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“Perfect”Enemies

April 5, 2016

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I wrote a quick piece on Zaha Hadid’s death for CommonEdge Collaborative http://commonedge.org/death-architecture/ it was a moderate success but the piece was selected to be included with 25 others from the hundreds of world wide outpourings of obituaries for the most celebrated architect in the world by the most celebrated writers and venues for writers – and me: http://www.archnewsnow.com/features/Feature492.htm

I do not speak ill of the dead. Death ends the validity of any personal enmity – except in historic terms: Hitler is hated now for what he did: when alive I am pretty sure millions would have happily ended his life with extreme prejudice: but once dead, the human as a human is left to a judgment we are completely unsure of – except by what the dead wrought.

Although the architecture of Zaha Hadid manifest the most abstracted version of what architecture can be: and thus ignored any context, function, materiality and scale as part of its design criteria it was a hit with those who declare balls and strikes in my profession: the “thought leaders” of architecture: academia, media and the world architecture professional organizations.

Anecdotally I know her work alienated most of those who encountered it, but it also thrilled others. The thrill for the aesthetic elite was completely evident in almost all the other 25 other obituaries-cum-tributes: I was more circumspect, but not denigrating – and those that knew her truly liked her – not a discouraging word was heard – except backchannel to me in private communications from other architects:

“Ding dong the bitch is dead”

-followed separately by the video of “Ding Dong the witch is Dead”

“Her work set back architecture for over 50 years”

And most graphic, simply a medical diagram of the crossection of a vagina

The anointed are ripe for animus by the ignored: but the architects who sent these notes to me are significant designers of great repute: albeit not in the world of Zaha.

Why does the professional become personal? Why does something as arbitrary as style become religion: where heretics are vilified? In response to a previous article I wrote for Common/Edge Collaberative http://archinect.com/news/article/148349624/is-architecture-shifting-from-a-profession-to-a-lifestyle-choice
Dozens of folk attacked me, bizarrely my website, and each other in a classic micro-world of anger in a place almost no one sees.

I efforted fact-based responses, no name calling, but got only Troll Spew in response. It occurred to me the response was in complete concurrence with the responses I received privately about Zaha. Whether its for sculptitecture, Trump or how to cook tomatoes if you base your values on a specific ethos the Perfect has Become the Enemy of the Good.

The New Puritans, the Isis of aesthetics, the orthodoxies of everything create dismissal of the validity of every “other” attitude as if that attitude were Hitlerian: but, thankfully, there are very few Hitlers among us.

This is not about Style: clearly the Architectural Elite that loved not only the person Zaha, but also her mission also loath and categorically reject the validity of alternative work as if it were a toxin in the body Architecture.

But if not Perfect, only the Horrendous demands extreme prejudice. Treating what you do not to believe is perfectly Perfect as if it was desperately threatening is a defensively destructive attitude. Its also easier than thinking. Having perspective, balancing values, seeing merits and finding them wanting is a time-consuming, soul-searching activity. Jerking the knee is so much easier.

The Good is better than what the vast majority of people now experience in architecture: when one take on the option of Perfect is exclusively presented as “Correct” it equates to “Perfect or Nothing” and that means the not-so-good stuff dominates the vast majority of built things. Building abhors a vacuum: if a singularity of orthodoxy is presented as Perfect by those who are the declared “Thought Leaders” of Architecture, and those building cannot relate to it in any way, then Architecture itself is the enemy of the Good.

And engineers, zoning codes and bean-counting developers design buildings.

And that is Not Good.

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