VIDLER, Anthony

Troubles in Theory: The State of the Art From Townscape to Datascape

Series: Lunchtime lecture
Date: Monday 20 February 2012
Time: 13:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 88 mins

A lecture on the state of architectural history, criticism and theory, and how we arrived at the present impasse.


From the intense exploration of postwar theory (Cullen, Rowe, Banham, Smithsons), to the post-structuralist ‘revolution’ (Tafuri, Derrida), to the postmodern reaction (Portoghesi, Jencks), to the present digital divide.

Anthony Vidler is Dean and Professor of the Irwin S Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union, New York. His most recent books are James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (Yale University Press, 2010) and The Scenes of the Street and other Essays (Monacelli Press, 2011). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and received the architecture award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011.


Lecture Transcription:


Brett Steele introduces Anthony Vidler.


ANTHONY VIDLER: The first time I thought of troubles in theory was with Sandy Wilson (Sir Colin St John Wilson) in Cambridge in 1965 when he claimed that the “theory of theories to kill all theories was Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Intentions in Architecture.” After reading it I realized that this was a rather weak attempt at either theory or a theory to kill all theories and that there must be an attempt to dispel a lot of anxiety and worries underneath the real theories emerging at the time. The second time I thought of troubles in theory was some days ago when I received a 400-pages white volume which claimed to be a comprehensive unified theory for architecture. After reading it I realized that theory was in real trouble, precisely because someone had realized that to deal with the problems existing, a unified theory (which in the end was nothing of the sort) had to be written. I present, therefore, two quotations: “we lack of a satisfying theory of architecture” Christian Norberg-Schulz, 1965, and “a comprehensive, unified theory of architecture is important.” No-one has attempted to unify theories of Le Corbusier and Pevsner, since perhaps The International Style, or perhaps since the work of Christian Norberg-Schulz and then, Patrik Schumacher, Parametricism. Today I will give the shortest version of the history of architecture theory that I can give in an hour, following a book I have been writing for the last ten years, with the aim to deal with the notion of theory that has emerged since the Second World War. I have the feeling that all the troubles in architecture theory, and in architecture itself, have been driven by wars. Wars have produced the economy of the global market, which have produced the economy which drives architecture, which has produced the need for theory that accommodates, or sometimes resists that global market. Many histories of architecture since 1945 completely ignore the war: certainly the Second World War and all the other wars. They only talk about the war in terms of post-war reconstruction. It is my thesis, and the one of my friends and colleagues Jean-Louis Cohen and Beatriz Colomina, that the war had much more powerful an effect on the theory of architecture. Hence, the notion of anxiety that I place in the front and foremost of my architecture theory, which is itself a mode of dealing with anxiety on one form or another. I will focus today on those theories of architecture which have been based on a series of visual understandings about architecture that were formulated between 1940 and 1945, and which have continued to operate within the architectural paradigm.


