Category Archives: Theory Reading Posts

Architectural Critique

In Paul Jones’ piece The Sociology of Architecture and the Politics of Building: The Discursive Construction of Ground Zero he uses Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum, Berlin and The Freedom Tower as evidence to his argument; despite the architect’s attempt to design for the community’s collective identity, the symbols used are often too convoluted to appeal to the public without explanation. In regards to the Jewish Museum, Berlin, Jones’ discusses the abstract symbolism used to evoke emotion. Being the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, the abstract symbolism is appropriate. However, Jones claims it still requires explanation if the architect has any hope of the public understanding his design intentions. An example we found of symbolism that requires explanation is the Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial. The memorial is a part of the larger Constitution Gardens. The original architecture was done by AECOM with Joe Brown, FASLA as landscape architect. The semi-circle of stones were put into place in the original design. PWP completed the redesign in 2012, focused on making the lake storm water runoff infrastructure. But going back to Paul Jones’ thesis of symbols being lost without explanation, AECOM and Joe Brown, FASLA were attempting to convey the bravery of the 56 Signers. Those stones could have been their tombstones had events turned out differently. Paul Jones argues for the difficulty in capturing the public’s collective identity because no group has perfectly aligned goals, no culture is monocultural, and the public can read into architectural symbols. Unless they are instructed in what a symbol is communicating, they will read their own meaning.

Markus Miessen gives evidence for his argument; architecture reflecting public memory should not be based on one man’s ego. Miessen quotes Libeskind, saying, “Discussion is part of a civic process. If a people don’t discuss a building they don’t really care about it.” However, when an article by Herbert Muschamp appeared in the New York Times that was not in support of Libeskind’s proposal, he responded with a letter to the editor that appeared in the New York Times stating that Muschamp’s article was “over the top” and advised readers to send in letters that jeopardized Muschamp’s career. This exemplifies the reality of Daniel Libeskind’s opinions regarding the discussion of his own architecture, proving, despite claims to the contrary, Daniel Libeskind does design based on his ego.

In his interview, Frank Gehry asserts $40,000 was not enough money for himself and his team to take on the World Trade Center Memorial proposal. Although he is trying to better professional practice by making this point, he chooses a poor time and topic to make that point on. Regardless of his intentions, he communicates that the World Trade Center Memorial was not worth his time due to the lack of decimal places in the competition stipend. After revealing he was in NYC the day the planes hit, he appears unpatriotic and without empathy for the families who suffered losses on that tragic day.

Architectural Critique Presentation

Featured Image by Studio Libeskind

Wicked Problems

Richard Buchanan, a professor of design, management, and information systems, wrote Wicked Problems as a means of sparking discussion on the importance of spatial qualities in regards to interaction design.  He develops a main idea of how the design process is more than what it is made out to be by designers themselves; he believes that design is a liberal art.  He goes along with the idea that design is a multifaceted process with a web of connections to all different areas of life.  With this, it is important for designers to realize that they are shaping how people live their daily lives and the experiences that they have.  Buchanan references many authors, including Herbert A. Simon, Horst W.J. Rittel and John Dewey to bring in other opinions on the subject of design.  Buchanan uses Dewey’s ideas in a way to show how science and design are actually interconnected, making the case that design is a new liberal art.  Dewey suggests technology is an, “art of experimental thinking” (pg. 8).  

Behind all this experimental thinking is an art that is overlooked that can be used to create other types of products for people.  Buchanan states that the main challenge with this is getting a deeper understanding of design thinking so there can be a better cohesion in those who apply design thinking and have different problems that they face.  However, designers and scientists leave no room for discussion to apply their methods to other areas that relate to them, such as arts and sciences, industry marketing, and the general public.  Buchanan is 100% correct when he states that, “without appropriate reflection to help clarify the basis of communication…there is little hope of understanding the foundations and value of design thinking” (pg. 8).

Horst Rittel came up with an approach to these so called wicked problems that designers encounter, dubbing it the linear model. Rittel divided this process into two parts, the problem definition (an analytic sequence) and the problem solution (synthetic sequence).  With these two parts “various requirements are combined and balanced against each other, yielding a final plan” (pg. 15).  Areas of design are places where progress should be shared between designers of all fields to create innovative solutions.

On an end note, Buchanan wraps up with how design is part of technology and the “systemic thinking” process that goes with technology.  With this thinking, design does wind up classifying itself as a liberal art, which we completely agree with.  “To possess [this] technology or discipline of thinking was to posses the liberal art, to be human, and to be free in seeking one’s place in the world” (pg. 19). Why not have men and women understand how design works to some extent?  This common knowledge would greatly help the communication between not only designers and their clients but between other professions that share a connection to the world of design.

Presentation link:

Photo By: Katerina Lomonosov


On Critique

By Paige Geldrich , Megan Shrout, and Suheng Li

Click Here to Access our Presentation 

Strategizing in Pluralistic Contexts: Rethinking Theoretical Frames
In the reading, we’ve been introduced about the pluralistic of the value system by Professor Jean-louis, Ann and Linda in their article Strategizing as an Accommodation Process: Managing Competing Values. Jean-louis is a Canada research chair on governance, and Ann, a professor of Management in Montreal as well as Linda.

