The relevance and use of theory when approaching the discipline of architecture would appear to have become eclipsed by the excitement associated with increasingly well-established digital design techniques and technologies. Digital design, especially where it calls forth the evocative term, emergence, admits a renewed fascination in nature whereby genetic algorithmic models are appropriated from mathematics and biological science and deployed in novel design processes. One of the results of this shift in emphasis is the apparent obsolescence of theory: we no longer need to reflect upon, or intellectually engage in what we are doing. If we are to believe Sarah Whiting, Rob Somol, as well as Michael Speaks, then we have entered a ‘post-critical’ era in which the negative critical work of theory, and its burdensome emphasis on textual analysis and dialectics, can be displaced with a ‘projective’, ‘performative’, ‘cool’ and ‘atmospheric’ architecture. Reinhold Martin, another American architect and theorist, weighs in against the ‘post-critical’ players and asks by what criteria they hope their work will be judged. Certainly it would appear that there is a slippery slide into habit, opinion and cliché, and even worse, a loss of political engagement that attends the ‘post-critical’ aspiration to be cool and easy, to resist resistance, and avoid dissent. Jeffrey Kipnis, in turn, asks whether there is not the glimmer of a possibility of a new ‘metacritical’ discourse that is orientated around affect, which inevitably returns us to the work of such philosophers and theorists as Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. This paper will map a recent history that marks the decline of theory and the rise of cool digital techniques and technologies and ask what is at stake with respect to how architecture can continue to speak for itself and what risks are posed in the forgetting of architectural theory.
|Keywords:||Architectural Theory, Projective Design, Post-Critical, Digital Architecture, Affect|
Senior Lecturer, Program of Architecture, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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