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On Power In Architecture

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Nick Backer
Arch 511
February 24, 2019
Power/Difference/Embodiment
FischerFischer’s chapter embodies an analysis of architectural criticality through the lens of Rem Koolhaas and
his theories on the practicality and ability to be critical in architecture. Fischer accomplishes this by
analyzing differences in critical theory through historical contexts, divulging different theories of
criticality such as Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory with a slant towards architectural theory in a capitalist
system and through Marxist interpretation, and taking a look at the role of critical thought in criticism in
which he argues we must move past and evolve our current methods of critical thought to be more
constructive.
This chapter made me think about criticality and while it does bring up some good points, I can’t help
but feel that he is trying to pigeonhole criticism into various types and for specific purposes, a very
bottom-up approach to being critical. Even the end of the chapter gives a recipe for “new critiques” that
shun aesthetics and politics, however, what if the goal of the architecture is wholly political or based on
looks? This whole theory could be made much more simple by stating that an architectural work should
be critiqued against the goals and judgment criteria that were used to create the work.
RendellJane Rendell provides an overview of debate around feminism and architecture from the 1970’s to the
1990’s. She explains central concerns raised by the question of gender in architecture through
architectural texts that both align with feminist theory and those that are not clearly motivated by
feminist issues. Rendell breaks the article into two parts: Tendencies, where she outlines how the
emphasis in the past in regards to engagement with gender difference has changed in response to
feminism, and Trajectories, where she discusses the current architectural environment in relation to
current theorists interested in feminism and gender.
This article led me down a rabbit hole concerning Derrida and his deconstructionist theory being
mobilized by the feminist critique. I had never heard of Derrida before and the views he expresses about
deconstructivism are very metaphysical and existential. His argument against structuralism in
deconstructionism and that there are no actual meanings to words (works) themselves, only signs that
point to other signs in relation to one another proposes an interesting aspect of design that can be
translated from his literary theory to architectural theory.
WeizmanWeizman takes an aim at dissident practices from the end of the Cold War to evaluate possibilities of
contemporary architecture with an overview and evaluation in dissident architecture throughout
history. The question of dissent in architecture must be raised against a completely different social,
cultural, and political climate from the Cold War era and Weizman concludes by encouraging a
mobilization of dissent in architecture to go beyond the current limits of its critical stand.
One of the most ironic things in this article is the passage in which Weizman states that in the 2000’s the
Russian government hired the best of Western Architects to help rebuild its image but lamented it
“turbo capitalism” as being too vulgar to offer anything new. This pushed the local architects to step
back and embrace the classical traditions pitched against ‘Anglo-Saxon capitalism’. The very people
Russia brought in to transform the country did indeed succeed, just not in the way they hoped.
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