The article talked about the competing values systems and was seeking a possibility of achieving the co-existence. It further explained the statement by illustrating the example of six “worlds”. Furthermore, Professors interpreted that the , critique and compromise is the process to achieve the goal of coexistence and reconciliation for the values system. This inspires us about the roles that architecture can play in the world of multiple values system.

Question:Are there other terms of architecture that can reflect different competing value systems besides the function?

Is there any example of architects/architecture that “critique in society and contest the legitimacy”?

In our second reading, we are directed around the world of
Values in Thomas A. Markus and Deborah Cameron’s book The Words Between the Spaces: Buildings and Language. Markus is a professor of building science at the University of Strathclyde, and Cameron, a professor of Languages at the Institute of Education at London University. With their collaborative effort, Markus and Cameron analyze the art of critiquing itself. Pointing to the location of the evaluation, selection of objects to be evaluated, language used to evaluate the object, and actual characteristics of the criticism itself, they demonstrate that architecture criticism should be read and written with a critical mind and eye.  

Question : After reading Markus and Cameron’s Values, what do you think the motivation behind most professor led studio critiques is?


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Why We Build Presentation

 As a researcher of social issues, Kim Dovey, an architecture critic and professor, wrote Framing PLaces.   He references several author’s opinions in this text, some of his favorite being Michael Weinstein, Steven Lukes, and Clifford Geertz. This author’s thesis rests upon the idea that the “notion of power as the human capacity to imagine and create a better built environment.” This piece explains the power an individual can exert through a built environment with or without the notice of the subjects.  Dovey uses quotes and facts from a variety of authors to support his claim. I believe this evidence because he presents authors who have studied other subjects, not just architecture; therefore the claim becomes more well-rounded and unbiased. Rather than disproving or acknowledging competing explanations, Dovey chooses to instead bring light to facts that society completely ignores by giving thought to such matters. Explicit assumptions upon the belief that consciously or subconsciously all people are seeking some form of power over another person can be found in this piece.This work relates to architecture by giving categories to the different types of environments we build and showing the physiological implications of such. I feel this reading assignment teaches students that when we draw a line, we are also a drawing a wall, which will one day serve as a barrier that somehow oppresses the occupants of this space.

What type of power over do you find most prevalent in architecture today? (Force, coercion, manipulation, seduction, authority)

The author of The Edifice Complex is Deyan Sudjic,  a design and architecture critic. In his piece, he included a story by Adolf Loos, an influential modern architect. Sudjic’s thesis is “Architecture is about power” as an answer to why we build. This piece explores an overdone subject by using modern examples to show that power in architecture is still relevant today. Sudjic uses examples of recently built structures like the Mother of All Battles Mosque as evidence to support his claim. He backs up these examples with relevant historical and social context, along with other examples of architecture. Sudjic acknowledges an opposing opinion that architecture cannot be design without political meanings. While it can be neutral, over time a building has the potential to acquire a political aspect. He makes an explicit assumption when he imagines Zaha Hadid designing Hussein’s mosque. This assumption supports a broader assumption that architects are defined by their clients’ political beliefs and can be affected by them. This piece matters in the field of architecture because it shows that the reason behind building hasn’t changed, but makes that old idea relevant once more. I think this reading was assigned to make us aware that architect’s design symbols of power. Our designs are not just functional; they are the statements of our clients.

What makes a building a symbol of power? (the physical form, the intent behind it, the client’s position in society, etc.)

Sept. 13 Reflection Notes:

Why we build. in The Edifice Complex

The very beginning of this reading it stated how architects build to be simultaneously both modern and respectfully rooted in the past,” but are we really doing that? I mean look at our site for our studio project. We are located in a historically industrial area of Brooklyn, NY but we know that the city is proposing to have new urban parks and even new residential/commercial high-rises built. So are the architects of those new proposals really taking in to account the history of the area? I don’ believe so, and I believe that they necessarily shouldn’t. We build for today and for our future not for the past.

Architecture is built to be used as a language of what is going on today. As read, architects build to show that their country is the most up to date regarding technologies, building materials, etc. We build to show off what we know and what other other countries don’t know. Architecture becomes a metaphorical means for political, social and economic issues of today. Now whether everyday people know what the true meaning of the built architecture is is another story. I don’t believe someone walking on the streets understands the conceptual/metaphorical thought behind any building. The only people that know are the architect of that building and the person who commissioned that project.

Generally, the people who want to use architecture as a means of propaganda are those who have the money to do so, and those who have the money to do so typically have the power. A lot of things are a money and political game. I find it extremely interesting how architecture falls into the money and political game more often than not. Architecture can and is used to control people by shaping the way we live. So ultimately do we build to control people and their lives? Who actually builds, the architect or the commissioner?


Power. in Framing Places: Mediating power in built form, 2nd ed.

Architecture is intertwined with power. Even in the other reading, architecture is essentially built for the wealthy and by the wealthy. While reading this I felt as though having the power to build and design with the imagination is a negative thing. By using the words such as manipulation and coercion which typically have these negative connotations make it seem as though architects are bad people. We “force” people into our own imaginations for the spaces we create by convincing them through words and promising images of the space.

No matter what, power will always be around us. Weather it’s the power of the commissioner telling the architect what they want, or the power of the architect designing the specific space, the users of that space are subject to the power of the architect and he commissioner.

I don’t agree with the fact that we manipulate, coerce,  or seduce the audience we build for. We should be giving them architecture that fits their needs and not the needs of the person with the power, or the most money.