a student's journey and alternative lens into the reading, writing, and building of architecture
so, I've read your blog during two days, and what's next? what about an architect in the neoliberal city?
well, i am editing a film right now from interviews with architects, geographers, activists and others in berlin. my two cents: the desocialization of the state (withdrawing of state programs and much funding), creates new needs and new lanes of action, new professional and other practices, which is the same for architects and architecture. so, there is a kind of "rolling out" of new techniques. Interestingly and predictably, they integrate many of our progressive characteristics of the day: participation, sustainability, creativity. I think the fundamental question that I am confront is regarding ownership. Do architects create real-estate to be speculated upon (which was central to the 2008 financial crash)? Or can architects sidestep the commodification and flipping of houses? I think this can strengthen the chance for all people to stay in the city, have a 'right to the city'. What are architectural strategies that develop new commons? Not a total transition back to the state, as a reaction to neoliberalization, but perhaps strategies that are independent of the state. New commons? http://www.e-flux.com/journal/on-the-commons-a-public-interview-with-massimo-de-angelis-and-stavros-stavrides/
my interviews with architects in my City, and analysis of legal documents, connected with building, show that the general direction is expanding city with small gated communities, because fences are even as a requirement in the legal documents. architects do see themselves as any other professionals just implementing orders, and maybe sometimes, if where're enough money - designing something less ugly. there are no architectural theories, and when thinking not about theories, but the practical possibilities, it seems that there is no way out. I'm a sociologist relaying heavily on critical theory. generally I am seen as a strange utopianist. I'm going to give a lecture for the architects on architecture as a social practice, but even, if there are architectural theories on constructing open city, how to overcome economic and political burdens? I was searching for any good examples, when the architects really implemented any good initiatives promoting social diversity, or designed coexistence in any meaningful ways. I don't want to be only negative in my lecture... could you suggest any good examples? any project which really worked out? cause other way I'm just getting reactions, like: yeah, go on speaking, but the real life is different and nothing can be changed.
I would make a few clear distinctions in your optimistic, utopian, or so forth projectile for an architecture. Who are the clients of an architecture that creates an – open city, promoting social diversity, designed coexistence in any meaningful ways – as you say it? I think that there are many people creating openness, diversity, and coexistence. However, often each category is accessible only if one can PAY for them, if one can pay the increasing rents. The very ideology of neoliberal capitalism is a deregulated, free flow of cash, goods, etc., which has also created record high inequalities.First, if we are talking about an architectural project. Can we really imagine a project, a single building, housing the elite and the poor? I think not. It may be possible and there may be such exceptions, but i think it is not going to be our general reality or especially not a broader practice of architects. We cannot simultaneously create an openness, diversity, or coexistence between the poor and the capitalist. The two classes are essentially based upon an antagonism or conflict. And as I read in Zizek's new book last night, it's as though we've switched from capitalists earning 'profit' from selling commodities toward a situation of dependency and continuous charging of 'rent' to survive. That is, we are, in the US, an indebted society. Most people owe money to the banks. And those bankers are in a significant advantage. There is class conflict. I think that we cannot assume that an architecture – be it 'critical' or not – can remain 'open,' 'diverse', or 'coexisting' between those two people. Impossible.Sorry for repeating your terms, but I really like them. They provide valuable reference points.
Instead, I would suggest that there has to be an interest in those three categories, but the architect essentially has to take action, choose a client, and design a structure. This will essentially exclude someone. Therefore, if there is such a thing as a "critical" architectural practice, perhaps it is those who choose to work with the people who are rejected from society. The 99%. The 'part of no part'If people are telling you that you're a utopianist, then they're probably comfortable in their middle class lifestyles. They probably have not the burden of having to worry about the safety of their family's food, education, medicine, and shelter. They have in fact forfeited their imagination to their professional role, become a slave to their training.I would suggest if the architects feel burdened by economic and political systems, then they need to partner with people that can develop alternative funding models and political strategies. What are loan alternatives to mortgages? What are alternative political strategies that can replace asking from planning offices to change codes? I think the funding model and the political mobilization need to be framed as questions to ask to architects because they are challenges within their profession's jurisdiction. If they simply say – "It is not my responsibility. This is our reality." – then it is they who flow within the current of the market and the continuation of the status quo. Their inaction is at the expense of the other, and to the advantage of the capitalist. As for some specific examples: I would first check out An Architektur's "On The Commons," issue, which can be found here: http://www.e-flux.com/journal/on-the-commons-a-public-interview-with-massimo-de-angelis-and-stavros-stavrides/I would check out the lecture at Michigan by Teddy Cruz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ_FxXZrcDEAnd I would look into the work of Thomas A Dutton at the Center for Community Engagement: http://arts.muohio.edu/cce/index.htmlArchitects have a professional training that comes from a kind of specialized knowledge. The production of that knowledge is essentially within the system's institutions. The solutions to these questions will not come from within those institutions or within the architect's professional repertoire, but new connections will have to be made outside their system. I would say, the first way that an architect can really provide critical positioning would be to find the contemporary urban social movements and to take those people as your clients. Work for those resisting capitalism.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUTHDo_hhe0
thank you, this was very thought-feeding answer. however, I'm sociologist, so I have to stick to that and not to start preaching open city stuff perhaps, research comes first. :) maybe you'll find this interesting. http://www.vietos.org/main.html it's a project in my country, started by architects. it's about possibilities to revitalize post-soviet housing estates. The situation in my country (which is Lithuania)is far from American one, maybe more similar to eastern part of Germany. despite the ambiguity with which soviet period is evaluated, lack of deep segregations, also spatial segregations, is the outcome. so soviet housing estates are in really bad physical shape, but they aren't ghettos. so, maybe they can be improved, and all parts of city will blossom :) (ok, please no harsh comments on my idealism). however, when I'm reading such authors as Marcuse or Brenner or other with city for people attitude, I do not quite get it. can something be improved in a way we live now, or is it revolution (which always includes violence) that is necessarily? if gentrification and renewal is wrong, and suburbanization is wrong, where should the middle class people live? or should they all not exist? and should all people be poor? and then speaking about workers... this is digital economy, "knowledge society" - people are less and less "factory workers". so what is then that workers culture which is dominated by middle class culture? I also wander, what are your thoughts about the aesthetics of architecture - is it "important", in any way?thank you for all the answers.