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BAD FORM

Irrespective of whether or not his boss slaps him down, Patrik Schumacher must be regretting the convenience of modern architectural communications. I refer to his recent facebook postings. Do check them out – you’ll think you’ve stumbled upon the Deep Web and witnessing some threatening new world of social menace you wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Here’s the status update picked up by Dezeen.

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Here’s a hurried clarification.

Having carefully read the first 294 pages of Volume I of PS’s The Autopiesis of Architecture, I’m familiar with PS’s style of expression. I’d already formed the opinion that the author has a very narrow idea of architecture, and little patience for other people’s claims to produce it or judge it. Basically, Architecture is what Zaha Hadid Architects do and anything not done by them is not and can never be architecture. 

Writing two volumes about an analogy for how communications in architecture might be seen as operating in accordance with acknowledged function systems of society, seems to have made Schumacher think he controls those systems. He tends to get a bit tantrummy whenever things start moving in a direction he hasn’t imagined he directs them to move.

“STOP political correctness in architecture. But also: STOP confusing architecture and art.

I know I know. One can say anything on a facebook page or blog. If someone wants to get all declamatory about art and architecture or architecture and engineering then it’s all good. It’s his soapbox. As this is mine.

“Architects are in charge of the FORM of the built environment, not its content.

This statement is a potted summary of his book and his evidence for it. Or, to be fair, it’s a summary of what I’ve read of it – which, since October 26, 2012 has been the first 294 pages of Volume 1. I expect to finish Volume II just before 2020. I’ve been trying to come to grips with this supposedly academic work and won’t bother with unsupported claims like his one above. If PS wants to believe and say that, he can. However, statements like that do prompt entire discussions on his Facebook and perhaps with his Princeton students. Or perhaps not. I don’t know which thought I find more worrying.

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“We need to grasp this and run with this despite all the (ultimately conservative) moralizing political correctness that is trying to paralyse us with bad conscience and arrest our explorations if we cannot instantly demonstrate a manifest tangible benefit for the poor – as if the delivery of social justice is the architect’s competency.

My theory for which I will offer no evidence is that it’s easier to design for social injustice but that’s not what I want to highlight. Does anyone else think Patrik Schumacher is getting a bit overexcited? A bit psychological? Ever read this?

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Even serial killers think they’re making the world a better place by ridding it of whatever type of person annoys them. Last month, The Autopoiesis of Architecture suddenly turned scary when I realised its author actually believes what he’s written and is living in a fictional universe he’s created for himself and now, is getting annoyed everyone else isn’t living there too. It’s going to get messy. Which side will you be on? Architecture or revolution? Think carefully which side is which.

“Unfortunately all the prizes given by the last architecture biennale were motivated by this misguided political correctness. STOP political correctness in architecture! And yet, architecture is not a l’art pour l’art discipline. Architecture is NOT ART although FORM is our specific contribution to the evolution of world society.

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Any mental illness demands the rejection of alternate visions of the world. Victims of Schumacher Syndrome reject the idea that architecture should have some sort of social agenda and serve some social purpose.

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Any loser poor people out there were never targeted by ZHA’s product – they’re just not good business. They’re not who ZHA have crafted themselves to please. Not that poor people aren’t nice, it’s just that they have different priorities. ZHA hasn’t got where they are by catering to their needs. Business is business.

But with his recent facebook postings, Schumacher has crossed the line. Until now he merely saw Zaha Hadid Architects’ stylings as the only true agenda for architecture and the only hope there is for architects to serve humanity. But now, with this post, the man is now actively trying to discredit people who might just want to do a bit of good in the world in whatever way they might want to do it. Personally, I don’t think the Venice Bienalle is really in that much of a position to be moral arbiter of THE SOUL OF ARCHITECTURE, but poor Paddy is really really miffed at them not giving ZHA continuing and added recognition. Maybe we’ve witnessed peak ZHA. So it goes.

Another thing I learned from The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, is that when people don’t get loved, they pursue being hated with a similar drive. Fromm uses the example of Hitler. The Academy of Fine Arts Vienna didn’t care much for Hitler’s paintings.

