I’m beginning to understand why I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye with most of the UIC faculty – they’re mainly concerned with finding new forms and new ways of generating form, while I’m interested more in the social engineering side of architecture.
This really came to the forefront at yesterday’s debate between Paul Preissner and Alex Lehnerer, in which they covered a variety of subjects, which all, however, revolved around form. Intrigued by the one-dimensionality of the discussion, I asked Paul (I don’t know that much about Alex’s work, but judging by what he said he’s as much of a formalist as Paul is) what he proposed to present to the new audiences he created with his slick and often beautiful forms. The gist of his answer was “nothing” – he has no ambitions for his architecture beyond the purely formal. None.
That’s more or less what I suspected, but it’s still a bit of a disappointment. The school purports to be innovative, but it’s still stuck in the Peter Eisenman mode of architectural autonomy of the 1960s. Architecture for architecture’s sake. Frankly, I find that pretty boring.
For me the promise of great architecture is the creation of a better world. That means architecture that doesn’t limit itself to museums, theaters and rich people’s houses. If it is to have any relevance in the future beyond providing eye candy for architecture fans, it has to deal with the street, with the city, and with the everyday environment. It has to face current issues, with environmental concerns chief among them. Without a deeper substance beyond the flashy facades, it cannot hope to stir a deeper interest, to keep the new audiences its bold forms may be gathering, and it certainly will not have a very significant place in history once the novelty wears off.
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