Skip to content

“See-Click” Architecture

July 11, 2016

IMG_6572The 21st century has proven to be a tough time for the American psyche. People are killing people on the basis of what they look like. People are killing strangers and themselves because of what they believe – with no evident strategy other than to cause death.

These nightmares are not spontaneous – they come from somewhere. Our culture has been leveled to universal capacity for expression on the internet – a good thing. But our 300 million voices are not in thoughtful dialogue – we are screaming at each other in a high tech Tower of Babel intellectual hellhole.

Architecture is part of our culture, its passions do not involve violence, but a cascade of anger and fear propels collateral impacts. Its not just tone – bitchy commentary has been around since there has been commentary – but the actual mechanisms of communication of building to critic – and critic to commentary – are skewing to the streaming word of unfiltered, unedited unthinking reaction.

We are becoming a reactionary culture of instant judgments based solely on pixels.

I fear that architecture journalism is becoming a HOUZZ/Pintarest/Instagram paradigm of mindless clicking between endless images. Images uber alles. No one asks what the budget was, what the owner loves, what the zoning code demanded, what compass point a façade faces: its just judged: instantly, permanently, prejudicially on the basis of a few thousand pixels.

Hundreds of millions of us are being conditioned to instantly judge thought, emotion or belief on its most superficial visual aspects. Historically architecture has had a unique trinity of platform. First there is the Reality of the Built Thing: use, context, cost, material, and technology. Second the ideas, values and cultural implications of our built stuff created aesthetic argument in intellectual terms. Last, the visual reality of the project – aesthetics dumbed down to “style”. Only the last, cosmetic platform of judgment is comparable with the welling attitude of ignoring substance by fixating on style.

Beyond the new mechanics of commentary, I believe the normal historic dissings between “movements” found in architectural aesthetics could become, or perhaps already are, infected with the growing snark of flaming trolls.

The outpouring of love at Zaha Hadid’s passing by “thought leaders” had a dark side by many who lurk in the underbelly of the internet – Prior to that, Frank Gehry’s “99% is shit” hissy fit sparked any number of radical “attaboy” and “tone deaf” responses

I think architects are on the edge of mutual dismissiveness to the point of radicalized aesthetic rejectionism . It took Robert Venturi’s coverboy rejection of Post-Modernism to get the AIA Gold Medal In contrast, New Urbanist, Classicist, and Traditional architecture expressions, venues, awards and institutions grow, spread and become rejectionist of the 21st century

I fear America’s overwhelming wave of visual addiction will suck architectural thought and commentary down to an even baser level of mindless profiling than we are experiencing now. Sexting turned flirting into porn. Hillary’s hair is PERFECT or evidence she is a lesbian. The Donald’s hair is an endless indictment of his intellect. Any Kardashian visual instantly explodes millions of imitations or screaming, freaking hate-spews.

Architectural commentary was dumbed down to a 2D reality since the advent of the camera – forever changing architecture. But the last 20 years has seen cyber-spawned pixels engorge our screens in a stream of architectural porn that has made for endless architectural “selfies”

Live by the selfie, die by the selfie: while human selfies are subjected to judgments of “fat”, “old”, “Hot” , “rockin’” or any number of emotocons, architecture has but a few “style” sieves. The trivialization of all criteria for aesthetic judgment becomes an instant click of image – a “like”, a “share”, a “visit”. Architectural journalism via a Match.Com modality of instant “See-Click” analysis.

The same safe anonymous radicalization that vaporizes any depth of perception and sensibility in our politics will inevitably come into aesthetics. Critics are actually commenting on architecture, right now, in 120 character Tweets.

Architecture has had a polite extremity profiling buildings to laud elite Modernist dominance. But now, differences in most areas of society are no longer polite: they are viciously projected. Will the “other”- the non-Mod minority – find increasing voice in anonymous righteous anger? Will the “correct” aesthetic, the Modernist establishment, troll and mock the “other” into absurd, insulting caricature? Will we build a wall between “Style”’s – and who will pay for it?

Will Radical Architectural Extremism result from a devolving culture? I hope not. But this year has seen more than its share of dashed hopes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: