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Why is architecture’s struggle self-inflicted?


Shama Patwardhan, Palak Gupta, Anchal Srivastava, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Agency, Profession, Pedagogy, Practice, Education, Professional, Discourse, Contingency, Externality, Educational, School, College, University, Firm, Company, Client, Customer, Zeyka, Zeyka India

The musical drama Inside Llewyn Davis is about folk music. Though the movie tells the story of a folk artist, it relates well to the autonomy of architecture. Folk music and folk musicians are thought to be similar in their desire for success while writing down and playing songs in pursuit of the truth of their lives. They are also known for handing down the experience and knowledge from generation to generation.

We spoke about how this film reflects the battle for purity in architecture. We will now look at how this struggle is self-inflicted. It is comparable to Llewyn's melancholy, strife, and longing for autonomy.

Shama Patwardhan, Palak Gupta, Anchal Srivastava, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Agency, Profession, Pedagogy, Practice, Education, Professional, Discourse, Contingency, Externality, Educational, School, College, University, Firm, Company, Client, Customer, Zeyka, Zeyka India

The theme of autonomy continues throughout the film. This theme is also omnipresent in the architectural profession. This conflict between architecture as an isolated system and architecture as a dependent system is of its own making. It is being molded by the forces of people and their ideas. And, while it is not a terrible thing in and of itself, the truth is that it is now beyond the profession's own control. The unfortunate part is that they are of their invention.


What do you think the reaction of the architectural fraternity will be to these forces or changes in circumstances?

We have seen that the response of architecture to changing environments has not been one of engagement, innovation, or acceptance. Instead, it is one of increasingly internalised redefinition and self-validation detached from the outside world.


Shama Patwardhan, Palak Gupta, Anchal Srivastava, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Agency, Profession, Pedagogy, Practice, Education, Professional, Discourse, Contingency, Externality, Educational, School, College, University, Firm, Company, Client, Customer, Zeyka, Zeyka India

In the decades following the launch of Urban Design, we have not seen any success in architecture. And according to Diana Agrest, “but it’s coming to grief against a historical moment, one that closes down certain social tasks that architecture had previously served.” It is necessary to identify the tasks that capitalist growth has taken away from architecture. That is, what it has stripped away from ideological pre-figuration in general. With this, one is forced to perceive architecture as being obligated to return to pure architecture, to form without utopia. According to Manfredo Tafuri, "The honesty of those who dare to speak of that mute and outmoded "purity" is always preferred to the false attempts to give architecture an ideological garment. Even though it, too, is ideologically inspired, it is sad in its anachronism.”


This internal reinvention of the definition of a profession is a masquerade. It is a ruse to provide the idea of engagement and progress toward emerging challenges of the world. The fact, though, is far from that. Each fold has been made to defend its previous stance on autonomy.


Postmodernism and post-structuralism were movements aimed at a systematic redefinition of social order, especially in pedagogy and practice. Yet, its use in architecture reflects the most devious form of opportunism. The masters molded the virtues of change in social priorities and hierarchies of the practice into virtues of building forms and images.

Once again, the emphasis was moved from procedure to product. Why? To achieve a redefinition of form purity by following the same conservative tendencies of architecture.


Shama Patwardhan, Palak Gupta, Anchal Srivastava, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Agency, Profession, Pedagogy, Practice, Education, Professional, Discourse, Contingency, Externality, Educational, School, College, University, Firm, Company, Client, Customer, Zeyka, Zeyka India

The likes of Eisenman, Zaha Hadid, and others changed the emphasis away from the worn-down techniques of architecture. They wrecked even more havoc on the prevailing concepts of harmony, unity, and stability. This was a systematic and deliberate undoing and destruction of the product. But, it was to protect their interests and authority.


Deconstruction, parametricism, suprematism, and other dominant movements created their own complexities to replace the ones long established in architecture. According to Mark Wigley, "Forms are disrupted and only then is a functioning program delivered.” Instead of form following function, the function should follow deformation.” Thus, the manipulation of forms became the most important activity in architecture where the use of the building, its contextual definition, and reinvention framed by tenets of functionalism were abandoned.

It generated a sense of unparalleled autonomy as well as amnesia about the past. And for what purpose? So that the power structures that gave architecture this new language can be served.

Shama Patwardhan, Palak Gupta, Anchal Srivastava, Architects, Architecting, Architecture, Architectural, Design, Agency, Profession, Pedagogy, Practice, Education, Professional, Discourse, Contingency, Externality, Educational, School, College, University, Firm, Company, Client, Customer, Zeyka, Zeyka India



About the Writer

Anchal Srivastava is an architect, urban planner, writer, researcher and scholar. She is a certified GIS specialist from IIRS, ISRO, Dehradun. She is a graduate of the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Delhi and Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam Technical University (APJAKTU), Uttar Pradesh. She has experience working at the Town and Country Planning Organisation Delhi, Jabalpur Smart City Limited, Suresh Goel & Associates (SGA), APS Green Architects & Associates, and as the head architect at SSAP and Shantiniketan Buildtech Pvt. Ltd.


About the Editor

Shama Patwardhan is an architect and writer from Mumbai. She is a graduate of the Rachana Sansad's Academy of Architecture (AoA), Mumbai and the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Heritage Conservation Society, India. She has experience working with Rethinking The Future (RTF), Abhikalpan Architects and Planners, and Manasaram Architects.


About the Illustrator

Palak Gupta is an undergraduate architecture student at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), Bhopal. She is also a graphic designer, illustrator and painter. She has experience working on the packaging design and branding for NutriTown Organics.

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