The Function of Style

The \”generic city\” of the late 20th century, which was defined by senselessness and anonymity, has given way to a new type of urbanism. Whether located in Europe, the Middle East or the Far East, this new generic city is the product of a \”prudent\”urbanism, characterized by the excitement of its architecture, with each of its districts themed to appeal to a particular type of individual. Airports, museums, shopping centers, office towers, social housing blocks and schools — all are designed to be equally exciting and spectacular, often resulting in an array of divergent styles as well as considerable similarity, whether they are the product of the public or the private sector, or of public???private partnerships. This new urban condition raises many questions: Is there a common ground for or foundation to all this divergent design experimentation? Are there any social or political ambitions or implications underlying this diversity or is it merely a product of market forces? What about freedom from the marketplace or offering a critique of the economic forces that drive it? How is it possible that so many commercial and cultural projects look so much alike? Have publicly funded projects lost their political vision? Can a city which is composed of differently \”styled\” buildings standing alongside one another be considered in good taste? The first year of The Function of Style research in 2010 examined historical debates surrounding the idea of style and examined a range of projects of the last decade with the aim to move the discussions on good and bad taste to the production of difference. During Spring 2011, we will focus on the relationship between style and function as constructed by the architectural production of the last decade to address architecture\’s relationship to the market, innovation and authorship. As with the previous research projects, the seminar will combine reading texts related the topic with a case study method of research. Students will be evaluated based on their level of participation in analyzing contemporary architecture through detailed drawings as well as their participation in round table discussions of the course reader. The seminar aims to produce a critical evaluation of projects to be documented in a publication after the semester ends. Those students who are to participate in the publication are invited to express their interest at the end of the semester.Please note: The seminar meets weekly. Farshid Moussavi will not be present at all course meetings. Jonathan Scelsa will be the Teaching Assistant for the course.