Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Anti-government ideologies, the Shrinking Middle Class and the Death of Architecture: Part III

 Architecture as a commodity

When the community is replaced by the individual there are psychological social traits which are enhanced for the better and those for the worse. Personal efficiency, responsibility, competition and shear effort, it's argued, are increased when driven by selfish entrepreneurial motives.  Viscerally this makes sense in that personal success is common to the human condition.  We hear it in language "keep up with Joneses", we see it on the road with luxury cars, we see it with clothing brands and fashion we feel it at our high school reunion.  One hears this in the antidotes of the self-employed who express  the freedom and ease which comes with working and  building ones own business. The idea that individuality creates accountability and in turn efficiency has found it's way into everything from the military subcontractors, to NASA, to schools, to prisons, to roads.  The private sector can do it better mentality is a near truism in American society.
I would argue (supported by numerous studies) that this not supported by fact and is instead a political myth.  Even though efficiency, it could be argued, has less to do with  the owner, public or private, more to do with size and culture, it's mythos as a truism has dramatically affected the quality of the built environment. To this point it's validity is irrelevant but it's effects are clear.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Non-tactil experience

At what point can architecture exist only as an image?  If a building can only be experienced from afar, such as a skyscraper, then how is it different from the picture of a building? How is the photo, the movie, post card of a building any different from a real or actual building? Is it the empathized act of experience that we relate to (we can't be there but can imagine ourselves there), or it's physicality of location?  As in all art how much of it's acceptance depend on it's authenticity?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Anti-government ideologies, the Shrinking Middle Class and the Death of Architecture: Part II

Architecture is a public act (we can get into this later) and key to it's enjoyment, its definition, is its ability to embody the human condition  One of the main differences, for example, between mere building and Architecture is its ability to mean something to the community which experiences it.  The richer that connection - the stronger its beginning , as the ancient Greeks would say, the more significant the physical material becomes.

The physical mass however, isn't simply a means to an end, a corporal mass that because transcended during the some mystical act of "architectural transmigration" where suddenly bricks become meaning. The physical parts of Architecture's essential characteristics, its phsyical construction never leave it and in fact enabling its ability to mean. 

It is both of these essential qualities of Architecture that are threatened by anti-government attitudes, the individualism which replaces it and the diminished middle class.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Anti-government ideologies, the Shrinking Middle Class and the Death of Architecture: Part I

The coupling of anti-government and pro-business ideologies of the American right are leading to qualitative change in the nature of American Architecture.

The reasons for American anti-government sentiments are many; the roots even older than the idea of America itself.  The firs seeds were sown with idea of discovery, of beginnings that the new continent, the "new world" embodied. Far away from Europe, the Americas were separate, special and, if not free from autocratic rule, had to at least go-it-alone for long periods of time.  Government was far away and not tangible.  Second, like the Pilgrims, many of the first colonists who came settled specifically because of religious freedom, using America as a place of refuge from governmental persecution. Many also settled for economic freedom because Europe also lacked economic freedom. Next with the revolution, those social sentiments became manifest in a revolt against government (government, at least as the world at that time knew it).  Replaced with a quasi Anti-government, anti Autocratic, form of government, democracy, each citizen (at least in theory) being of equal voice controlling their local community. After independence, the idea of one larger government again was tested.  However, the idea of a federal, centrally localized government was still very much in doubt and hotly contested with the presidency switching from one camp to the other (only ending with Lincoln). Much to Jefferson's dismay, slowly, but eventually Hamilton and the Federalist's ideas of a Federal community held the majority. All the while, however, the Southern politics of class and regionalism fired the  anti-government furnace by continuing to use the ideas of the revolution as a vehicle to argue and perpetuate oligarchical power.