Friday, June 13, 2008

Architecture or Eco-utopia?

I am drinking way more coffee than usual today. I need to caffeinate myself beyond normal limits because today is the day that I am finalizing the thesis on Chapter I.2. I had been waiting for the lightening bolt to hit and I think I finally have it. For the past week or two (as you know from my other posts) I have been delving into Halprin's ecological side. This is a big part of my overall argument because I consider Halprin's ecological position on landscape architecture and design as part of his "west coast" affinity. Yesterday I had written out in my introduction to Chapter 1.2 that I will be discussing Halprin's ecological method and those of other designers he is in conversation with during the 60s, all the while keeping a close eye on the development of the more popular and vocal environmental movement.
In addition, considering environmentalism in conversation with changing theories of modern architecture is crucial because ideas of regional design and even experimental ecological design were completely "poo-pooed" (like my strong academic vocabulary? ) for the High Modernists. Considering anything beyond man's dominance over nature and his ability to form structures of the most formal aestheticism (ala early Le Corbusier) was considered pedestrian and quasi-medieval. Okay, we are getting to my point don't worry.
My advisor Felicity D. Scott recently published a brilliant (yes I'm biased, but yes, it's brilliant) book called Architecture or Techno-utopia which provides a new historical perspective on the discussion of late modernism and the beginnings of what is commonly known as postmodern architecture. In it she criticizes the staid debate of the "Grays" versus the "Whites." The "whites" are the "high modernists" and the "grays" the postmodernists looking to expand modern architecture to re-include signs/symbols/historical styles...etc. She explains that keeping this dichotomy undermines other trajectories of architecture history and other work by architects not included in this debate. Her book looks closely at experimental architecture which had been disregarded at the time as not being "successful" at least in the commercial sense. However, she argues that these examples serve "to reveal the contours of other modes of engagement and negotiation." These other modes of engagement include utopian and experimental projects that focus on rapidly changing and advancing technology, hence the title "techno-utopia." She argues simultaneously that bottling the debate of late modernist architecture in a "grays vs. whites" paradigm "disassociates architecture from both its historical and political context as well as from its dreams of a better world to come."

OK. So where does my work fit in here? I am tentatively calling my chapter "Eco-scores and Eco-utopia." In my chapter I follow another trajectory of experimental architecture of the 1960s and early 70s that attempts an ecological utopian project. This is a project that is focused on the decontamination of humans and the redevelopment/rearticulation of urban living out of the spoils of Modern architecture and increased jet-age/atomic age technologies. In essence.... I could title my project Architecture or Eco-utopia? (but I won't) and this is not to outdo Felicity (couldn't possibly do that) but to merely add to her project, by providing a more nuanced look at the history of late modernist architecture. A look at an ecological project that doesn't fit into the debate.

Phew. Make sense? It will... give me a little bit more time to smooth out the edges.

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