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Pract ice vs. Project

I must say that wh at interests me mo re is to



conscious goal

of arc h itecture, I t hink

more along t he l ines of that general history of the techne , ra t her t ha n t he h is to ri es of eit her t he


focus on

wh at t he Greeks called techne, a pract ica l rationality governed




if one w ante d to do a history

that it should be muc h

exact sc ie nce s or t he inexact o ne s. Michel Foucault

Art and arc hitecture are practices , not sciences. The constructions of science aspire to un iver- sal app licat io n. Pictu re s and buildings need only work whe re they are .

Dave Hickey


Imost unique among creative practices, architecture's objective is given from outside Architects, unlike painters, sculptors, or pocts, depend on clients and pa- trons to execute their work. As a consequence, they are likely to work across a wide array of scales. building types, climates. economics. and building cultures . Architecture is of necessity a discipline of circumstance and situation. Even in the most ideal careers, many decisions are beyond the control of the individual architect . The process of design and construction is char-

acterized by constant tactical adjustments made to the demands of clients, codes, consulta.nts,

budgets, builders, and regulatory agencies,

itself. Moreover, architects today practice far from home, and each new site presents unfamiliar

conditions . As creative subjects, architects react to these demands, inventing in response to the occasion of the com mission, specifying and particularizing a given set of abstract variables. The

practice of architecture tends to be messy and inconsistent precisely because it has to negotiate a reality that is itself messy and inconsistent

not to mention the complex logistics of construct ion


Against this landscape of contingency, architectural theory has traditionally served a unifying

f unction

Without a larger ideological framework, it is argued , the arch itect run s the ri sk of rea ctin g

passively to t he mu lt iple and often cont radictory deman ds of

it is argu ed , needs a gran d narrat ive in order not to be entirel y

consumed by th ese small narratives of opportu nity and constraint. And so, in order to legitimate it s mechanical procedures, practice appeals to a project: an ov erarc hing theoretical constru ct. defined

medi a, or econom ics. Arch it ect ure,

context. clients. regulating agencies,

from someplace other than the studio or the bu ilding site. and expressed rn a medium ot her than

buildings and drawings. Detached from the operational si tes of technique, theory sta kes a claim on a

world of concepts unco ntamin ated by real world cont ing enc ies. Theory needs di stance for its reflec-

that detachment, the possi bility o f incremental chan ge from w it hin is

tions ; but as a consequence of

held in che ck. Theo ry's promise is to make up for wha t practice lacks: t o confer un ity on the w ildly

disparate procedures of

design an d con structi on .

This tensio n is on ly pa rtiall y offse t by t he tend ency of conve nt ional practi ce to repeat known solutions . Too often, co nte mpo rary practice oscillates between mecha nical repetition and shallow

novelty. Conventional practice renounc es theory, but in so doing , it sim p ly reiterates unstated th e-

oretical as sump t ions, It works according t o a serie s of enabling codes, wh ic h themsel ves compr ise

a ran do m sam pling of the dicta tes of professional practice and the learned habits of normal design

culture . It is these unexamin ed code s t hat give pract i ce a bad name. Th e protocols of normal

prac tice

m ay be modifi ed or adapted in response to circumstance , but are rarely cha llenged . De sign is re duce d

to t he im plementat ion of rul es set down elsewhere. If theory impo ses regulated ideological criteria

ove r the undisciplined heterogeneity of the real , the unsta te d assumptions of co nventi ona l practice

enforce known sol utions and safe repet it ions . In both cases, sm all differences accumulate, but they

never add up to ma kea difference

If conventi ona l practice and th eoretically driven crir:ical practices are similarly stru ctured, it

cannot be a qu estion of go i ng bey on d t heory, o r of leaving theory behi nd. W hat is proposed here is instead a notion of practice fle xibl e enough to engage the com pl exity of th e real, yet

suffici entl y secure in its own t echnical an d theoretical bases to go beyond the simple reflec-

tion of the real as given. Not a static re fle ction of concep t s defined elsewhere (either the codes

of professional practice or the dictates of ideologically dri ven t heory) but a

movement, capable of producing new concepts out of the hard logic of archi tecture's working

rigo rous forward

procedures, Paradoxically, practice, which i s usually assumed to be unproblematically identi-

fied w ith reality. wi ll discover new uses fo r t heory on ly as it mo ves closer to t he complex an d

problemat i c character of the real its el f . Practice necessarily res pects the ver ifIable laws that

to t he fac t th at these laws operate w i t h out

rega rd to cons iste ncy or established conventions of rational expres sion. Thi s attention to the

gaps and incon s isten cies in theo r y's fit t o reality i s, as T S. Kuhn has poin te d out, a treme n d o u s

source of inven ti on and creativity.l It is precis ely wh en practice and experime nta t ion turn up inconsistencies In the "normal science" th at new theories are produced.

