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Astrology & Architecture: on the cusp

June 2, 2016

horoscopeIs Style a Horoscope?

I know any number of very well educated, very smart folk that actually look to see what their horoscope is on any given day, and take note of what astrological sign a person is, and ascribe meaning to arbitrary, but deeply defining, distinctions in personalities and fates as being determined by any given birthdate.

I know, they know, its a silly, alternative universe. A distraction, like watching “The Walking Dead”. But no: mere distractions do not project meaning to the meaningless. Any number of folk hearing I was born in August say “Oh you’re a Leo – I KNEW it.” I am a Leo (on the cusp with Virgo) and I am an egomaniac: BINGO. You cannot tell any astrology-believer that the two are unrelated.

Quaint, trivial, silly – yes: but the impulse to connect dots, to determine patterns or find complicity in the vast array of uncontrollables as reason for the imponderables of fate are the backbone of all prejudice. Whether its the Gnomes of Zurich causing economic implosion or illegal immigrants its easier to see yourself as having less responsibility for falling short of your expectations when you see “evidence” the game is rigged.

As with most things, large order social tendencies emerge from each human’s attitudes. Profiling me as a Leo is in fact easier than listening to me drone on about whatever I believe in. Profiling a Republican as a racist is just as easy as profiling a Democrat as a Nanny-Statist. The InterWebNets have distilled, refined, and projectile vomitted these judgment spews onto every screen on planet Earth.

I see this rush to judgmentalism in the current state of architecture as perceived within and outside the profession. I may be born a Leo, but I do not sufficiently code my design product with Modern Memes sufficient to be Modernist.



I may like eaves, pitched roofs, even crafty, artful, allusive detailing but I am clearly, clearly not following enough of the precedents of history to be Traditional.



Once again, on the cusp.

What sign am I? What Style am I? Now I may just suck, or have skills, but its not due to any Style – or my Horoscope.

Of course, to some, designing under the sign of Modern means that you are a cruelly insensitive, culturally brutalizing narcissist. Of course, for others, doing architecture under the sign of Tradition means that you are an unthinking, pandering hack who has no original thoughts and that your work “threatens” the “progress” of architecture.

Unfortunately those of us who think about sites, clients, budgets and materials first, and foremost, do not design under the signs of Modern or Traditional. Designing to a name is as silly, to me, as my being defined by living under the sign of Leo. I am not my birthday. What I design does not follow a similarly arbitrary divination: Style.

But its worse than that. Shallow, defensive binary pigeon-holing has become the norm in architectural discourse. Modern Publications. Traditional Schools. Modern Conferences. Traditional Awards. This apartheid is not separate but equal: Modern is the Top Dog and Traditional is the victim.

This binary is in direct parallel play with our generation’s fundamentalist politics and religion. I, and every other architect, can be summarily dismissed by the superficiality of the gloss of our work solely as perceived in images, now mostly seen on tiny, hand held devices.

That attitude would mean that as a Leo, humility is simply feigned. As a non-Modern architect I am a pandering hack. As a non-Traditional architect I am arrogantly tone-deaf. One fact becomes all facts.

For the astrologically sensitive there is a specific, but hedged, faith that by living in a world where “Mercury is in RETROGRADE!” everything from marriages to the presidential race are incalculably impacted. Like all things spiritual, luck-defined, and religious, astrology persists, and, if you believe recent studies, is having a comeback because you cannot prove a negative.

For some it is Gospel that Modern Architecture has wrecked our cities, coarsened our view of the human condition and simply bulldozed our culture to where it is today. Of course for others the Canon declares that Traditional Architecture is a cave of Dead-Enders who are in denial about Everything.

More kids are vaccinated, more cases of autism: BINGO! But the Red Sox won a World Series (or two) even though the Bambino had Cursed them.

Very few people base their lives on astrology, and its acknowledged by the vast majority of its “believers” to be the spiritual equivalent of pop music: catchy, mind-occupying, but meaningless beyond distraction. Junk food fills bellies: its nutritional impact is down the road. Junk thinking, or not thinking, fills minds, but prevents further thought. Dissing or Devoting is easier than thinking and developing understanding thats leads to judgment.

Sadly very many of my fellow architects believe that Style is a meaningful Horoscope. Its easier to see a Leo, or a Style, than it is to listen, think and evaluate. Its easier to profile. Its easier to be prejudiced.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jerry johnson permalink
    June 2, 2016 6:36 pm

    Meaning without definition ?


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