WTF Architecture?

While browsing through the student blogs on Archinect recently, I came across this tasty treat:

An excerpt from the syllabus for my section, under the instruction of Kathryn Strand >>>

Students are asked to situate (or position) themselves in the debate of object and field, fragmentation and flow and the role of place in the design of an architectural landscape. The study of both visible and invisible conditions of context will be utilized as a means to re-invent site as a fluid and continuously evolving entity. Through the use of traditional and contemporary architectural media as generative tools, the act of moving between medias itself is identified as a means for "translating" from event to site to architecture and back to event. Thus, students will investigate techniques of urban, situational, event, and site intervention in a series of nested design problems and concurrent research into historical and contemporary movements in theory and practice of landscape and architecture.

If you're anything like me, you're probably getting Woodstock-vision right now. All I see is a giant pile of blah-blah-blah.

But... shrouded in mists of architecture&design jargon there is a very complex code hiding a shrivelling, naked, pseudo-architectural idea. 

In case you have been fortunate enough never to encounter this kind of verbiose designspeak, you don't have the dubious advantage of being able to 'decode' what's going on here. I will therefore undertake to translate as best I can.

CODE:

Students are asked to situate (or position) themselves in the debate of object and field, fragmentation and flow and the role of place in the design of an architectural landscape.

INTERPRETATION:

  • Putting aside the rampant use of the passive voice ('Students are asked'); and the meaningless catchphrases ('object', 'fragmentation', 'flow'), we are left with an instruction to take a position on a make-believe argument. 

CODE:

The study of both visible and invisible conditions of context will be utilized as a means to re-invent site as a fluid and continuously evolving entity.

INTERPRETATION:

  • Pardon me? Visible and invisible conditions of context? Does this professor ACTUALLY think that this constitutes a coherent set of instructions? We have another instance of passive voice ('will be utilized'). Do you think the instructor is asking, in a round-about way, for the students to study the site? Oh, you little darlings! What the instructor asks is for students to ignore spacial reality and break free from the laws of gravity... while studying the site.

CODE:

Through the use of traditional and contemporary architectural media as generative tools, the act of moving between medias itself is identified as a means for "translating" from event to site to architecture and back to event.

INTERPRETATION:

  • The sentence is telling us that how you generate drawings, models, or photos--or in other words, 'the process of design'--is more important than the drawings themselves. This is an esoteric idea hailing from pre-Surrealism, where artists believed that automatic-drawing (that is, drawing with no attention to a final composition or product) would reveal something about your psyche. In this case, the instructor thinks it will reveal something about the site, and this revelation will somehow create architecture.

CODE:

Thus, students will investigate techniques of urban, situational, event, and site intervention in a series of nested design problems and concurrent research into historical and contemporary movements in theory and practice of landscape and architecture.

INTERPRETATION

  • This sentence is my favorite, because it basically ignores everything else that went above it, and tells you what you will REALLY be doing. 'You will not be eating or sleeping for the next month. Stockpile tea, crackers, and make friends with the barista across the street. Bring a hammock or mattress to school. We still expect you to produce something insightful and pretty by the end of this.'

Ultimately, this manner of 'instruction' removes architecture from the realm of people and puts it in the realm of mysticism. This is religious architecture. It is confusing, disturbing, and results in concepts which have no real application except as mental exercises. If it ever makes it into form, the forms are oppressive and repetitive. 

Let me make myself clear. What was described above is NOT thoughtful and creative analysis. It is a theoretical mind-game. And the sad part is, most students gobble it up like Thanksgiving dinner because they crave the air of intelligence and superiority it gives them.

And at them, we can laugh.

 

Um, dude, you can't see where you're going.