govern matter and forces , but it is also a tte n t ive


f Hence it is of litt l e use to see theory and practice as competing abstractions, and to argue for one over the other. Theories and practices are both produced in definable spaces, by active, conscious subjects, Intelligent, creative practices-the writing of theory included-are always more than the

is defined precise -

ly by its movements and trajectories. There is no theory, there is no practice, There a re only practices,

which consist in action and agency. They unfold in t ime, and their repetitions are never identical. It is for th is reas on tha t the knoW-how of practice (whether of writi ng or design) is a cont inual source of innovation and change. Tactical improvisations accumulate over time to produce new models for operation. But these new patterns of operation produced in practice are always provisional. Inas- much as they derive from expe rience and data, they are always open to revision on the basis of new experiences, or new data . Deliberately executed , architecture's procedures are capable of producing

always be

habitual exerc ise of rules defined elsewhere.

Practice i s not a static construct. but

systemat ic thought: serial, precise, and clinical; something that resembles theory but will marked by the constructive/crea t ive cr iteria of practice .

Pragmatism unsti ffens all our t heo ries: it limbers them up and se t s eac h one at wor k.

William James


nstead of opposing theory and practice, imagine competing categories of practice: one primari ly textual. bound up with rep resentation and interpretation : a hermeneutic, or

forces, and material change : a

material practice. The consequence of this would be to say that there is no fixed category called

'practice,~ no fixed category called "theo ry ." There

are primarily critical, discursive, or interpretive , and material practices: activities that tran s- form reality by producing new objec ts or new organizations of matter,

practic~s of wri ting. which


discursive practice; and the other concerned with matter,

a re only practices:

Discursive practices work in the space between texts , and they produce more texts . Material practices often involve operations of translation, transposition or trans-coding of multiple media. Although they work to transform matter, material practices necessarily work through the intermediary of abstract codes such as projection, notation or calculation. Constantly mix ing media in this way, material prac- tices produce new concepts out of the materials and procedures of work itself. The vector of analysis in

hermeneut ic practic es always po ints toward the past, whereas materia l practices analyze the present in order to project transformations into the future . Discursive practices look critically at what already ex- ists ('things made"). while material practices bring new things into being: 8 t hings in the making.- 2


Gio Pon t i_Ele ven Me! erSt ructuralTest Model , Dire/Ii Tower, Milan , 1956

Gio Pon t i_Ele ven Me! erSt ructuralTest Model , Dire/Ii Tower, Milan , 1956

Architecture, I want to say right from the beginning, is a material, and not a discursive practice, and by being clear about what this mean s, we can steer around much of the obscurity that character- izes debates today. If you understand architecture as "built discourse" it becomes very easy to forget about the specificity of building and begin to compare architecture to other discursive practices such

as writing, fi lm, new media, or graphic design. And if you do so, you begin to notice that. compared to these other practice s, architecture is relatively inert as discourse. It cannot approach the transpar- ency and speed of these other media. And so , If discursive communICation (commentary, critique or explanation) is your ultimate criterion, there is a great temptation to leave architecture behind, and to move toward these other practices . It you try to make architecture do something that it does not fundamenta lly do very well, you may decide in the end that it's no t worth the trouble. (And practic- ing architecture is, if nothing else, a troublesome pursuit.) In contrast to this attitude, which sees architecture's materiality as an impediment to be overcome-something that is slowing it down in

a world of speed and co m mun icat ion- I have consistently tried to look more openly at the specific

opportunities presented by architec tu re's material and instrumental properties. Visual culture and material practices have their own rules, and those rules are different from t hose that govern texts.


