In a recent lecture at GSAPP, Jacques Herzog spoke of the inadequacies of writing within architecture: “You cannot say anything about architecture using words, unless it is a poem. A poem is a poem. It, in and of itself, is like a monument. A poem is much better than a theory about architecture because, like architecture, which has its own reality, its own medium, the word is the medium for literature or poetry.”1 Herzog clearly stakes his ground in regards to the so-called schism between the experience of architecture and its written account, yet we find ourselves staring curiously back, agilely transgressing the gaps only the blind choose to see.
As we desperately run from words to diagrams, models and drawings, writing, as both a text and an act, continues to infiltrate our discussions and mediate our design process. We have seen the way in which architects have historically used writing to control and mediate the critical reaction to their work, and therefore the image of the work, and therefore its experience, and therefore the architecture. Writing, and by extension the discursive practice of architecture, is inextricably linked to the experience of it. As architects we would be as foolish to swear off writing, as we would be to swear off the computer. Arguably this school’s greatest asset is what lies between the pages beneath our seats, Avery library is what makes architecture Architecture.
The second installment of : attempts to understand this discursive relationship between architecture and writing. If an architect’s primary task is to build, then why do we write? Who do we write for? What constitutes a history, theory or criticism of architecture? What other forms can this take? One inevitably encounters a vast array of literature, from ancient treatises to 20th century French theory, from the architectonic metaphors that philosophers use to the material circulation of printed matter. Our goal is not to establish a theory about the role of writing, but to understand our motivations to write.
:’s intention is in many ways to challenge the distinction between architecture as a material practice distinct from historical and theoretical discourse. To do this, our mode of operation is the dialogue – a form of responsive, two-directional engagement that is inherently different, and perhaps more valuable for our purposes, than writing a monological essay. The dialogue, be it a verbal or written interview, a conversation, email exchange or g-chat conversation, requires a level of acute preparation, and forces us to step back from our subjective motivations to critically analyze a work.
The dialogue is the essential mode in which questions are posed, power redistributed, discoveries made, and contradictions revealed. To question is to create an opening in which the established edifice of knowledge is destabilized in order to see and think about the world in a new way. The transcribed, translated, written product hopes to regain the form of architectural critique, and reconstitute the written word’s position in the production of architecture.The aim is to provoke and be provoked. Like a classic Socratic dialogue, Aporia is the destination.
We ask ourselves why write? We interview an interviewer about interviewing with Thomas de Monchaux. We examine the relationship between theory and architecture, and architecture and theory with Daniel Sherer and Yehuda Safran. We expose the limits and realities of writing in image with Jimenez Lai. We inquire about the difference between being literary and being literal with Matteo Pericoli. We discuss the role of the architectural critic with Paul Goldberger. We explore the cult of the architect with Mosette Broderick. We contemplate writing as a process, and writing as a medium with Mark Morris. We provide a caption on captions written by Christoph Kumpusch.
This printed document attempts to manifest the dialogue in a new way. With content also available online, it is performative rather than representational. Unfolded, it is cacophonic and sporadic. Each page and thereby each exchange is uprooted from its logical place in the overall conversation. Folded, the content may be read in sequence. But this linear reading of the text requires the reader to suspend, for just a moment, the haphazard flipping of the page. To flip, to fold, to rotate is to feel the discomfort that occurs when the mindless performance of reading is interrupted.
1 Herzog, Jacques. “Myths and Collaborations over Time.” Columbia University. Avery Hall, New York, NY. 9 September 2013. Lecture.