Architectural theory has taken many forms since Vitruvius, who attempted to put in ten scrolls all the principles of the discipline, with the conviction that an architect should know writing, both to “secure more lasting remembrance to his figure” in other words, to be remembered, and to balance with knowledge, his manual skills. It is an interesting and heterogeneous book, as Alberti noted, it is written by an engineer without much literas, in bad, engineer’s latin. But he put together what he could find of Greek and Roman precepts, with an enormous amount of knowledge that he gained on the war part, with Caesar. In the seed as described by Vitruvius, gives architecture a place in the war economy of ancient Rome. Towards the Renaissance we find Alberti, writing for the war lords of central Italy, a text which will instruct them on the importance of architecture in the development of their defences, but also of their fame, their economies and their pride. Both in Filarete with the Sforza family, and Alberti with the Medici family we have the same relationship between architecture and war, and architecture theory developed as a fundamental amateur of a new, mercantile economy. So from Vitruvius to Alberti, Palladio, Cesariano, architecture theory is constructed as a way of understanding the architect’s place in the world through the act of drawing. Drawing becomes important from the very start. In the seventeenth century Vitruvius is translated and given new life, through the academies of France and incorporated to the teaching manuals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Theory moves from the comprehensive treatise to the teaching manual, to the style manual, from Blondel’s teaching manual on the course of architecture, to the Repertoire of historical building types of Durand, to the style manuals of Classical and Gothic architecture in Viollet-Le-Duc. Then, in the early twentieth century the manifesto. Theories are no longer comprehensive, but developed in such a way that could be placed on the front page of a newspaper: the new architecture, the new spirit, the new mechanistic civilization. The futuristic manifesto, it is an act of war, that celebrates war, and the power of masculinity embodied in the new technologies of warfare and it is based on the notion that war will erase, war will bring the tabula rasa that architecture needs to construct in order to be triumphant. In this context comes this very strange book, somewhere between a manifesto and a treatise of architecture form and formalism: Vers une Architecture. The former book was somewhat embodied in the extremely pervasive and influential book The International Style written Henry Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson for the Museum of Modern Art exhibition under that title of 1932, where modernism is codified as a style, ready to be incorporated, until the war intervened, into the smooth, corporate, development of American industry and society. The generation that graduated from architecture schools in the decade that followed World War II, was a generation in search of new principles for architecture itself. In the shadow of the modern masters, as shown in the front page of the 1965 edition of Architectural Design with a photograph of Le Corbusier and Mies talking to each other, edited by Peter Smithson, where he goes decade by decade through the modern movement, somehow wanting to exorcise for his generation the shadow and the heavy weight of dealing with this modern masters. Others of younger generation, like James Stirling will find in Ronchamp and in the vernacular style adopted by Le Corbusier after the war, a strange rupture with the supposed rationalism of modernism and will attempt to find other languages. The question is how do you deal with this monsters; this elephants in the room: Corbusier, Mies, Aalto and before that Frank Lloyd Wright. This generation was critical of the social and urban effects of the international-style modernism, yet they were reluctant to abandon a commitment to modern architecture. They looked in different ways, either for continuity or to avoid the crisis they realized it had been produced by the war. A political crisis, in Italy, that Ernesto Rogers tackles rebooting Casabella, calling it Continuitá, but ‘continue’ in a slightly different way because the crisis of fascism has to be dealt with. The crisis and continuity debate occurs all the way through the 50s and 60s, as reveals the opening of any of Tafuri’s essays from the 60s on, with the question ‘are we dealing with crisis or continuity in relation to the architecture discussed. In Britain the crisis was less political, with labour winning the first post-war election. If continuity was to be sought, it was with a need for a tougher response to the tough modernism of Sweden; or to the polished, corporate styles of the US. Thus, for example, the adoption of the word brutalism in relationship to the first efforts of the Smithsons. In this search, architects were supported by the Architectural Review’s editorial board. Despite the individual sensibilities, the journal hosted the debates such as the one posed by Colin Rowe’s Palladianizing Le Corbusier; or Eric de Maré’s attempt to be vitalized by canon; together with Banham’s new Brutalism, among others. At the same time, the journal offered a very consistent teditorial position, against what Pevsner called the new historicism. Celebrating the opening of the second half of the century, the January 1947 issue, edited by J.M. Richards, Nikolaus Pevsner, Osbert Lancaster, and Hubert de Cronin Hastings opened with a bold statement of policy, which argued for widening the scope of the review, side by side to provide with the obligation of educating the public on the art of architecture, mainly through the BBC radio 3 program. Visual culture is the foundation of this new understanding of architectural theory in the post-war. The pursuit of the visual life was presented in Landscape and Townscape, one of the earliest uses of the notion of townscape. The first half of the century—they wrote, although it is possible to identify Pevsner as the prime author—has seen the drama of the modern movement. Thus was then summarized in an imaginary two acts, or pictorial resume: act one, where Ruskin, Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement prepare the ground; followed by act two, which traces the natural development of new visual symbols, and the acceptance of new building techniques. Pevsner argued that now a third act was needed in order to bring new visual principles to technological expression. This act will bring back the most English tradition: the picturesque. My understanding of England at this time is indebted to the book ‘The Picturesque’ by Jack McArthur, student of the AA, and of Mark Cousins, who is now teaching in Australia. His book is the best contemporary treatment of the picturesque. The act of restating the picturesque is an attempt of Pevsner to rescue the richness discarded by the modern revolution and to work for re-humanization, to the pursuit of differences rather than sameness, the re-emergence of monumentality and idiosyncrasy. The visual, said Pevsner, allows for a continuity of tradition, in which historic precedent can be used constructively and not as an escape. All the architects of that generation assimilated this principle, from the more abstract reference of the Smithsons, to the more liberal one of architects like Sterling. In this principle were bounded all the complex strands that were to preoccupy the Architectural Review over the next thirty years: the dedication to visual experience, the identification of such an experience with the themes of the picturesque tradition and the demand to make this themes both more permanent and graphically visible to the public at large. Also the seeds of what Pevsner himself would observe some forty years later as the return to historicism; the postmodernism that Charles Jencks celebrated so strongly, in what he called ‘postmodern movement architecture.’ This principles had already been developed three years before by Hastings’s writings in February 1944, under the title ‘Exterior Furnishing or Sharawaggi: The Art of Making Urban Landscape.’ In the book, Hastings looked back to the time of Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin, willing to allow the decent life in decent surroundings: the social mission of the editorial board. It portrayed the popular picture of the semi-Tudor (Andrew Ballantyne has just produced a beautiful and very witty book on the Tudor style, as it emerged and spread across the suburban landscape in American England in the 1930s, 40s and 50s). Hastings noted that England was no longer head of the international aspirations of architecture, as it had been with the arts and crafts movement. Hastings argued for a serious need for a picture—in the most literal sense—that would reconcile visually in the mind’s eye what appeared to be irreconcilable elements in any town plan: monuments, traffic, short buildings, tall buildings, individual properties, etc. Thus, he advanced a solution: the picturesque theory, as it evolved in England in the eighteenth century and was internationalized in the early nineteenth. There was a need, Hastings argued, to resurrect the true theory of the picturesque and apply it to the city. Photographs illustrated the idea of the street picturesque, its liveliness, and the ways in which it constitutes an urban landscape. As a model, he took the description of Christopher Hussey’s “Classic Study of the Picturesque.” The art of landscape picturesque, he claimed, was identical to what the chinese called Sharawaggi or irregular garden.


