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Criticism and Theory

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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. Forty years later, it remains a perennial bestseller and a definitive theoretical text.

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.

Architecture in the Experience Economy

In the twenty-first century, we must learn to look at cities not as skylines but as brandscapes and at buildings not as objects but as advertisements and destinations. In the experience economy, experience itself has become the product: we’re no longer consuming objects but sensations, even lifestyles. In the new environment of brandscapes, buildings are not about where we work and live but who we imagine ourselves to be. In Brandscapes, Anna Klingmann looks critically at the controversial practice of branding by examining its benefits, and considering the damage it may do.

Combining formal argument with informal conversations and design proposals, Architecture at the Edge of Everything Else offers creative ideas for “thinking and acting architecture differently.” What makes the book unique (apart from its lively graphic format) is the freshness of its voices--young architects and emerging practitioners who for the most part have not published before. Interwoven with their proposals are conversations among these new voices and more established authors and practitioners, including Sanford Kwinter, Sylvia Lavin, K.

An Architect in Search of Practice

I paused at the stoop and thought this could be the basis of a good book. The story of a young man who went deep into the bowels of the academy in order to understand architecture and found it had been on his doorstep all along. This had an air of hokeyness about it, but it had been a tough couple of days and I was feeling sentimental about the warm confines of the studio which had unceremoniously discharged me upon the world.—from Down Detour Road

The Real

It is often suggested that architecture is more “real” than the other arts, more grounded and definitive. Yet even the most fundamental and concrete elements of architecture are often designed to conceal. This issue of Perspecta--the oldest and most distinguished student-edited architectural journal in America--embraces the paradoxical nature of the real, presenting it as a lens that magnifies the strategies and tactics of architecture, past, present, and future. How does architecture create real effects, change our built environment, and respond to crises?

Politics after Modernism

In Architecture or Techno-Utopia, Felicity Scott traces an alternative genealogy of the postmodern turn in American architecture, focusing on a set of experimental practices and polemics that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scott examines projects, conceptual work, exhibitions, publications, pedagogical initiatives, and agitprop performances that had as their premise the belief that architecture could be ethically and politically relevant.

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