December 23, 2007

Burn Baby Burn

"Architecture Must Burn", Aaron Betsky and Erik Adigard (Thames and Hudson, 2000, recently picked up in Moe's as a remainder): I'm a sucker for this sort of unintentionally earnest manifesto, teetering back and forth between the twee and the seriously ludicrous. Like nearly all manifestos, it's reactionary and utopian; and like all utopias, totalitarian; in this case in a creepy "we really care" sort of way. A sort of insistent dog barking in the intellectual night somewhere far off that you can't quite dismiss, despite the lack of overt meaning. There's some breathtaking writing here, spoiled by an almost contantly breathless tone and general incoherence; the book itself's a design disaster, in that very self-conscious and rather forced late-1990's way (and in a way that very deliberately becomes an issue in itself).

And I think I'll scream if I see such hip imports as "strange attractors" in a non-science context again; it's a sort of token exoticism or cargo cult that lets the writer indulge in a shell game of equivocation, where the smokescreen of vagueness lets you get away with giving the impression of profundity and depth without ever pinning things down, even generally. If you're vague enough, you can get away with convincing almost anyone that you've said something both profound and agreeable.

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