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Extract from a review in Vol 1, Issue 2 of Archnet--IJAR, July 2007
In this book, Nikos A. Salingaros sets the stage for a new thinking about the current status of architecture. Twelve essays critically analyze evolutionary aspects of modernism and post-Modernism, while heavily criticizing the resulting end-style of these two movements: Deconstructivism. The main argument of this manuscript lies in Salingaros' belief that architectural deconstruction is not a new thing. It has started since the 1920s from the Bauhaus, the international style, and modernism, going through new brutalism and late and post modernism. Each of these "-ISMS" is regarded as a cult that had tremendous negative impacts on they way in which we think about or approach architecture in pedagogy and practice. Salingaros argues, and rightly so, that deconstructivists have disassociated themselves from the lessons derived from history and precedents, while distancing themselves from basic human needs and cultural contexts.
One should note his criticism of the critics, the articulate and fancy rhetoric and writings of Charles Jencks and Bernard Tschumi. He points out that Jencks' understanding and use of scientific concepts to justify and celebrate deconstructivist architecture is simply superficial. On the other hand, Bernard Tschumi's two major writings titled "The Manhattan Transcripts" and "Architecture and Disjunction" were closely examined by Salingaros. He concluded that Tschumi's work is a collection of meaningless images that resembles advertising and a false claim of knowledge of mathematics in analogizing it to architectural form.
The other ten essays offer eloquent and convincing arguments against such a destructive attitude of deconstructivism and deconstructivists. However, three of these should be highlighted. The essays titled "Derrida Virus", "Background Material for the Derrida Virus", and "Death, Life and Libeskind" eloquently show how Derrida's notion of deconstructivism became a dangerous virus, which keep reproducing itself infinitely. Derrida, an Algerian-born French philosopher founded such a notion in literary criticism, and described it as "a method for analyzing texts based on the idea that language is inherently unstable and shifting, and that the reader rather than author is central in determining the meaning" (Derrida, 1973). While his work was heavily criticized by prominent linguists and philosophers including Noam Chomsky, it found listening receptive ears in the architectural community, a typical habit of many name architects who run after slogans and strange notions that help them to philosophize and theorize in order to justify their work.
Metaphorically, the virus has killed almost all connections to the past, to humanity, and to context. The resulting ills are manifested in many cities, but the trauma is well articulated in the work of Daniel Libeskind in the Ground Zero Proposal, the Seattle Public Library, and the Berlin Holocaust Museum. Salingaros shows how the rhetoric surrounding the claims of Libeskind on the emotional experience of the Ground Zero proposal are nothing but negative. In this respect, a reference needs to be made to university campuses that are supposed to convey constructive messages about the future of learning, research, and humanity; they are calling deconstructivists to destruct their learning environments. This is clearly evident in the work of Antoine Predock in the McNamara Alumni Center of the University of Minnesota, and the work of Frank Gehry's Wiseman Art Museum of the same University. Notably, Gehry's work is invading many university campuses including Case Western Reserve University through its School of Business, and the University of Cincinnati through its Center for Molecular Studies. University campuses are intentionally conveying "deconstructive" messages.
Undoubtedly, this manuscript is a voice of logic and reason against anti-architecture norms, and the destructive attitudes of their followers. I would add my voice to other reviewers of this manuscript: that it must be a mandatory reading in schools of architecture worldwide. Salingaros' call for going against those attitudes and regaining our interest in solutions to human problems needs to be adopted. The manuscript's thrust for re-associating ourselves to the near and distant past -- depending on who we are and the cultural context in which we operate -- deserves special attention by both academics and practitioners.
Ashraf Salama, Ph.D.
Professor of Architecture
17 internautes sur 21 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
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Salingaros's "Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction" is both like and unlike Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House.
Wolfe's book tells the story of a movement that begins with the European left's rejection of everything bourgeois, and ends with ugly but prestigious buildings built and financed by bourgeois kingpins of American capitalism.
Salingaros's Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction likewise involves a European philosophy (or ideology, to be more precise) that has also created an architecture of sorts. But while Wolfe's book is journalistic and tells a story, Salingaros's is analytic and engaged. Salingaros means to change things.
Anti-Architecture is structured as a series of letters, commentaries and meditations--most but not all of them written by Salingaros. The final chapter presents a conversation between the author and the architect Christopher Alexander.
