Current Architecture as Cultural Discourse

\”In fact it is only the ideal soul of society, that which has authority to command and prohibit, that is expressed in architectural compositions properly speaking. Thus great monuments are erected like dikes, opposing the logic and majesty of authority against all disturbing elements: it is in the form of cathedral or palace that Church or State speaks to the multitudes and imposes silence upon them. It is in fact obvious that monuments inspire social prudence and often even real fear. The taking of the Bastille is symbolic of this state of things: it is hard to explain this crowd movement other than by the animosity of the people against the monuments that are their real master.\” George Bataille\”Most important library decades,\” (New Yorker, OMA Seattle Library); \”Most important new museum since the cold war began,\” (New York Times, Zaha Hadid Cincinnati Museum). As participants in the cacophonous theater of current architectural practice how are we to situate such journalistic hyperbole? What are the issues, if any, that underwrite and distinguish the latest work of Nouvel, Alsop, OMA, Eisenman, Hadid, Gehry, Holl, ITO, Morphosis, Denari, Herzog and DeMeuron, Lynn, MVRCV, Zumthor, Coop Himmelblau, RUR, FOA, UN Studio, Office DA, Cohen, SANAA, d\'Ecoi, NOX, not to mention newcomers like PLOT, Gnuform, Bow Wow, Woolston, Roche, EDGE, etc., etc., etc. In the Eye Beam competition, did Liz and Rick rip off Tom or vice versa? How does Disney Hall compare to Porto, or should the question be how does Disney Hall compare to Sizab\'s Serpentine Pavilion or how does Disney Hall compare to Case Western Reserve? What are all those single surface buildings about and what do they have to do with blobs? Is Sejima a new minimalist or a new modernist, and is every SANAA building about the same issue? Is everything that OMA does perfect a priori? What exactly are affect, mood, atmosphere, the easy, and the post-critical; for that matter, what exactly is the critical in architecture? Is architecture a service, an art, a political tool or a purely intellectual endeavor? Can architecture support democracy? Can it increase freedom? Does it always serve instantiated power as a force of oppression or does it merely and reasonably serve the bona fide immediate interests of client, user and community and the longer term interests of society as applied technology?The seminar offers an overview of one theorist\'s approach to such questions and the use of that approach as a basis discriminate among projects and buildings from the last 15 years them so as then to exercise judgment.