A Question of Qualities
Essays in Architecture
368 pp., 5 x 8 in, 50 b&w illus.
- Published: August 2, 2013
Essays on contemporary architecture that are less about making critical judgments than about explication, exegesis, and provocation.
Jeffrey Kipnis's writing, thinking, and teaching casts architecture as both an intellectual discourse and a lived, affective experience. His essays on contemporary architects are less about making critical judgments than about explication, exegesis, and provocation. In these eleven essays, written between 1990 and 2008, he considers projects, concepts, and buildings by some of the most recognized architects working today, with special attention to the productions of affect. He explores “intuition” in the work of Morphosis, “exhilaration” in Coop Himmelb(l)au, “freedom” in the work of Rem Koolhaas and OMA, “magic” in Steven Holl's buildings, and “anxiety” in Rafael Moneo's writing about contemporary architecture.
Kipnis's deft integration of art, critical theory, philosophy, pop culture, classical music, and science—what the volume's editor Alexander Maymind calls “ancillary material”—into a rigorous architectural theory and criticism makes A Question of Qualities an exemplar of a new way to write about architecture. It is also a distinct pleasure to read. Kipnis transcends the fractious intellectual climate in architecture, stepping outside the boundaries mandated by the vast specialized criteria that the discipline now claims to address. The essays in this volume demonstrate a style of writing that is not so much about architecture as it is an affect of architecture itself.
In this collection of seminal texts, Kipnis reminds us once again why his unique ability to focus our close attention to the specifically architectural qualities of buildings and the intellection that produces them makes him the most important architectural critic practicing today. His utterly distinctive voice pulses with the vitality of contemporary culture until the language of each essay constructs architectural qualities of its own.
Sylvia Lavin, Director of Critical Studies and MA/PhD Programs, UCLA Architecture
Like all great critics, Kipnis does not describe things as they are, or have been understood, but as they could be, reconstituting the matter into something: more; powerful. Within these texts disciplinary concerns and cultural logics (proper to architecture, but in proximity to other discourses) are of paramount importance, and beauty (or the like) reigns supreme. With so intoxicating a description of possibility, who cares if it is true or not? These writings challenge architecture to relevance, to importance, and to make the world again and again, as necessary and desired.
John McMorrough, Architecture Program Chair, Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan