illustration by E.S.
Why Useless Architecture
If architecture is “locked” in the “universal chain” of mutual “exploitation” and “channeling” of human life – where every human practice is used for another practice’s goals – perpetuating, in this way, the general condition of instrumentality (nothing is important, including humans, because everything is instrumental), Useless Architecture would give presence to that suppressed human need to be loved for what you are, and not for what you perform. Everybody knows that need.
Design a house without interior space. Or, design the ruins of a building whose original function you do not know. Or, design a small summer house for a Parisian clochard – situated on the sidewalk of a small Parisian street or square. Do not try to meet any of his needs. In summer, he does not need a house at all. Use your professional architectural knowledge to give his life presence.
Why Destructured Architecture
If formal order, structural stability, and durability of buildings are established as architectural metaphors of institutional order, stability of power systems, and durability of ideologies, then, perhaps, Destructured Architecture would give presence to the basic human need for transcendence of given establishments, conditions, or constraints. To deconstruct a structure is a pleasure. Every child knows that.
Think of an institution or people you do not particularly like. Then, design for “them” a “shelter” that, while still standing, would really be “mature” for structural and formal disintegration, and would very clearly express that condition. Use your professional knowledge of formal order and structures the way a criminal with a medical degree would use a scalpel. Prepare a model and test/taste its tendency for formal and structural disintegration.
Why Ugly Architecture
If architecture is embodiment, expression, or a presence of human values, then, we could imagine appreciating Ugly Architecture the way we value people for courage, honesty, sensibility, and intelligence – and not necessarily for beautiful appearance. Designing Ugly Architecture would, perhaps, open our eyes wider to aspects of human existence beyond appearance.
Try to discern and describe for yourself what “ugliness” in architecture would be. Then, design an “ugly” house for your best friend. Observe the relief of not having to make the house “beautiful”. There is also, in your friend, an “embarrassed”, “poor”, “alienated” side that you, as a friend, see and understand. Give presence to that side too.
If you really like an exercise – repeat it.
On the Need to Design Useless, Destructured, and Ugly Architecture
Published in: Dimensions, no 7 (1993), 70-71
Journal of the College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Aditya Dev Sood (Editor of Dimensions at that time) called my article “The Anti-Architecture Manifesto.”
Discipline vs “Field” Discourse