on the contrary, insistently affirmative and instrumental. Material practices do not comment on the world, they operate in and on theworld. They produce ideas and effects through the volatile medium

of artifacts, Short-circuiting the establi shed pathways of theory and discourse. This is architecture's attraction: its source of creativity. operational power, and-not the least - pleasure. Today, the most

in tere sting practitioners no longer ask what architecture is, or what it means, but rather what it can

do. From a theoretical point of view, it is less a matter of argu ing in favor of architecture·s instrumen-

tality as it is acknowledging that any theoretical approach that cannot account for architecture's in- trinsically instrumental character is going to fall short.

is for this reason

that architecture has never been pa rt icularly effective as

a vehicle of criticism. It is,

One of the urgent consequences of this more pragmatic approach would be to move us away from the private world of the architect's design proces s, and its preoccup ation with questions of meaning, and the politics of identity, to an open discu ssion of architecture's agency in t he pub lic sp here. It would necessarily shift attention away f rom the architect as the producer of mean- ing, and pay closer attention instead to the life of buildings in the wor ld. It might help to get us beyond the f iction that meaning is the resu lt of something that happens in the course of the design process . Meaning is not something added to architecture: it is a much larger, and a slip- perier, momentary thing . It is not located in the architecture: it is what happens to and around architecture as part of a complex social exchange. It happens in the interval, as t he result of an encounter between architecture and its publ ic, in the field.

A materia l practice, therefore, would have little

conventions of agency and inst rume ntali ty. It would be instead persistently skeptical and contrary, a

stubborn practice that would hold those generic norms to strict performative criteria, and leave them

to do with the easy acquiescence to existin g norms and


behind when they fall short. When the only certainty is change itself, practice can no longer depend on stable rules and conventions. Tethered to a fast-moving reality, material practices need to be agile and responsive, which often requires that they leave behind some of t he weighty baggage of received ideas This is a more uncertain, but also more optimistic program, Conceived as a material practice, archi- tecture achieves a practical (and therefore provisional) unity inferred on the baSIS of its ensemble of procedures, rather than a theoretical unity conferred from without by ideo logy or discourse, Such a notion of practice maintains a deep respect for hist ory, and for architecture's past. The accumulated catalog of architecture's rules and procedures is accepted as a starting point, a common language that serves as a basis for any conversation. And yet, unlike the conservative project that would see the structure of the discipline as a limit, histo r ica l ly defined, the pragmatic knOW-how of technique does not necessarily respect precedent.) The criterion of productivity simp ly bypasses outmoded working strategies, leaving the discipline open to new techniques, which may in turn be incorporat.ed into the catalog of architecture's working procedures

Material practices unfold in time, with a full awareness of the history of the discipline, but never satis- fied to simply repeat, or to execute a system of rules defined elsewhere, Architecture's limits are un -

derstood pragmatically-as a resource and an opportunity -

titioner looks for performative multiplicities in the interplay between an open catalog of procedures and a stubbornly indifferent reality. Constraint is not an obstacle to creatiVity, but an oppo rtunity for invention, provoking the discovery of new techniques. Under the pragmatics of material practice, the fixed structu re of the discipline is neither rejected nor affirmed . A hardheaded skepticism is applied as much to the dictates of theory as to the inherited convent ions of normal practice. They are subject not to critical interrogation, but to an"erotics" of doubt

and not a defin ing boundary. The prac -

The space of doubt differs from th,e space of certainty in that doubt narrows the distance between theory and the world . If theoretical refiection entails being at a certain remove from the world, doubt returns thought to openness before the world; it involves a loss of mastery and control which places thought in a more

vulnerable relation

to the world than before ,4

Material practices are tools to open architecture to the world; refusing the safety of theory's disem- bodied distance, a material practice is marked by the uncertainty of an ever-shifting reference in the world itself. Nota Cartesian doubt that works by process of elimination to arrive ata core of unshak- able propositions, but a tactic for dealing with an imperfect reality with a catalog of tools that is itself always incomplete, imperfect, and inadequate


amples of principles enunciated elsewhere, or cases to be tested against the ru le of theory's law Par- ticular instances are met with particular solutions. Consistency and rationality are guaranteed by

the hard logic of structure, and by the Indifferent behavior of materials themselves . In the case of Wright, the rational behavior of structure is not. an absolute fact to be given material expression, but an opportunity and a resource~a point o f provisional stability to be freely handled .s The measure of Wright's"mastery" of the terms of building is as much his knowledge of where und when t.o compro- mise, as in any mythic uppeal to int.egrity and the "truth to materials." This is a way of working that assumes that the ability of architecture to generate perceivable experiences and sensations in the world~practical consequences and effect.s~is more important than its conformance or non-con- formance with some abstract set of theoretical criteria

