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OUR COLUMNIST BAMBALL REFLECTS ON TODAY’S ARCHITECTURE:

‘When humanism loses its centric position within the pedagogy of architectural education, this happens. There are many well-regarded (St)ar-chitects who were granted commissions by the architectural world’s equivalent of those who have placed folks like Koons & Hirst at the pinnacle of Official Contemporary Art. Who have embraced theories that conceptually remove people and humanity off the programmatic list of concerns that architecture has traditionally supposed to functionally and spiritually be concerned with. Everything this blog has ruminated on, about the contemporary world of art since the Seventies, when post-structuralist theorists first gave us the language of Artspeak, it all comes to mind when I hear explanatory rhetoric like “I designed the building to show the tenuous relationship between art and the people that art is supposed to serve.” Huh? And your solution to your stated problem is to design a hard-to-curate museum? That’s gonna solve the issue?

Greg Lynn, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Liebeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin, Peter Eisenman’s Wexner Center for the Arts, the list goes on and on. These are the works that students have been studying for years, and that often becomes problematic, because formal devices are copied and fetishized, without understanding more boring programmatic and functional considerations. And some of these works, like Frank Gehry’s work, are fantastic works of art, but in the hands of the second and third generation, it all becomes stylized and then there are mediocre copies built everywhere by less careful architects with less aesthetically-caring clients.

In architecture school, you don’t stand up in front of your work at the final jury, and say “I really looked in depth at museum functional considerations and what the curator needs…” Rather, you’ll impress and win student prizes by saying, “The conceptual basis of my dialectic is to place the museum patron in a constant adverse relationship to the art, to show that the traditional notions of “good” and “bad” are not important considerations as we move through the End of History into the inevitable post-neo-apocalyptic mega-cities of the future.”

And in the same vein of thought, I am sure mid-century art professors hated the fact that their students were looking up the minimal works of Barnett Newman, thinking they could ride that bandwagon to high marks in their studio classes.’