I have been reading many articles lately which reference the interrogative nature of architecture. Although I don't really understand these issues, there seems to be a growing trend within architecture to either a) Over-question the architecture process and thus provide a pretentious, academic field devoid of public interaction, or rarely, appreciation, or B) Just doing the architecture without thinking about it, not questioning or theorizing this process, but rather performing what I'd like to call Component Collaging.
In a recent article from the English BDOnline, Eisenman outlines his "Six Point Plan" [Link] He says about his fourth point (Buildings Lack meaning or reference):
Today the shape of buildings become icons which have none of these external references. They may not necessarily look like anything or they may only resemble the processes that made them. In this case they do not relate outwardly but refer inwardly. These are icons that have little cultural meaning or reference. There is no reason to ask our more famous architects: “Why does it look like this?”
There is no answer to this question because “Why?” is the wrong question.
Why? Because the computer can produce it. One could ask these architects: “Why is this one better than that one?” Or “Which one of the crumpled paper buildings is better?” Or “Which one is the best and why?”
There is no answer again to these questions. Why? Because there is no value system in place for judging, and there is no relationship to be able to judge between the image produced and its meaning as an icon.
He uses this as a critique of modern architecture and architectural study (an issue he criticizes openly in his other points as well....). Of course, Eisenman would answer most of these questions with an resounding "Eisenman is the Best! Go pseudo-Modernism!" But I think there must be a deeper issue here than simply a critique on people not asking "Why?". I hear why from many of my friends (Bob i'm looking at you....) many times a day. Theories and ideas abound when one is confronted by these questions, but similarly it seems rather counterproductive to ask a broad question regarding architecture just to sift through the endless possibilities and connect or weave multiple ideas together. Take Reiser as an example... Using various points presented in his Atlas, he crates architecture that is both dynamic as well as excessively confusing, even to those trained to understand it, while at the same time condemning over-diagraming and over-complication... Extraordinarily counterproductive
In an article in the June 2008 issue of Dwell, Quingyun Ma, Dean of UCLA's School of Architecture and princple and founder of MADA s.p.a.m., says regarding questioning:
"In China, we are taught not to ask questions but to work out issues following the historical wisdom and intelligence that has accumulated in the system. We just had to learn the facts. But it seems that architects in the U.S. have become less concerned with building and more with endlessly retheorizing a shared pool of abstract ideas. People are taught to ask too man questions! Often it feels like asking questions without answers is more important than understanding what you're asking about."
An interesting idea, and one which I believe is extraordinarily well articulated, especially in a branch of architecture which tends to lack the academic interest that architects like Eisenman enjoy and benefit from. Other architects which also "Do before you think" tend to hail from the Los Angeles area include the entire Sci-Arc staff, most of the UCLA faculty (Rotondi,Gehry, Diaz-Alonso, Graft, etc etc etc). By and far a very interesting thing about this issue is the fact that Ma managed to seriously apply a level of academia and eastern logic to a popular issue. This type of architecture however is extremely supported by public opinion, far more so than their "academic" contemporaries on the east coast.
I'm not sure where I stand on this.... Questioning is important, but is questioning questioning a bit ridiculous... Is the architecture of this generation on the threshold of another architecture battle (a la Meier and Co. vs. Venturi and Co. or France vs. Germany during modernism).
More on this later maybe