To claim that architecture is a material practice, working in and among the world of things~an instru- mental practice capable of t ransforming reality~is not to lose sight of architecture's complicated com- promise with techniques of representation. 6 Inasmuch as architects work at a distance from the material

reality of their diSCipline, they necessarily work through t he mediation of systems of representation . Ar- chitecture itself is marked by this promiscuous mixture oft.he real and the abstract: at once a collection of activities characterized by a high degreeof abstraction, and at t he same time directed toward the produc- tion of materials and artifacts that are undeniably real. The techniques of representation are never neu - tral, and architecture's abstract means of imagining and realiZing form leave their traces on the work. To

therefore to pay atten -

understand representation as technique (in Foucault's broader sense of techne) is

tion to the paradoxical character of a discipline t.hat operates to organize and transform material reality,

but must do so at a distance, and through highly abstract means . To concentrate on the inst rumental- ity of drawing is to pay attention to the complex process of what. Robin Evans has called ·'translations" between drawing and building . It is th is effort to understand the traffic between geometry, imagina- tion and construction that has motivated the three essays on drawing techniques that open this volume

The characterization of architecture as a material practice deserves one final qua l ification. These translations between drawing and building today take place within a larger flow of images and

but be affected by its

intersection with this dom inant media culture . Architecture has always maintained a mechan ism of

expla nation and normative description alongside material production: treatises, catalogs, journals, conferences, and texts . In the past this was related to pedagogy, and the dissemination of profes-

spiraling motion wh ereby materials from outside

sional information. Today there is an accelerated,

architecture (most notably, the immaterial effects offilm, new media, or graphic design), have been cycled back through the discipline to enlarge architecture's catalog of available t.echniques

information. Architecture's culture of instrumental representat ions cannot help

This image culture belongs to the new ways of thinking and seeing that have emerged with modernity: shifting mental schemas that mark our uncertain position in the modern world. and force us to see how the practice of architecture has been constantly revised by the comple x currents of twentieth century thought. '? Michael Speaks has proposed t.hat the exercise of what he calls design intel-


There can be no difference wh ich doesn't ma ke a difference- no difference in abstract tru t h w hich does no t exp ress it se lf in a differe nce of co ncret e fac t , and of cond uct consequent upon the f act , imp o se d on so m ebody, some how, somewhe re, and somewhen .

William James


W hen speaking of techniques of construction, it is important to remember that the archi- tect is not a builder, but a specifier of construction technique . The architect works with d- knowledge of the methods and matenals of construction in bmh design and Implementa-

tion, but the Impact of this knowledge is indirect . What is more significant is the way in which the vari - ables of construction are factored into the calculus of architecture's procedures . This leads away from

a theory of "truth to materials" toward ,In examination of consequences and experiential effects_ The

claim, for example, that Le Corbusier, in the Carpenter Center (Chapter 6) is able to achieve a sense of

mobility and li ghtness with a material that is not in itself intrinsical ly lightweight turns on a detailed dis-

cussion of some of t he technical aspects of the building's reinforced concrete construction. and technical constraint are shown to be closely bound up with formal expression.


The design history of the Guggenheim Museum is significant in this regard , and was crucial for me

in defining the notion of practice outlined here. In '991, I wrote that Frank Lloyd Wright could "de-

ploy multiple structural principles with effective operational freedom precisely because he was com - mitted to structural rationality as practice, not as project" (Chapter 5). What I meant was somet hi ng like this: early models showed the spiral ramp of the museum propped up on thin columns, a solu-

tion clearly at odds w ith the organic continuity Wright deSired. In time, Wrig ht devised an integrat- ed str u ctural solution tha t did not distinguish between supporting structure and enclosing enve -

proved impractical from a constructional point

of view. Wrigh t in the end accepted a solution that, while literally inconSistent With the conceptual

unity original ly proposed, was itself logical and efficient. What is revealing, and speaks as much to

W ri ght's tactical fle xibility as to his intimate knowledge of building technique, IS that, while li terally

segmented, the experience of the building is still one of integrated structure and smooth flow . In practice, the desired continuity is in no way compromised by the apparent structural exped ient

lope . While architecturally compelling, this soiution

The difference betwee n practice and project is therefore marked by the pragmatic idea of '"differences that make a difference ." It appeals to concrete differences of peliormance and be ha vior a.nd not to abstract relations between ideas and discourses . For Wright, as for most of the architects that inter- est me, buildings are always more than indiVidual componems of a larger project. They are not ex-


ligence, ~nab\esarchitects to navigate more effectively in this new, information-dense context 8 Speaks' suggesrive formulation playson two meanings of the word "intelligence:' On the one hand, it recognizes

that architects and other design professionals possess a specific form of expertise, a synthetic and pro- jective capacity unique to their own discipline. Design in te lligence In thiS sense implies the thoughtful

hand, just as military in-

application of that exper tise to problems specific to architecture. On the other

telligence is necessarily composed of rumors and fragmented information, from often suspect sources (a high noise to Signal ratio) it Implies that architects need to be open to the "chatter" of the world outside of

their own field. and alert to new ways of interpreting, and putting that information to work. Asin intelli- gence work, with immense quantities of information now simultaneously available, it is no longer access

to information that counts, but the ability to process, organize, and visualize information that IS crUCial.

And so, if I maintain a provisional distinction between the instrumental consequences of representa-

tion within the discipline of architecture, and architecture's complex interplay with social and cultural

representations, it is not to ignore the moments of intersection and overlap. Material practices must be

robust information-dense, and open to change and revision . Its practitioners realize that the new real- ity of technology and the city is one of continual obsolescence. and that the only way to survive change is

to change. Moreover, material practices trust in the intelli gen ce of architecture's audience, understand-

ing that architecture has many publics, and that the signrficant work of architecture is one that allows

continual revision and rereading, teasing out new meanings as the context changes. This necessitates a close attention to the material effects and worldly consequences of all of architecture's matter-seman-

tic and material-while maintaining a stnct indifference 'as to the origin of those effects

And indeed, it is easier to walk with music than


without it. Of co

while talking up a st orm, when the

disappears from

act of walk ing

is just as easy to wa lk

u rse,

our consciousness .

Viktor Shklovsky



ichel de employs the figU. re of the wal.ker m the city to describe the errant trajec- tories of everyday practices among the systematic space of the proper. For de Certeau,

"the geometrical space of urbanists and architects seems to have the status of a 'proper

meaning' constructed by the grammarians and linguists in orderto havea normal and normative level

to which they can compare the drifting of'figurative' language." Within his schema, the wandering

course of the pedestrian is compared to the enunciative function in language: "Th e act of walking is


to the urban system what the speech act is to language or to statements uttered."9 This free move- ment that de Certeau describes ("a Brownian variability of directions H in Deleuze and Guattari lD ) IS guaranteed by the tactical improvisations of multiple individuals . De Certeau understood that there can never be a perfect correspondence between the regulated geometrical structure of the planned city and the unruly practices it supports. The city's inhabitants are always ready to take advantage of this mismatch between structure and performance. This in turn suggests that the control exercised

by any d isciplinary regime can never be total. Resistance

orthrough, the constraints imposed from outside, pathways that lead away from transgression. cata-

strophic overthrow, withdrawal or retreat n

will find other pathways around, or under,

De Certeau describes a series of "tricky and stubborn procedures that elude discipline withou t being outside t he field in which it is exercised."12 He has confidence that there will always exist fissures and cracks that provide openings for tactical reworkings. Making opportunistic use of these footholds, the creativity of everyday practices can often outwit the rigid structures of imposed order, and outma- neuver the weighty apparatus of Institutional control: "The long poem of walking manipulates spatial organizations, no matter how panoptic they may be: it is neither foreign to them (it can only take place within them) nor in conformity with them (it does not receive its identity from them). It creates

shadows and ambiguities within them."B

What is not immediate ly obvious in

geometrical space of the planned city with the systematic constructs of theory. A concept of theory as regulated space (oblivious to the complex babbl e of enunciative practices taking place within it) precedes and undergirds his description of the regulated space of the planned city, indifferent to the multiple trajectories unfolding in its spaces. The idealized constructions of theory mirror the panoptic spaces of geometrical urban planning: ·Within this ensemble:' de Certeau writes. "I shal l try and locate the practices that are foreign to the 'geometrical' or 'geographic' space of visual , panoptic ortheoretical constructions:'14 And so, by analogy,just as the active citizen might manipulate and refigure the space of the city-which is given to her from without -so too creative intellectual subjects can put into play the rigid codes of inherited ideological systems

