Tag Archives: Theory

Comments on Frances Anderton: “Excess” Versus “Relevance” Is an Irrelevant Debate

Frances Anderton: “Excess” Versus “Relevance” Is an Irrelevant Debate – I can not agree with Frances Anderton more when she says that by framing a dichotomy of excess versus relevance in architecture, those mourning the loss of grand projects and those cheering that loss due to the current economic circumstances, are failing to appreciate the full scope of architecture. Certainly, architectural journalism favors the spectacular projects of excess but even still most architecture fails to meet either standards.

Architecture encompasses all of the built environment, from the ordinary to the singular, and both aspects are important. By framing the debate not in a dichotomy but instead as qualities of the larger field we call our culture and environment,, an architecture for the here and now can be more easily balanced between social responsibility and artistic ambitions. Both are needed and in different mixes for different projects.


ART TO ARCHITECTURE « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods asks the question about the relationship of Art to Architecture.  He points out that as the arts like painting and sculpture became less integrated with Architecture, they actually gained a more direct influence on architecture.  Suddenly Art could be used as a direct inspiration for Architecture.  It is certainly an interesting observation.

For my part, I hold with Deleuze and Guttari’s opinion that Art is concerned with precepts and affects and their ability.  This means that Architecture is not necessarily Art, though it certainly can be and certainly the value of Art in Architecture is important.  I am not one to hold that Architecture is only an Art, for Architecture includes much more than Art, both in constraints and in scope, Architecture addresses more than the limited, but very intense, subjects of Art.

Comments on Planned Spontaneity

Planned Spontaneity – Bojana Vuksanovic argues for new approaches to design and planning that allow for more spontaneity and change rather than the rigid, preconceived approaches that are favored in current architectural practice. While her arguments are strong, I take issue with her unqualified use of the terms organic and complexity.

The organic is not truly opposed to the orderly. Her use of the organic is in line with its commonly conceived usage, but that usage favors too heavily the conception that the organic is somehow special in architecture. Architecture by its very nature is inorganic and though it can be a useful metaphor to compare certain aspects to the organic qualities, the organic metaphor can also be abused when not qualified in its usage. Like many in the architectural community, the term organic is as a judgment rather than a quality or characteristic. It is something that is favored and good for architecture without qualification.

Complexity is a more recent term filled with baggage in architectural discussion, however as in this essay, there is little qualification as to what makes up something that is complex and what does complexity actually do for the design. To state the obvious, complexity isn't a simple subject that many architect's seem to think it is. I am similarly troubled by her use of complexity without a discussion of the very real pitfalls of the “random”. Yes, current architecture can use more spontaneity or noise in the decision making process, but to argue that more complexity improves that process is not necessarily true. As Murry Gell-Mann argues in his book the Quark and Jaguar, effective complexity, that complexity that contributes to the behavior of a system, actually is highest and richest at some indeterminate mixture of order and randomness. Too often today, randomness, which is complex, is thought to be effective. Her example of fluids being more complex than solids falls into exactly this pitfall. Yes, there is more room for the random in a fluid, but its ability to interface with other systems and behaviors are not that much more complex than a solid when you consider all the different ways solids can form.

Despite these few discrepancies, the essay is very good and shows a careful and thoughtful approach to the problem of spontaneity in design. Vuksanovic’s critique of the conventional design practices that sacrifice richness of experience for the safety of certainty is a powerful one. I highly recommend reading the article.


WORLDS APART « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods argues for the need of the next generation of architect's to take up the cause against the strict orders of design of past generations. He feels that fragmentation, chaos, randomness and complex systems of order can lead architect's to new ways of designing and opening up a new way of living for the inhabitants. Though I agree with him in principal, I can't help but question the results of the projects that currently use those concepts in their designs. As is pointed out in the comments to the essay, too often the designs are only frozen representations of chaos or complexity that claim to embody ideas of freedom and new ways of living when in fact by their very complexity, they require strict controls to finance, construct, and manage, which in the end leaves impotent the very concepts they are attempting to embody. Such concepts can not be a purely formal expression but must be lived through the very act of construction.

Comments on MANUEL DELANDA: Opportunities and Risks « LEBBEUS WOODS

MANUEL DELANDA: Opportunities and Risks « LEBBEUS WOODS – Manuel De Landa takes on perception from a materialist point of view. De Landa views perception as the ability of an animal to assess and take advantage of opportunities and risks in its environment. He defines this ability as the capacity of an animal to affect and be affected by its environment. Though he never explicitly addresses it, in many ways this theory of capacity is an extension of Merleau-Ponty's ideas on perception but without the transcendental baggage. Like Merleau-Ponty, De Landa's theory posits that our embeddedness in the world is our perception, but De Landa takes it a step farther by extending the idea beyond its purely human roots and into the specifics of how all animals can affect their environment. The most interesting consequence of this idea is that it extends to acts of construction as a construction becomes an extension of the animal's body.


SEEING SPACE « LEBBEUS WOODS – Lebbeus Woods presents a series of drawings by Sotirios Kotoulas whose research explores making visible the spaces of the electromagnetic spectrum. While his drawings are fascinating in their angular complexity, they lack a direction forward beyond their own creation and internal logic. The drawings feel too much like a subjective rationalizing into formal ideas based on a metaphorical understanding of the logic of electromagnetic waves. Perhaps it is just a missing explanation of the rules for the internal logic of the drawings but I fail to see anything other than a series of beautiful drawings. If that was the desired intention, I would congratulate Sotirios Kotoulas but the drawings are billed as research and in this case I find them lacking. Research should point to new methods, ideas and actions, not just create another piece of art full of affectations and percepts.

That said, some of my own most productive research was largely incomprehensible to others.

An Ethics of Complexity for Architecture

How does one make decisions and judgments within the practice of architecture?  There are no answers to this question, only problems.  How one formulates the problem, that is constructs the problem of architecture, effects the nature of the possible solutions, the performance of the designed and constructed buildings.  Problems are as much a construction of architectural practice as the actual built building is.  As Kojin Karatani describes in his book Architecture as Metaphor, there is a tendency in western philosophy to architecturalize itself.  He goes on to say that this “will to architecture” is not limited to philosophy but is latent in much of western thought, from science to the humanities.1 The will to architecture is the act of to constructing thought.  It is an act of making.  For any conception of architecture must include an idea of making or construction. Continue reading An Ethics of Complexity for Architecture