architecture and urbanism graced the pages of this past weekend's nytimes magazine. i wasn't particularly surprised, but a bit disappointed, that even in a relatively forward-thinking context (and possibly my favorite day-to-day source of information), architectural perspectives still smell of the old and spent. a long nic ouroussoff piece on the instant city phenomenon not only stutters on the same 'ol viewpoints (koolhaas, et. al.) and themes, but dangerously contributes to the clouding and distortion of these wild contemporary afterurban situations.
these are architects working on huge commissions from autocrats and sharpening the divide between wealth and poverty, with the pretext that “the old contextual model is not very relevant anymore” (jesse reiser dixit). maybe not the usual pulling shit out of your ass waxing on aesthetic and historical (authentic) as "contextual analysis" crap. but here and now the context -immediate, quick, shifting and crude- is as big of a deal as always, probably even more so. the tabula rasa b.s. is sustained on supersaturated political and economic strata. there is no possibility of "fine-grained texture of a healthy community" (at least not in the mean time)(see this proposal for "cohabitation", i.e. aesthetic apartheid) because this scheme doesn't coincide with the purpose of what's behind the architecture: money and power.
i'm fine with koolhaas being fine with building massive instrumental artifacts for authoritarian governments. but i really can't take mindless remarks like steven holl's:
“in america, i could never do work like i do here...we’ve become too backward-looking."
where is the context in a place like dubai or new chinese cities? it's the politics, stupid (not the style). urbanism is not about implementing an abstract, physically-driven "model": it sprouts from basic forms of social and economic threading. koolhaas is right, the heroic architecture of the xxth-century is dead. but modernist spoils (basically, in the form of style and approach) are still thriving.
"the particulars of place no longer matter." says mr. ourossoff. oh but they do. they are everything. without the political and economic particularities of places like dubai or shenzhen, there would be no architecture of this sort. period. the particulars of these places are making the architecture happen.
can you bury modernism without burying the modernists?