de Certeau's writings is a subtext that would associate the

Two important senses of the word practice intersect here: practice designating the collective and peripatetic improvisat ions of multiple inhabitants in the city connects to practice as the creative

exercise of an intellectual discipline by an individual. De Certeau's cunning optimism suggests a

notion of practice capable of continually reworking the limits of a discipline from within. He offers

dilemma of practice seen exclusively as mechanica l repetition (agent of

institutional authority) , or the neo-avant-garde positions of transgression or critique. His view af- firms that practices always unfold in time, moving on multiple and undisciplined trajectories . At the same time it is a realistic vision, recognizing that it is impossible to effectively operat e outside of any discipline's "field of operations." Just as the walker in the city produces · scandalous· figures out of the geometric space of the city, there are tactical practices- nomad practices of writing, thinking

a way out of the either/or


or acting-t hat are capable of manipulating an d reforming theory's proscript ive spa ces . When de (e rteau speaks , In this context of an ·opaque and blind mobility" inserted in to the ·clea r t ext of the

p lanned and readable city: I woul d sugges t tha t it could also be read as a w ay to practice t heory, a


ll for mob i le and impro per rewo rk ings of the "c lear texC of a given the o retica l formulation . "Be on


e edge,· De leuze and Guattari w r ite, "takea walk like Virginia Wool f (never again will I say I am this,

am tha rr 'S The it ineran t path of the walk er in t he city, or th e nomad thinke r in theory. is pre cise ly tha t w hich resists systematization, and makes room for the tactical improvisatio ns of pra ctice .



wo r king.\6 I wanted t o t race the emergence of ideas in and through the material s and procedures of

the arc hitectu ral wor k itself, and not as a legit imati on from ou tsid e. In the form of wntten co de s. Ar-

of procedures, and req ui res multiple

tactic s of explanation. The purpose of w riting is not so much to explain. o r to justi fy a particular work

o r work ing method , as it is a contin ua l process of clarification . In most cases, practica l, experime ntal work comes fir st , and the writing down co me s after. The activity of writing for me is part of the prac -

t ice of architecture: something t hat happens alongside of drawing, building and teaching.

ch itect ure works by means o f a necessarily m ixed assem b lage

These essays have been co nstruc ted by follOWing the trajectories of con cep ts unfolded in t he course

But the writing of an architect differs in significant ways from t he writing of an his t or ian or


tect. a kind of~ shopta Jk :· compa r ing notes a nd test ing t ec h ni qu es , f in d i ng out

new techniques . To define t hese ess ays as

part of an archi tectural pra ctic e is to recognize and accept the mix ed chara cter of architecture's

procedures . To conceive t h i s wo r k

necessitates a cont.inual reference to specific instances of buildings, cities, drawings or texts . But mo re significantly. it also means resisting the temptatio n to generalize t he results in the fo rm of a proj ect. Theo ry needs a proje ct a sta t ic con stru ct, a pers iste nt templ ate of beliefs against which indi vidual actions ar e compared. and tested for conformance. In con tra st, practices imp ly a shift to

a p ractice is to work f rom examples, and not princip l es. It

w ha t doesn 't wo r k. co nstant ly on t he lookout for

a workin g archi - what wo r ks and


In part, i t is marked by the technical a nd ins tr umen ta l conc ern s of



performance, paying attention to con sequences and effect s. Not what a building, a text, or a draw- ing means, but what itca n do : how it op erate s in - and on-the wo rld.





Thoms S. Ku hn. The Structure ofSCientl/'ic Revolu t ions (Ch icago: Univers Ity' of Chicago Pr ess, 1970) 68.



WilllamJames,A PluralisricUn;verse, eds. Fr ederic k H . Burkh ard t, ~redson Sowers , and Igml s K. 5kru pske lls(C ambridgE' . MAan d lo ndon:

HGrvard Un iversity Dress, 19n) 11 7_



Th e re woul d appear to be t wo domi~ant pOSitio ns

today wit h regard to th is

ques t ion of a rch

teClure's li mits, ard the re gulating

powero r th e disci phne . On th e one hand, a

conse -va t ive pos ilion t hat says that architect ure's fundamental ques tio ns of s pace, StruC-

ture, mat l!llal s, an d th e ritua l s of In h ab ita t ion ch ange little eve- ti me. Iss ues thilt cannot b e solved by reference tn a knewn reper-

