city, battlesuit, archigram – mammoth // building nothing out of something

city, battlesuit, archigram

A conversation worth following: the original piece is Matt Jones’s “The City is a Battlesuit for Surviving the Future” at io9, in which Matt draws connections between Archigram, the architecture of science fiction and comics, ubiquitous computing, and the future of mega-cities.

Varnelis responds, arguing that Jones’ rhetorical adoption of Archigram inadvertently reveals an absence of critique in contemporary urbanism. The comments on Varnelis’s post, including those from Enrique (a456) and Geoff (bldgblog), are perceptive. I’d like to think that its possible to be both enthusiastic and critical, or at least that there’s room for both enthusiasts and critics. If one accepts Geoff’s description in which criticism describes problems and enthusiasm locates positives, then it seems rather obvious that both are necessary. So while the presence of only one but not the other is certainly problematic, I’d be more likely to describe architecture as suffering from a deficit of both done well (particularly if ‘enthusiasm’ is defined as something like a BLDGBLOG-ian, wide-ranging sense of wonder, rather than the mere acceptance/promotion of whatever seems exciting) than as being dominated by one or the other.

Things also respond, exploring the persistence of, well, things in the utopian data city. See also Millennium People’s comment on Things’s comment on Jones’s comment…

Lebbeus Woods’s recent post on utopia isn’t explicitly linked to this conversation, but Varnelis’s comment on the “decline of utopian thought” makes the connection obvious.

6 Responses to “city, battlesuit, archigram”

  1. Thanks for this post. It’s interesting to see all that backchannel chatter Matt’s post and Kazys’ reaction have cause. I think that you are spot on when you suggest that enthusiasm and criticism are both half-cooked. And to clarify a bit (this is because I respect Geoff a lot), though I am critical of Geoff in my response, I also want to stress that he has done a lot to expose other audiences to architectural ideas and architecture culture in general. Also, if you really think about it, Geoff has pretty much invented a kind of web-specific architectural writing that is captivating and never short on ideas. I would like to think that people like Kazys are working the other (read: criticism-oriented) side of the equation. In short, both have done a lot to set some high bars for online architecture writing.

  2. rholmes says:

    In short, both have done a lot to set some high bars for online architecture writing.

    Exactly. And I think Geoff is doing a lot to expose architects to the value of non-architectural ideas for architecture as well (he might say that there really aren’t non-architectural ideas, but that’s beside the point).

    I don’t want to say that being done well should always place work beyond criticism (that would be a real abrogation of criticism in favor of enthusiasm), and, ultimately, I think it’d be best if architectural writing on the internet became a conversation where various ways of thinking are all being expressed well and yet still competing with/critiquing one another. But that’s not where the conversation is right now, and so I’m encouraged by almost anything that’s not just the unthinking reproduction of glossy images.

    Off to post some images.

  3. No worries, Enrique; I think we’re basically talking about different methods for different projects. I don’t have any fundamental problem with what we might call a critical-historical approach to writing about architecture; it simply isn’t what I do.

    Having said that, I still think it’s important to defend my own “methodology,” if such a word even applies to it, simply because the overriding view seems to be—and probably always will be—that stories, myths, conjecture, speculation, etc., are unnecessarily frivolous and thus unimportant to a real analysis of ideas.

    But, again, at least from my perspective, it just seems like different approaches, each of which is appropriate for differently pitched projects.

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