25 things I am not or have not done, or that haven’t happened to my family or anyone I know

I thought I’d post it here, too, just in case anyone actually looks in.

The rules:
You do not have to write a similar note or to send it to anyone else. You don’t even have to read these.

  1. I am not a platypus, donkey or squirrel.
  2. I have not swam across the English Channel.
  3. I have never started a successful business, if success be measured financially.
  4. When I was a child, I was never accosted by a crazy guy who tried to rip my head off but then turned out to be a nice guy when he went back on his medication.
  5. My mother never told me that I was adopted.
  6. The three things I did not hate as a child were milk, cream-of-wheat and carrot juice.
  7. I don’t have a very good memory, but I don’t forget faces easily.
  8. It has never been my goal to pillage neighboring villages.
  9. I’m not a fan of religion.
  10. I’m not a fan of TV sports.
  11. I’m also not a fan of bureaucracy.
  12. I’m even less a fan of corporate power.
  13. I was never in the Air Force, the Marines or the Coast Guard.
  14. I was also never a part of the Pope’s Swiss Guards.
  15. When I was young, I did not dream of becoming a doctor or a lawyer. Come to think of it, I don’t think being a lawyer is such a great thing even today.
  16. I do not smoke (anything), and I haven’t smoked anything for a long time. I don’t think smoking is a nice habit, but I don’t condemn those who do to everlasting hellfire.
  17. I don’t really have the power to condemn anything or anyone to everlasting hellfire, and probably wouldn’t if I did.
  18. I never caught myself saying “Oooh, I’ve just got to have those!” in a shoe store.
  19. I don’t understand the allure of shopping for clothes, furniture or jewelry.
  20. I haven’t earned any money with photography, my first chosen profession, in nearly half a year.
  21. Nobody I know has – as far as I know – been elected president of Moldova.
  22. By conviction I am neither a Communist, Socialist, Libertarian, Republican nor Democrat, and I have never been a member of any political party.
  23. I am not getting younger every day.
  24. My maternal grandfather never climbed Mt. Everest. On further thought, to the best of my knowledge neither did any of my other family members.
  25. Despite what some may believe, I’m not anti-everything.

Architectural screaming

If Renaissance architecture could be compared to music, today’s can often be heard screeching, and screeching about itself, to boot. What else is a Gehry Bilbao, a NRA Shipping and Transport College or an OMA CCTV other than a scream of “Look at me!!! Hey, I’m here!!! Admire me for f****’s sake!!!”?

Not that I have anything in particular against these buildings – in fact I distinctly like the two latter ones for various reasons. But I also have a feeling that what’s needed today is an architecture that speaks, if it can’t sing, or at least doesn’t poke you in the ribs every time you try to look away.

Form and function

Functionalism is dead, at least as far as the UIC School of Architecture is concerned. However, having been accused of “secret formalism” by our director, R.E. Somol, a.k.a. Bob, I thought I would examine that accusation. Not that I ever really made a big secret out of my functionalist leanings – buildings have to have a purpose outside the cultural discourse, otherwise they become nothing more than works of art.

There are two main arguments against functionalism, the best I can see. One is that the function of a building can and often does shift during its lifetime, while its form is likely to remain the same. A school can be turned into a prison, a church can become a warehouse or a night club, without changing its form significantly. The second, (somewhat related) is that function in fact has no relationship to form – the same function can be served by radically different formal arrangements. All true. However, does this mean that function becomes irrelevant? Is form the be-all and end-all of architecture? Shouldn’t architects take the needs and wishes of their buildings’ future occupants into consideration?

Best as I can understand it, Bob’s answer is “no” – that an architect should control the organization and form of a building without reference to the occupants, whose needs will change over time, not to mention the fact that the occupants themselves will too.

Obviously at some level this is a purely academic debate, as in the real world few architects get to impose their will on a project entirely. In most cases the client has plenty to say about what a building will look like in the end, or at least how it will function. Still, is an outright rejection of function as a factor in designing buildings, as per Peter Eisenman, a reasonable approach? I think not.

Eisenman once wrote that the factor that separates architecture from sculpture is “wallness”. Poppycock, I say – the difference between sculpture (“pure art”, let’s call it) and architecture is its inhabitability. Sweet and simple – if you can’t live or work in the final goal of your work, you’re not doing architecture.

In order for a building to be inhabitable, it has to take into account at least the basic needs that humans have. That means that spaces meant for them must have certain features without which a building is no longer a building, but a collection of surfaces and systems that have some other purpose – ergo, not architecture. Therefore, architecture by definition has to be functional, and if so, its functionality is a valid point for architects to consider, whether the idea is currently passe or not.