!Cr y of t ec hnique s or f orms are unae rstood to

be ou t side of, or "beyo n d," arc hitect ure , The m ost thou ghtfu l of th ese 'conservative"

positions wou ld appea r Lo be Giorg iO Grassi. See his l'tlrchitetturo come mestiere (Mi lan: CLUVA, 1980) or Ire

ar t icl e 'Av a n I -G3rce and

Cont i nU l tv.' Oppo!itlOns 21 (Win te r 19B!) : 24 - 13· en t he ot he r ha nd. there Is a n eo-<lvanl-garde posit io"'l t h at se es the st ruc t ure o f t h e

dls(l pl ne as a Ii'n lt to be In terrogated . Worldng on the basis

of ideolog ical tflteria. or i n respome t o t et:h n olcg ical changes, neo-

avan t-gar de pra ctices set out to rr a rl sg r~ ss disciplinary li mits. T he oppos ition of t h ese tWO posi t ions approaches paro dy in the issue


A,Wthat do~um e n ts th

e confrontat ion o f Pete r Eisenma n- re preSentl n 8 the neo -av ant-ga r de - an d Andre as Du any and Elizabeth


ater-Zyberk - represent ing the neoconservative'

ew Ur ban ists- (ANYl (j u ly/August 1993».


1I0nically. '\fteen years later little haschanged , 80:h of these pOSltion~ share a s J"""I lar notion of t he fixi ty of arch itecture's imit: t hey si m-

ply situatethemselveson opposite sides of its boundary, By con tr ast. a radically pra gm at ic position would maintai n indifferenc e w ,th re -

gara to t h e perceived limits or architectu re . It f ee ls it self und l'r no obligation, eit he r to affi rm limits f rom within no r transgr ess t h(! m

from wi t hout. Instead it woul d

propose to work opportun ist ically.

op erat' ng wi l hin ,hc catalog of known


if prod uctive t ech-


iq ucs cou l d be found t h ere . an d oUlside i t as nece ssary, Th e di 'em ma 01 ar chi tecture 's l imi t i s faced by not chOOSing not to c h oose.



Norma n Bryson." T ne Er ot i cs o f Doubt ; Nw Ooservati ons 74 , ed5. J~remv Gi l be rt Rel'"e

and )o hnJ ohnstnJl (1990 ) : 11

Wha t I mean here could also be expla ined by anoth er reference. Roci n Evans, in disc ussingl h e supposed"ratlonal ity"

of M ies va n der

Ro n e's Barce l ona Pav il ion , contr a sts t he ad hoc structure of th e Barce l o n a Pavi l ion to


i o Ga ud r's

Guell Chapel:

"Th ere are two re3-


"'"15 why we. m ay t hink t h e Ba rc e:o"'"la Pavil'o"'"l is a r a t io nal structo re: Mies !.aid it was, a nd It looks as if

It rs. l t lool(s r a l lo, a l b ecau se we


now what rationa l ity looks I , ke: preci se. n a t , regular , abstract. bright , a n d above all rectil i nea r, This im age o f ratrona lit y i s unre li abl~.

however. The G0ell Chaoe l has none of t h ese a: tribu tes. yet It is co ns istent and logic al in it s mu cture. The entire chape l was to have

teen scaled up from an inverted fU nicular model made of w res d raped with paper ,1nd 'abric

The model was w helly in tension. Turn ed

upside dewn. it wo uld produce a stru cture wholly In compresSion. thus aVOiding pers is tent t ension. against which m asonry has li tt 'e

reSI sta

nce . T h ,s is a ra ti o n a l str uc t t


BV co ntras : , th e struc turt! a nd

cons truction of th e Barce lona Pil v ili e n is

piecemeal and In choa te:

Ro bin Eva ns. 'Mie s va n der Rone's Paradoxical Symm etries," Trar.5lat ions from Drawing s ta Building (London: Archi tectur al Assoc iatien

1997). 243-}-44. In Mies . t r ere is a"proJect" ef rati::mal co nst ruct io n, which Isgiven v sUdl expressio n by means that do ro t always coincide Wit h its performative realit ies.



claim t ha t the pract ice of architect ure has t h e capacity t o transform reality is


a claim I gntly extended to t tre co,ve nt lon al exer-




of p r oress inna l p r act ice . Real ty IS Of"lly changed when som et hi ng new is creat ed . To build yet ane t h er subu rba n offi ce Dui ldlng , fo r

exampl e. is not lO t r ars form

rea li ty . The stock o f exi st i ng re ality may have been added

to . but no t transformed: a cer ta m pieceof real es-


le m ay have been rearrdng ed. but m at eria l ly. n othi

ng new is crea ted.

