Urbani izziv Volume 23, No. 1, June 2012
Michael W. MEHAFFY
Sustasis Foundation, Lake Oswego, Oregon, USA
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Media Lab, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA
Poststructuralist fiddling while the world burns: Exiting the self made crisis of “architectural culture”
We critique the current crisis for the environmental design professions: facing urgent ecological, social and economic imperatives, key leadership has become mired in the confusions of do-nothing postmodernist artistic doctrine. The result is a self-made state of paralysis, leaving the egregious mistakes of the past to be endlessly repeated, while it only matters that they are cloaked in ever more aesthetically extravagant artistic garb. We argue that this self-excusing paralysis arises because, under a poststructuralist infatuation with ambiguity, multiplicity and constructed meaning, an effective shared framework to address the urgent challenges of the built environment becomes impossible. This paralysis is rewarded, however, because it serves narrow economic interests, which are happy to find rationalisations for projects that might otherwise be rejected as of inferior quality. We conclude with the hopeful observation that the ingredients of such a framework are indeed emerging from the biological sciences and other fields. However, to make use of them, we argue, professionals must learn to critique, and finally to dispense with, the misapplications of non-productive forms of thinking, a number of which we specify herein. We hope this paper will serve as one small step on that important path.
environmental design criticism, architectural culture, poststructuralism, postmodernism, professional responsibility