One party, Le Corbusier, had moved towards the rationalism; the other, leaded by Frank Lloyd Wright, towards the romantic or the organic. There is a third movement that might be called the English or radical, since it neither belongs to any of the above categories. An aesthetic theory had been presented with the claim that modernism was actually picturesque, and therefore very English in spirit. That such a theory was implicitly counter-modern, if not post-modern, was demonstrated by the theories of Alan Colquhoun in a letter responding to Pevsner’s claim that Le Corbusier was influenced by the picturesque. Colquhoun argued that Pevsner’s Le Corbusier was an entirely visual fabrication, owing nothing to the rational, internal, ideational content of his architecture. Colquhoun vision was closer to Colin Rowe’s image of Le Corbusier, in “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” (1947) and “Mannerism and Modern Architecture” (1949) in the Architectural Review: that a modernist had manipulated the geometries of Palladian plans and the intricate techniques of mannerist facades with the vocabulary purist abstraction. The moment of opposition between picturesque townscape and the Palladian revival, which influenced the work of Peter and Alison Smithson, was brief: the Smithsons said it was over by 1948.


Today, the oppositional nature of Rowe’s “Collage City” to “Townscape” seems less abrupt. In this context, it was entirely logical to find Robert Venturi’s first article, published under the rubric “Townscape” in May 1953’s issue of Architectural Review. Venturi’s thesis employed a case study: the Campidoglio (Rome). He argued that Michelangelo’s formalizing of the Campidoglio had been injured by the ignorance of the principle that “the architect has a responsibility towards the landscape which he can enhance or impair, for we see in perceptual wholes, and the introduction of any new building will change the character of all the other elements in the scene.” Venturi, and in a sequence of figure-ground plans and sections, demonstrated the point: Michelangelo had modified the piazza, so the original senatorial palace was given emphasis by the contrasting elements of the flanking buildings, colour, texture and the neutral rhythm of the column facade. The introduction of the huge monumental palace for Vittorio Emmanuelle: a shiny monster, had destroyed the setting.


We can see the transition from the visual theory of townscape to that of postmodern taking place so easily, and early. When in 1966 Venturi finally published the work he had done in 1954 in Rome, the shift was complete. Under the guise of returning to an original autonomy for architecture, Venturi catalogued the ways in which modern architecture could regain the richness seemingly lost through modernist abstraction, using all the techniques employed by history to revive the complexity and contrast of the urban scene and to restore visual complexity. This was perhaps a direct response to the purely visual theories of townscape, that a number of architectural theorists tried once more to regain the sense of a discipline. Beginning with John Summerson’s appeal for the ‘programme’ as a fundamental source of unity for modern architecture (he drew his inspiration from László Moholy-Nagy’s sense of a biologically-grounded formal aesthetic); followed by Reyner Banham’s ‘Stocktaking’ of February 1960, which called for a new technological basis derived from cybernetics and computer science; and Peter Eisenman’s first forays into formalism in 1963, publishing his call for a ‘formal basis of modern architecture’ in ‘Architectural Design’ (AD), the pressures for a rigorous and unified theory intensified.


