Resisting the City / Context of Disciplines

The readings this week look at the contemporary structure of the profession, first in Wigley’s Resisting the City and then in Abbott’s Contexts of the Discipline. Wigley looks at the profession of architecture as one constantly in paradox, fighting for its survival in unique ways, addressing architects as comforting persons whose task it is to provide security in a city whichcontinues to find itself getting rid of walls in favor of the digital.  Abbott, on the other hand, discusses disciplines in general, how they emerged and for what reasons they persist in relationship to the history of the University systems of the world. In this discussion he argues that the borders or basketswhich contain disciplines have largely resisted change and in fact have created more boundaries in the 20th century, a movement that hurts each discipline’soverall endeavors but that is reinforced by the capitalist system and job markets.

Wigley  portrays  the  architect  as  a  peculiar  creature,  translating information

already in the environment into new built forms meant to speak to whoever is listening. Wigley uses the city as the stage for his discussion, presenting architects as molecules in a sea of technology, culture and every otherinstitution of city life. He sets up the city initially as a sprawling landscape without bounds, where something (or someone) must tell us when we have reached the threshold between cities as if it mattered. Once the concept of sprawling cities no longer contained by walls is set up he shows how fragile this structure is discussing how technology has made non-­‐place and communications an obsession for architects as they constantly fawn over the idea that the notion of the city (medieval then modern) is being destroyed in the contemporary. Architects for decades are saying the world is doing one thing while actually it is entirely contradicting it. As people become connected through information and non-­‐place they are gathering in urban places in numbers larger than ever before and more rapidly.  He compares architects to advertisers whose slogan is constantly the same but must keep repackaging it with various images for themselves in order to stay relevant.  Then later he compares them to science fiction astronauts, discovering life on some new planet (the contemporary city)  and  offering  an  ideal  plan  for  the  species’ future  only  to  leave  once  the storybook  moment  has  faded.  Finally architects  are  looked  at  as  war  generals fighting against the city whileproducing both its attackers and defenders.  He paints a  picture  of  architects as  unaware  of  their  confusion  and  paradoxes,  busily attempting to be on the avant-­‐garde unable to see themselves glitching back to the notion thatthe city is dying in favor of non-­‐place  when in fact it is as strong as it’s ever been.

Abbott looks at a range of disciplines from the liberal arts as well as universities and doctrines from various states as a means of demonstratinghow each one’s attempts or advertisements towards change and progress are in the end reaffirmations of a basket structure with the main goal of self-­‐preservation. First he looks at the various systems of France, Germany and England and the flawed education systems they produced.  He argued that while they’re aims were towards a more universal intelligence they were intense but fragmented (Germany), unguided (France), or not practical   (England). Bycontrast American Universities became  large,  institutions  focused  on practicality  and  output  through  cohesive research within disciplines.

Abbott goes on to say that universities constructed departments, majors and disciplines as a way of self-­‐preservation by distinguishing themselves through their separation.  While one might argue that the natural course of action is cross-­‐disciplinary training and discourse, taken to an extreme the destruction of the college major, Abbott gives examples of how various fringe moments while symbolically successful were utter failures once matriculation and the job market became a factor or short lived.  Abbott doesn’t necessarilycondemn the basket system because it has merits for later applications but he argues that the basket systems are too restrictive in their teachings as a result of strong desires for self-­‐preservation across the board.


About mhgoblue

Architecture Undergrad University of Michigan

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