0: Prologue on critique
Here is a critique of architecture. The first task of critique is to break apart. The second is to put back together. We cannot overemphasize the latter at the expense of the former. The architect’s task is usually one of designing the objects of peoples’ environments, which makes analysis feel like dead weight. A critique of architecture will oscillate between breaking apart architectural production and putting together possibilities of future arrangements, funding models, and politics of architecture. What would this oscillation look like? This project is an attempt to follow “Marx’s work … as an exposé of the world turned upside down and the attempt to right it.”[i]
Many of my architect friends say: “Tell us what to do!” “How can we build spatial justice?” “What is a socially responsible floor plan?” To them, I say, you must engage with such controversies on your own terms, within your professional repertoire and nonprofessional lives. In between ideas and practices is a grand canyon of mystery, and the request for instantly satisfying and deployable methods by practitioners, risks replacing emancipatory aspirations with ambiguous aesthetic gestures.
We have to distinguish between pathways and models. The written critique creates a pathway for practitioners to walk down, where they can interpret for themselves the world and how they wish to reinterpret their practices. Models come from the realm of practitioners – or those who slide between the worlds (pinch hitters) – to be tested, analyzed, and reflected upon, to oscillate between the failures and possibilities.
I am not interested in shallow concepts, flashy images, or indiscriminate measurements, but in a precise balance between critique’s deconstruction and reconstruction. It will be obvious to my readers that I will not invest in the economy of architectural images. Instead, the project here will introduce a theoretical framework of critique and integrate the everyday knowledge of people in Berlin through micro-ethnographies of cooperative housing strategies, as a balance between my own spatial analysis and suggestion for a critical urban praxis.