By the 1960s, however, a second postwar generation was concerned to counter the positions again, constituted around the traditional divisions of function, technology and form as they were. It is very interesting that Summerson takes ‘Utilitas’, Banham takes ‘Firmitas’ and Eisenman takes ‘Venustas’. This was a new generation that had a sense of what Banham had called, hopefully, ‘une architecture autre’ it is not to be founded in any formalism, but in a reframing of the discourse through technology and social science. ‘Architectural Design’ (AD) took the lead on this, under the editorship of Monica Pidgeon and Theo Crosby, and later Kenneth Frampton, supporting the Smithsons and their allies in Team X, but also, such widely disparate positions as those of Cedric Price, of Archigram, as well as those of John Turner, with his reports from Lima spearheading investigations into the potential reconstruction of the barrios, or the world ecological consciousness of John McHale, who edited a special issue in 1967 on ‘2001’, reviewing the state of world resources and anticipating his seminal books ‘The Future of the Future’ and ‘The Ecological Context.’ You could read this book—‘The Ecological Context’ which was published in 1969—today, as if it were an immediate and present enlightenment of the questions that concern us  in terms of environmental sustainability, and environmental control, and environmental chaos.


As Beatriz Colomina and her colleagues have made clear in the book ‘Clip, Stamp, Fold,’ a book and exhibition devoted to the little magazines of the 1960s and ’70s, by the late ’60s ‘theory’ had been co-opted by a proliferation of these ‘little magazines’ representing an increasingly radicalised generation intent on countering the conformist axioms of the profession. Even AD was transformed into a hip broadsheet, with its signature section ‘Cosmorama’, started in 1969 when Peter Murray joined Robin Middleton as art editor and began the wild ride to be the architectural equivalent of the Whole Earth Catalog. Here the move to environmental, ecological and social issues was clear. ‘Casabella’, on the other hand, under the editorship of (Alessandro) Mendini, was supportive of the groups like the Banham xxx the technological aspirations, and the technological architecture xx exactly the same xx 1930 by Buckminster Fuller, and then by McHale, who xx work with Fuller. Mendini, however, was supportive of groups like Superstudio and Archizoom, who stood apart from architecture and critiqued it, with this extraordinary dystopian visions; Archigram published its own ‘journal’ (from 1961), as did Jean Aubert and Hubert Tonka of the Utopie Group (from 1967) in France. In total opposition, yet fascinated by the potentials of architecture to inflect society, Guy Debord and his friends published the Internationale Situationniste from 1958 on, with their definitions of the new urbanism.


This counter-architectural movements were balanced during the 1960s and 70s by a series of appeals to renew the language and spirit of architecture itself, after the perceived  barrenness of the hegemonic International Style, by Venturi, obviously, Paolo Portoghesi and so on. All these movements developed manifestoes, but around 1968—and not necessarily as a result of the revolutions of that year—things theoretical seemed to change. Architecture, rather than a subject discussed by architects and architectural theorists, however much against architecture they were, became a subject of interest from outside. That is a big shift in the late 1960s, as the architecture theory shifted from being developed from inside architecture to appeal outside and to develop its own understandings, to looking outside architecture for a theorization of its own discipline. Architecture, rather than a subject discussed by architects and architectural theorists became a subject of interest from outside: from philosophy, epistemology, linguistics, and most importantly, politics. With the Marxist critique of institutions, from (Louis) Althusser to (Henri) Lefebvre, architecture—already under attack from the right and the left for its apparent failure to address the social problems of the postwar period—became an object of inquiry as an ideology, similar to those identified in Marxist theory: law, religion, the state. Architecture, (was) now understood in Althusser’s terms as an ‘ideological state apparatus’, and thereby an instrument of state power. It was a moment fuelled not by the role of architecture in representing or constructing the State, or aestheticising Capital—the foundation of all ‘Theories’ of architecture—but equally by the politics of resistance that emerged in the opposition to the Algerian and Vietnam wars, to the neo-liberal capitalist governments of the postwar period, and to the consumer culture of the 1950s and ’60s that threatened to de-politicise the class and ethnic struggles of post-colonialism.


