Bad Architecture

For Nikos Salingaros, the persuit of formal or critico-ideological concerns in place of adapting to nature and the needs of ordinary human beings defines “bad architecture” which makes people uncomfortable or physically ill. Salingaros’s targets were the star postmodern architects who emphasized meaning at the expense of the concrete experiences of the people who used their buildings. Take Bernard Tschumi—from the premise that there is no fixed relationship between architectural form and the events that take place within it, he drew a socio-critical conclusion: this gap opens up the space for critical undermining. Architecture’s role is not to express an extant social structure, but to function as a tool for questioning that structure and revising it. Salingaros’s counter-argument would be: should we then make ordinary people uncomfortable and ill at ease in their buildings, just to impose on them the critico-ideological message that they live in an alienated, commodified, and antagonistic society? Koolhaas was right to reject what he dismissively calls architecture’s “fundemental moralism,” and to doubt the possibility of any directly “critical” architectural practice—however, our point is not that architecture should somehow be “critical,” but that it cannot not reflect and interact with social and ideological antagonisms: the more it tries to be pure and purely aesthetic and/or functional, the more it reproduces these antagonisms.

Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times, Architectural Parallax, p. 273-4



3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. An excellent summary by Slavoj Zizek. I could not have written a better one myself. Of course, there exists a fundamental disagreement between my group of architect/philosopher friends, many of them Alexandrians (after Christopher Alexander), and most contemporary architects and academics. We believe that architecture is an extension of human cognition and symbiotic interaction with the environment. The latter group, on the contrary, believe in severing this millennial connection so as to create a hostile inhuman environment that expresses certain human psychoses. Contemporary architects don’t quite put it in this way, but either they are being dishonest, or they are fooling themselves.

  2. Brian Hamilton,

    Great to read of this connection between Slavoj and Nikos. I am only on page 229 of my personally signed copy of Living in the end Times so I have not come accross this passage yet. Such serendipity, as I am a subsciber to both Zizek Studies and Gruppo Salingaros on my Facebook page. I feel this is exactly where serious discourse on architecture should go and I hope that Slavoj won’t be hijacked by the Starchitects like Derrida was in the last Century to justify ever more bizarre architectural monuments.
    Greetings to you both and I think Zizek in conversation with Salingaros would be a great event. Any suggestions as to who would moderate such a conversation?

  3. Thanks, Brian, for your suggestion.

    I would be delighted to meet Slavoj Zizek in public (and private) conversations. Let’s hope that someone out there in the mysterious and magical space of the web is paying attention and has the resources to bring us two together somewhere.

    Best regards,

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