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Criticism and Theory

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Architecture depends—on what? On people, time, politics, ethics, mess: the real world. Architecture, Jeremy Till argues with conviction in this engaging, sometimes pugnacious book, cannot help itself; it is dependent for its very existence on things outside itself. Despite the claims of autonomy, purity, and control that architects like to make about their practice, architecture is buffeted by uncertainty and contingency. Circumstances invariably intervene to upset the architect’s best-laid plans—at every stage in the process, from design through construction to occupancy.

Attention in the Age of Embodied Information

The world is filling with ever more kinds of media, in ever more contexts and formats. Glowing rectangles have become part of the scene; screens, large and small, appear everywhere. Physical locations are increasingly tagged and digitally augmented. Amid this flood, your attention practices matter more than ever. You might not be able to tune this world out. So it is worth remembering that underneath all these augmentations and data flows, fixed forms persist, and that to notice them can improve other sensibilities.

Collected Essays on Architecture and the City

Born in Tokyo, educated in Japan and the United States, and principal of an internationally acclaimed architectural practice, celebrated architect Fumihiko Maki brings to his writings on architecture a perspective that is both global and uniquely Japanese. Influenced by post-Bauhaus internationalism, sympathetic to the radical urban architectural vision of Team X, and a participant in the avant-garde movement Metabolism, Maki has been at the forefront of his profession for decades.

Agency

Architecture has always been intimately intertwined with its social, political, and economic contexts; major events in world history have had correspondingly dramatic effects on the discipline. The Great Depression, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Hurricane Katrina, for example, were all catalysts for architectural response and resulted in a diversification of the architect’s portfolio. Yet far too often, architects simply react to changes in the world, rather than serving as agents of change themselves.

Architecture can no longer limit itself to the art of making buildings; it must also invent the politics of taking them apart. This is Jill Stoner’s premise for a minor architecture. Her architect’s eye tracks differently from most, drawn not to the lauded and iconic but to what she calls “the landscape of our constructed mistakes”--metropolitan hinterlands rife with failed and foreclosed developments, undersubscribed office parks, chain hotels, and abandoned malls.

On Learning from Las Vegas

Learning from Las Vegas, originally published by the MIT Press in 1972, was one of the most influential and controversial architectural books of its era. Thirty-five years later, it remains a perennial bestseller and a definitive theoretical text. Its authors—architects Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour—famously used the Las Vegas Strip to argue the virtues of the "ordinary and ugly" above the "heroic and original" qualities of architectural modernism.

Domain

Architecture exists in the public sphere and is the product of collective work and knowledge. Yet the defining boundaries of the discipline are often contested. Architects can and often must embody a spectrum of characters in their practice: politician, artist, physicist, entrepreneur. Likewise, a building is the nexus of multifaceted economies, legislations, and information systems. Since "architecture" has become a metonym for increasingly distributed persons and practices, how--and for whom--do we establish its domain?

Japanese architect Arata Isozaki sees buildings not as dead objects but as events that encompass the social and historical context—not to be defined forever by their "everlasting materiality" but as texts to be interpreted and reread continually. In Japan-ness in Architecture, he identifies what is essentially Japanese in architecture from the seventh to the twentieth century. In the opening essay, Isozaki analyzes the struggles of modern Japanese architects, including himself, to create something uniquely Japanese out of modernity.

Digital technologies have changed architecture—the way it is taught, practiced, managed, and regulated. But if the digital has created a “paradigm shift” for architecture, which paradigm is shifting? In The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Mario Carpo points to one key practice of modernity: the making of identical copies.

Taboo

We are beset by unspoken rules. As a result, we learn to find consensus in nots and to seek refuge in don'ts. A taboo is a restriction invented and agreed upon by a social group that maintains stability (disciplinary order) but also induces transgressions (the possibility of an avant-garde). Taboos structure our thinking and frame our discussions. In architecture, taboos create an operative way of thinking about and making architecture through unspoken agreement.

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