On the Death of Architectural Theory and Other Spectres

By Hélène Frichot.

Published by The Design Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

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

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.113-122. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.145MB).

Dr. Hélène Frichot

Senior Lecturer, Program of Architecture, RMIT University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Dr. Hélène Frichot is a senior lecturer in architectural design and theory at RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia. While architecture is her first discipline, she holds a PhD in Philosophy from the University of Sydney. Hélène's work is published in the form of several book chapters, and peer reviewed and professional journals. Hélène co-curates the Melbourne-based public lecture series Architecture+Philosophy (http://architecture.testpattern.com.au).

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