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March 17, 2014

A Lunch BIT from Toward a Minor Architecture by Jill Stoner

Posted by: Susan Mai

Jill Stoner asks and answers, “Where (in the world) is architecture going?” in this excerpt from What Is a Minor Architecture? A Bit of Toward a Minor Architecture:

Where (in the world) is architecture going? As much as any art, it relies on languages of masters for momentum. In former times, its masters were deities and monarchs; since the industrial revolution, these have been replaced by the more abstract economic forces of “free” markets. Architecture’s recent agendas have set their shallow roots in the soils of techno-virtuosity and eco-ethics. Yet still the discipline perpetuates the syntax of interior and exterior space, the production of buildings, and the architect’s heroic aspirations. In thrall to influences and desires of corporate power, the major language of architecture is yet one more product of a culture increasingly dominated by symbolic capital. Its conventions teeter at the precipice of saturation, leading us to this seemingly strange proposition: Architecture can no longer limit itself to the aesthetic pursuit of making buildings; it must now commit to a politics of selectively taking them apart.

Political and economic powers set forth conditions of complicity in which major architectures are made. But once made, buildings can be challenged to relinquish their share in this complicity. Though appearing to reside comfortably within the language of the majority, buildings may provide a medium within which a minor architecture might be situated. In this context, a minor architecture will operate both upon architecture’s grammatical constructions of (virtual) power and within its physical, material form. Thus might an ornate theater be transformed into a utilitarian parking garage, or a half- finished corporate tower be taken hostage as a vertical favela. In these and other instances, powerful forces arise in response to vacancy—not just in the form of empty rooms adapted for reuse, but through an encoding of these vacant spaces, and a subversion of major architecture’s prevailing myths.

As we begin to investigate what minor architecture might mean, we must be prepared for its precise nature to elude capture. It rejects a definite article, divides and branches toward multiplicity. So let us shift to the plural. In their deceptively simple spatial strategies and in their many guises as intensely complex theoretical constructions, minor architectures will alter and dematerialize the constructed world. They will be necessarily ephemeral, slip through cracks of Euclidean convention, and pay no heed to the idea of the formal. Form will tend to dissipate; material will give way to immaterial. Three dimensions may become two, then two become one: a line. The subtle aesthetic within these spaces will likely evade even the trained eye of an architectural photographer, though a canny journalist may be able to track the intricate relations of its existence, which are wrapped up in time.

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