To give a cou nter-example from the con text o f these essays. for

examo.e. Frank UOVdWflghrs Guggenheim Museum in novatese.t every level-rn ferm , space. prog ram, const ruction. and con t ext-a nd


do es so

not only in

re lati on to normative practice. but also in re lat ion to W rig ht's

previo us buildings.


Fo r an

eKt en ded arg

um ent fo r t he impac t of

im~ge culw r e on

architectura l mo

de rnity, sec Beatriz Colemina, Priva cy and Publici

ry '

MooernArchitectureaS,AAassMedia(Cambridge. MA: MIT Press. 1994). ForCo oJ"""llna. the engagement with mass med a is preciselvwha t

de'i nes modem archlte~tureas such, Wh i .e Colom ina's argu:nents arc convinci ng (i nd eed u n answerable at a certa in

level). at tim es she

presents he r case in extreme e.therror term s that are f or me 1(>$$ tha n prod uctive. See, fo r exa m ple, Bea tnz Colom ina , "Mies Not : The


of M;e!. ed, De tl ef Mer t ins (New

Yo rk Pr i nceto n Architectura l Press.

1994) 193-222


Michael Speaks,' Design Int elligence: Int roduction.-A-foU (December 2002): 11-18.



Michel de Certeau. The Practice ofEverydav life. tran s. Steven F. Ren dall (Berkeley: UniverSity of Califo rnia Press, 1<}88) 100 .



See ' 1gI4:

Min n esota Pr ess , 1987) 33. Oeleuze and Gua ttari' s n otions

O"'le o r Severa l Wo :ves? ~ chapter two in Gilles

Deleuze and FeliK GUd tt;;. ri, A Th:,wsa nd Plateall s (MinneapoliS Universi ty of

of multi plicity co u ld be r ead a s a use ful stJpo 'ement t o de Ce rt eau's tendency

to idealize indiVidual freedoms agai nst collective disciplines-see for example t heir discussion of Elias Caneui's Crowds and Power, t rans. carol Stewart (New York: Viking. 196]) 33-)4.


There is also a relationship here t o Dele uze and Guattari's co ncept of a minor literatu re . See Gilles Oeleuze ar,d Felix Guattari, KalKa '


Toward a Minor!.:(erawre, trans_ Da n a Po l an {M inneapolis: univNsity of Minnesota Press, 1986); through the example of Kafka, t he Czec h Jewwri t ing in German , Deleuze and Cuatta ri develop t h e :oncep! ofa minor Itera wr e, r he'de::erritorialization""from within t h e d o m i- nant language . A minor practice constructs a Ii~e of flig ",t w ith the rr.aterials at hand-th e ,mpc verished eleTients cf t he dominant

lang u age. rather V-,an resisting by retreat or confrontil! ion : "A minor literil t ure doesn't corne from il minor language ; it is rathe r that


whic h a minority

co n st ructs wi:.hin a ma.or l anguagc "" (16)






de(erteau l0l




Oelpuze an d

Gualtari. A TholJ50fJd Platec:!> , ;.09 (emphasis in t he origina l)




riting over



of eight

years (1989-97). and later revising


essa y s for t n e curre nt volume, I have noted some changes in m y

think i ng. Brie fl y.

the posi t ion of

the earlie . essays, which concern

re p ' esentat ' on, hilS to som e degree been r et hought . Todd y, I wo uld

tend to in~ist I?vl?n mall:' rigorously un the instrume n tality of represent<=.tion i n architecture, rather than see it as an

end in itself. This is


some degree the result of the speculations advance d over t he course of the essays en specific buildings. However. in the fina l section,


nich concerns cities and

landscapes, I return

to so m e of t hese questio ns of representation, but. new Within the"expandf>d"" held of the

conte m Dorary city, w h e re

'1lJestian s of m edii;.

t~ c rlfliqlJ e , ilnd r!:'preS e flli ltiun intersl?c t i n ne w and increasingly improbable patterns