This argument was advanced on the far left by the institutional critiques of (Michel) Foucault, and reinforced by the textual critiques of Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida. In a move towards what today might be called media theory, Pierre Bourdieu, Jean Baudrillard and Paul Virilio analysed the relations of architecture to representation, traditional cultures, technology and social mobility. The most effective of those interventions within architecture itself was perhaps that of Foucault, whose investigation of disciplinary discourse was centred on the institutions that had developed significant architectural typologies since the 18th century—asylums, hospitals, prisons—and whose writings from 1965 to 1974 inspired both critics and architects to rethink the idea of typology on an architectural and an urban level.


These texts were taken up by architectural theorists, not as before, as supplements to the design process itself—anthropologists and sociologists acting as ‘humanising’ influences on the theories of Team X, for example—but rather as invitations to rewrite the theory of the discipline. Let us give some examples out of many, Foucault’s history and epistemology of the institutional discourse—asylums, hospitals, prisons—launched a wholesale critique in architecture over the nature of power and its sources, hidden and overt. Barthes’s essays on semiology introduced architects to the structural analysis of buildings and cityscapes as communication devices. Derrida’s deconstruction of philosophical and literary texts led theorists to question the commonplaces of their own practice. Deleuze’s study of (Gottfried) Leibniz and the Baroque precipitated interest in the typologies of folding [showing a diagram drew by Deleuze in his book on ‘The Fold’ which is about Leibniz’s understanding of the operations of senses in developing ideas in the brain: his diagram of Leibniz’s house is actually taken from his reading of Wolfflin’s ‘Renaissance and Baroque’, it is actually not the interior of the house but the facade of a baroque church], and of course, (Jacques) Lacan’s rereading of Sigmund Freud allowing for a new understanding of the relations between visual gaze and desire. In each case, the intent of the transmigration of theories from outside to inside was to unpack the verities of the profession and disclose the hidden ideological agendas behind apparently innocent practices, and I think, probably most effective or the strongest effect of those theoretical interventions was felt by Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi, among others. I want to emphasize this, because there has been a great deal of conversation in the United States about the notion of a post-theoretical, or post-critical generation that it is not interested in reading theory; and to me it is not surprising, given that the theories that were developed outside architecture, and specifically the theories of the Marxists on the left, and of Foucault, were in fact fundamentally against disciplines as a whole, as ideological constructions of power by the state, and therefore, against the notion of architecture as a discipline at all. And, actually, it produced no understanding for a whole generation of architects of how to do architecture, how to produce anything from architecture: there were not productive theories, there were, literally, deconstructive theories, and left a whole generation of students and architects with the sort of weak—I think—manner of trying to illustrate those theories, in certain ways, rather than incorporating a theory of production out of their theory of deconstruction. It was a reaction against this over fragmentation of the architectural body that a number of critics called, once more, for a comprehensive and overarching theory. Tafuri explained it, in 1968 (‘Theories and History of Architecture’):


‘It is symptomatic, in fact, that there is a demand from many quarters for the establishment of a rigorous theorization of architectural problems. This need is felt by a considerable number of English-speaking critics − particularly by [Peter] Collins − by historians like Christian Norberg-Schulz, by specialists of planning methods like Christopher Alexander and Asimov, by theorists involved in planning, like Aldo Rossi and Giorgio Grassi.’


