Thursday, September 16, 2010

Have you heard the call?

Patrik Schumacher gave a talk at Columbia tonight. It was really a talk because it was all words. Too much of just words. The basic message he wanted to communicate was: there should be only one direction of architecture, and that one direction is Parametricism. It was unbearable. But I challenged myself and managed to stay until the end.

(Below: quotes in italics, reactions in regular.)

Part 1. One Direction

We the protagonists...
"Artists should be a kind of antagonists of their culture." - Keith Haring

There is a premise of a unified system of architecture, but we see no "collective action" by architects now.
A unified system doesn't mean a singular expression. If architects are all willing to take on their social responsibility, the "collective action" could be to make our world better. We set out with the same belief, but means may vary.

There can't be many parallel practices that contradict each other.
It's shocking that somebody still thinks like that in our level of civilization now. Our world has reached a degree of complexity that different voices can co-exist. The social structure is flattened by the internet platform and grassroots can express their opinions freely and make their talents visible. Healthy rivals bring more interesting colors to our world.
Architecture is an open discourse. There should be different trajectories that challenge each other in order to foster discussion. New ideas emerge from discussions, or even fights. If there were only one voice, our world would be monotonous and static. No discussion, no challenge, and there would be no development. Who's THE ONE we should listen to anyways? Are you proposing we just make our beloved Iraqi princess dictator of our discipline and put all the angry young men into a concentration camp?

Individual practice has to be coherent. If you do something different tomorrow, all your work today is undone.
I wrote about consistency before. It's important to try different things. And that doesn't make what you did disappear. I am not saying you should change your mind every day. But we should not just stick to one thing and reject other possibilities. Curiosity and the courage to explore is what creativity is all about.

That's Karl Marx's observation of social relations. Here I will talk about architecture and design.
Who are you?

Form is internal to architecture (self-referential), while function is external.
It sounds like autonomy all over again. Just drop the curtains and start masturbating!
Function is something imposed onto architecture? Architecture exists because of its forms? Ask Laugier about that.

Two binary codes of architecture: codes of utility - functioning (useful) and disfunctional (useless); codes of beauty - formally resolved (beautiful) and formally unresolved (ugly).
What an insightful observation! What a novel discovery!

Everything is bankrupt. Parametricism is the only way to avoid crisis. So many young architects are eager to jump on this ship because there's no other ship!
Yeah, you're right...

Parametricism continues the autopoiesis of architecture... It creates endless forms!
Alas! Form-making is the ultimate goal of architecture, and architecture can self-generate. Architects should just all die.

Part 2. Parametricism

Essential definition of Parametricism: All the elements of architecture have become parametrically malleable. The striking advantage is the intensification of relations.
I totally support parametric design technique for its superb capacity of dealing with complicated relations. In the digital age, our computers can handle such great amount of data in such a short time! The potential of dealing with intensified relations is huge. But from what I've seen so far, the only application of parametric design is to manipulate the FORMAL elements of architecture, not ALL the elements. When will the users come into the formula? How can we include the truly intense relations between all the socio-economic realms? Environmental issues?

Parametricism is the great new style after modernism.
I would agree this is a valid claim if there's not the word "great." Post-modernism and Deconstructivism were just transitional. And now parametrics is really everywhere! But the question is, do we really need it as a style? Or do we still need a style at all?

Minimalism is nothing but neo-modernism.
I wish I had been to Marfa so I can argue with more confidence. But I think I have seen enough elsewhere.

Where are we going then? Nature! We see complex variegated order!
Wow, almighty nature! There are many things to say about nature, but you forget one important fact: nature evolves. Diversity is key to evolution. And it always seeks a balance between different species. It's the harmonious co-existence of multiplicity, not singularity...

Principles of Parametricism:
Taboos - No rigid forms; no repetition; no pure difference (collage of isolated unrelated elements).
Dogmas - Soft forms (intelligent!); differentiation; correlation.

Really? Everything should only be curved because there are no straight lines in nature? Buildings should only look like jellyfish or slugs to be "smart"? I like the notion of correlation though. It tells the complex nature of design and suggests the inter-articulation of multiple sub-systems. They inform each other and adapt to an overall optimum. And for sure, parametric design is a great tool to test and visualize that.

(Pointing at some renderings)These are some arbitrary moves to initiate beauty.
Everybody dance!

Avoid to think in terms of essence. You should think about gradient fields of activity.
Wait, did you just talk about the "essential definition" of Parametricism? And why isn't activity something essential? Maybe by activity you mean the "arbitrary moves" mentioned above? OK, let's just stay with superficiality. Let's dance.

We gave our students a harder time in order to push them to do what we can't do in the office.
Why are  there double standards? What are the constraints limiting you from doing what you want the students to do? Structure? Site? Budget? If those are the reality of our profession, why should the students be set away from them? If you advocate to widen the distance between academia and practice, how dare you condemn Archigram and Yona Friedman as utopian nonsense?

(Note: I apologize if I sound like an old man who complains about every new change in life. I don't oppose parametric design per se. I value the effort to theorize things. It's just not convincing when someone pretends to be a thinker.)


Doug C. said...

Ah manifestos, when you were young and your opinion was the only allowable.

tee said...

Amen Bro!

I just came across to your blog from Archdaily. This Post is the beast one for me. I've been puke(ing)about that for awhile.
I do believe that Parametricism has a role to play in architecture. However, it should not be be-all and end-all. love your writing.