Salingaros clearly considers the deconstructivist theory behind post-modern architecture to be nonsensical. Whether post-modernists will find this insulting or not is less clear. If one's task is to de-construct reality, then no doubt nonsense performs the job as well as any other methodology.
Deconstructivist intellectuals such as Derrida are usually associated with the left, and presumably Derrida himself considered himself of the left. Ideological systems, however, are remarkably similar, regardless of how they self-identify. The realm of the ideological slips easily from left to right and back again.
Take, for example, the following self-description from the Deconstructivist Architecture show at the Museum of Modern Art: "The lurid overtones of violence and corruption are intentional; they are, in fact, central to the ethos of deconstructive architecture ... Disturb, torture, interrogate, contaminate, infect; these are the words [chosen] to explain and to praise deconstructive architecture" (Anti-Architecture, 122). Violence, torture, interrogation--sounds rather like a description of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.
Another section of the book surveys the thought and work of the post-modernist architect Bernard Tschumi. It was Tschumi who designed the Parisian "Parc de Villette" (which has been described by the Project for Public Spaces as among the world's most boring and unsuccessful parks). Now deconstruction, we are often told, is a kind of game, and certainly Tschumi has some very playful notions about deconstructivist architecture. In one theoretical work, for example, Tschumi regales his readers with tips from the Marquis de Sade on how, with a single sexual act, it is possible to simultaneously commit incest, sodomy and sacrilege. I'm not kidding.
Deconstruction, in other words, leads to a dead-end. To his credit, Salingaros does more than dwell on what he opposes: he also seeks a way forward, and his efforts in this direction involve a sometimes uneasy conversation between the sacred and the scientific.
There is neither time nor room here to properly develop this theme. To do it justice would require, at minimum, putting Salingaros's book in the context of all his other writings plus his many years collaboration with Christopher Alexander. For now, the following generalizations will have to suffice. Both Salingaros and Alexander have refused to engage in either nostalgia for a pre-scientific religiosity or in despairing acceptance of a meaningless mechanistic nature. Like the early-20th century French philosopher Simone Weil (whom everyone, in my opinion, should read carefully), they recognize that the beauty described by true science and the beauty described by true religiosity, are one and the same. They recognize that it is not the point of architecture to just theorize about this and that, and still less is it architecture's job to produce pretty baubles for elites. The task of architecture is to connect beauty with the everyday life of all those who work for a living. A life so lived is full of meaning at every moment.
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S. C. Kelly
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No, it is IMPERATIVE that this is read and reread by all who are associated with the built environment in any way. We are under siege. Minds that would have us believe that life is a big, fat joke and that architecture should reflect their nihilist views are doing their best to convince those with decision-making authority that the design and erection of important buildings should be left to the elite group of celebrity designers (themselves) who are clearly the only ones who can intellectually plumb the depths of complexity and mystery that is architecture. They have people like Charlie Rose and Sydney Pollack wrapped around their fingers. The argument is: "Our stuff is so complex that only we can understand it. Therefore we must be geniuses and you should worship our greatness. Otherwise, if you are judging only by appearance you are ignorant or shallow, and just don't get it...we don't have time for small minds." If only more people understood the MOTIVES behind these "Gods."
If you cannot understand precisely why the big projects of the day are being entrusted to these agents who seem to come up with the most horrific concoctions imaginable (look at ALL of the proposals for the WTC rebuild, for an example) and are disturbed by this fact, you must read this immediately. Of course they are ugly--there is little disagreement. This book disrobes these maniacs and explains why these designs are INTENDED to be ugly.
I could go on and on, but Salingaros and his collaborators do it so much more eloquently and with so much more authority than I could ever muster. I'll just leave it by saying that I read this book two or three years ago and it disturbed me greatly, but this week I pulled it off the shelf and I am now more determined than ever to help put a stop to the madness that is resulting from "Star"chitects and their specious, deconstructivist views.
Dimitar Vladimirov Dobrev
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I first encountered this book in 2008 as a third year student of Architecture at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. Having just transferred from another school (that actually encouraged thinking), I quickly observed that the system within the Auckland School itself was saturated / infected with Deconstructivist "thought" and "methodology". No matter how I tried, I could not understand why they called what they did "design". Then a friend of mine introduced me to this author and his works. After reading this particular book I finally understood what was going on around me. I recommend this to any student suffering under the Deconstructivist spells of obscurity and nonsense.