but actual distribution did not occur until March 1967. [In a conversation I had with Mark Wigley late November 1999, Mark was convinced that Scott Brown was very much responsible for the sudden change of tone in the last chapter of Complexity and Contradiction, saying there was even evidence of this within the Complexity and Contradiction manuscripts in the MoMA archives.]
Venturi and Scott Brown marry 23 July 1967.
Venturi and Scott Brown teach at Yale 1967-70, including the architectural design and research studio Las Vegas 1968.
Venturi and Scott Brown jointly write "A Significance for A & P Parking Lots, or Learning from Las Vegas" published in Architectural Forum, March 1968.
Scott Brown becomes a partner of Venturi and Rauch in 1969.
So where is John Rauch in all this? Perhaps the Pritzker feels if Scott Brown gets the award, then Rauch should get the reward as well. But then a third of the prize money would have to be given over to Rauch. Just wondering.
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