So we have, in the mid-1960s, an attempt to rebuild architectural theory comprehensively: Christian Norberg-Schulz, tried to bind the body back together again, in a long-drawn-out assemblage of observations on almost every aspect of architectural thought: historical, semiological, programmatic, technological, and, above all, phenomenological. Experience was the key and ‘experience’ was the key; balance, the method. This coherence was to be achieved, Norberg-Schulz claimed later, by introducing the phenomenological theory of architecture, this time joined to the newly popular and restored to postwar legitimacy, the Heideggerian vision of wholism and in Norberg-Schulz’s ‘Existence, Space, and Architecture’ (1971), that tries to assimilate this holistic theory of Heidegger. As we know, Rossi and the neo rationalists where to take a more structuralist position, influenced by the structural anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, attempting to link the underlying structure of the traditional city to developing typologies of the contemporary. it was, in 1975, finally we have Rossi’s Analog city, that places together all the images and typologies of present cities. It was in 1975, finally, that the apparently opposed visions of Townscape and Rowe’s version of the modernist collage came together in the seminal article, again published by the Architectural Review, Collage City, anticipating the exercise of reformulating the figure ground plan of Rome, in the Roma Interrotta exhibition of 1978. It’s very interesting to contrast the article Collage City, which has most of the text of the book Collage City, with how the reception of that article then transformed the text of that book, Collage City: the article is a lot fresher than the book, which was, i think, very over-edited, some photographs from article, contrasting the expressionist to the classical ideals of the Renaissance. The Roma Interrotta exhibition, which in fact collaborated with Collage City, by producing a collage of 12 panels of the map, put together from 12 architects. By 1980, the pictorial re-envisioning of historical architecture, characterized by Paolo Portoghesi re-enactment of archtiecture without inhibitions, as he called it, in the Strada Novisima of Venice’s Biennale, that confirmed Pevsner’s suspicions that the new historicism was in the air, but in a flamboyant manner, far from Pevsner’s imagining. That, I guess, ended in that [slide: Philip Johnson holding a model of AT&T building, NYC]. This initiatives, however different in form, were based in the idea that architecture, more than anything else, was a visual art, experienced through vision and communicating its effects and meaning visually. If you actually look through Charles Jencks’ ‘Architecture 2000,’ and look at the various categories, 80% of the categories that are listed there are visual categories, not programmatic categories. All pretensive adherence to any newly formulated programs, such as those posed by Summerson, was abandoned. That’s the difference between townscape and collage, as I mentioned was that Townscape viewed the city from the ground, google street; while Collage viewed it from the air; google earth. The brief countermovement, so-called deconstructivist, in a strange but catchy neologism, between deconstruction and constructivist, fabricated by Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley, was however equally visual in its processes, whether in plan or three dimension, as a sort of demonstrated antipathy to any classical or modernist forms of composition, but a complete conservatism in terms of the product. Only the presence of Rem Koolhaas, not very appropriately situated among this exhibitors, gave the sense that programmatic argument, leading to a reformulation of typology and precedent, within a deliberate and ironic reframing of the modernist debate between Le Corbusier and Mies, gave one the sense that more than a visual outcome could be expected from this movement. Rem’s later transformation of Townscape into the concept of Junk Space, was the last nail in the coffin for a purely visual approach to architectural theory. Save, perhaps, in the more recent attempts to theorize the productions of an increasingly sophisticated digital architecture, from the animate architecture of Greg Lynn to the parametric autopoiesis of Patrik Schumacher. Here we are given once more the sense that a comprehensive theory of architecture is possible, one now based on the apparently all-encompassing systems of modelling and iteration, produced by parametric programs. For Lynn, who has coupled his research into the production of newly topologically defined surfaces, with a research into the new material fabrications methods of boat building and sail making, the synthesis is now between mapping and fabrication. With Schumacher the potential goes even further, in order to have an entirely new style of architecture, which relates naturally to the ever changing complexities of the social and economic system. In both, however, the result is judged visually. In Lynn’s case by the conviction that the baroque forms are better than the minimalist forms of early modernity; in Schumacher’s case by the theoretical conviction that in the end all architecture could be defined according to the rules of its style. In both, architecture retains a certain autonomy of form, only to be subsumed beneath the process of a technologically driven system society. The problem, of course, is that what actually drives architecture, and has driven architecture for millennia, is entirely ignored, or rather accepted as the given, as to be irrelevant: the economy. And, more importantly, these theories ignore the fact that all new architectures have been and probably will be in the foreseeable future: war economies. Vitruvius proposing a systematization of the discipline to help Augustus expanding the empire; Alberti and Filarete appealing to the warlords by referencing the grandeur of ancient Rome, Le Corbusier after the WWI working to divert the production processes of the Voisin aircraft company; the digital revolution of the present, emerging for the WWII machine and continually refined in the ongoing wars of the present. Architecture, I’m prepared to predict, will no longer have to assert its autonomy at all, it will soon be theorized—as the drone already is—for the neoliberal capital takeover of the war economy. Thank you very much.


Transcription by María José Orihuela, Architect, MA HCT at the Architectural Association.



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