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“WE NEED …

TO UNDERSTAND …

HOW NEW FORMS …

CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE …

FOR THE PROGRESS ….

OF WORLD CIVILIZATION [!!]

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I’m trying to understand… really am … reading the book ... still not getting it. Perhaps by 2020 I will. If not, I’ll have sorted out my own thinking, unswayed by deluded charlatans. Now it’s my turn to get annoyed. No sooner had I started to forget about Charles Jencks and distrust Remment Koolhaas when along comes Parametric Pat. It’s like there’s some bullshit vacuum that needs filling.

“I believe today this implies the intensification of communicative interaction with a heightened sense of being connected within a complex, variegated spatial order where all spaces resonate and communicate with each other via associative logics.”

Back on form, this is more like the Patrik we know. I’m not sure if he’s talking about architecture or facebook. I’m also not sure he is.

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Qatar Economy On Track For Double Digit Growth

We know that ZHA don’t give much thought to the ethical commissioning or the ethical procurement of buildings. To say that “Architects are in charge of the FORM of the built environment, not its content” is to willingly distance oneself from the often unsavoury political machinations that led to the commissioning of buildings as well as the distasteful economic and social circumstances that govern their construction. The end does not justify the means, no matter how much Schumacher has invented a world for himself in which it does. Let’s also not forget that the value, if any, of that “end” is highly subjective and often fleeting. As an indicator of just how fleeting that legacy is, how easy is it for you to name eight ZHA buildings? Quickly.

Two weeks ago, Zaha Hadid responded to questions about migrant worker deaths in Qatar, where her stadium is currently under construction, by saying that architects have nothing to do with the workers. “It’s not my duty as an architect to look at it,” said Hadid.

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“I have nothing to do with the workers,” said Hadid. “I think that’s an issue the government – if there’s a problem – should pick up. Hopefully, these things will be resolved.”

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To put it crudely, imagine some hypothetical despot fleecing his kingdom and impoverishing his people in order to commission Zaha Hadid Architects to design an extravagant temple to himself and then forcing his or some other people to build it. These things have been known to happen in the history of architecture. In this hypothetical scenario, Schumacher still sleeps well, dreaming of the contribution his forms are making to the progress of world civilisation, and of all the good he has done for society. “Let them eat shape!”

Migrant workers Qatar World Cup

People are beginning to make a connection between worker deaths and the type of architecture companies like Zaha Hadid Architects produces. It’s to do with clients. Specifically, it’s the extremely wealthy clients in countries with – not un-coincidentally – the cheap labour and the inadequate and/or unevenly-applied labour laws that enable the construction of buildings that would be prohibitively expensive elsewhere. Run your own checks. See if ZHA projects in countries with legal accountability and labour rights tend to be smaller, less ‘progressive’, more value-engineered, and not the flagship projects.

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Don’t overestimate Japan. The number of Iranian construction worker deaths during the fast-tracked construction of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has never been revealed.

3 thoughts on “BAD FORM

  1. Jonathan Strauss

    The words are a quoted from his text but in his terms are relative to art only.
    There are many responsibilities.
    It was interesting reading some of Shigeru Ban’s comments in the NYTimes following his Pritzkerification…………..a plea for the common man?
    “Young architects seem more and more interested in what I’m doing,” Mr. Ban told me over breakfast last week. “Everyone used to want to be star architects. That’s no longer the case.”

    Reply
  2. Jonathan Strauss

    ZHA “mission” statement;
    architecture; a freewheeling platform of experimentation and provocative communication, it is pure stimulation without any determinate instrumentality or responsibility

    Reply
    1. Graham McKay Post author

      No-one can accuse them of being hypocrites. People are of course free to be provocatively stimulated however they choose – take-it-or-leave-it, as ever. My only real objection to Schumacher is his thinking which attempts to deny everyone that choice. I’m in fact amused by his petulance when people (such as those in Venice) say they’re not really into what he is. I do worry about the denial of responsibility however. Moral responsibility and social responsibility, as we’ve seen, mean different things to different people. But I do wonder what happened to professional responsibility and why the ARB or RIBA don’t have anything to say about that. Instead ZH gets made a Dame for her “services to architecture”. Grim.

      Reply

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