Michael Hay starts by examining the two strategies of architecture namely; resistance and negation. While negation seeks to integrate both new and old architectural designs, resistance looks at the static and conservative mentality. These are familiar strategies well known by many while there is another affirmation which is not very common. The approach of affirmation is currently seen as the best alternative to the first two. The two categories of strategies represent two extremes. The two strategies emerge as people try to manage exteriority. The two strategies lay the foundation of Michael’s worries and argument.
The modern architectural strategies are emerging in the attempt to theorize the whole or a part of the objects’ exterior. It is seen in the older Marxism’s who yielded tactics of resistance and negation in the effort to hypothesize exteriority. Marx had a good reason to theorize the economy given that aspects of the economy played a key role in shaping life. He developed theories based on the forces of the economy and how they influenced human life. In the same way, a modern-day man takes time to theorize the media since it is one of the most dominant aspects of life and plays a key role in shaping human thoughts and actions.
The media is essential in shaping people’s behavior and culture. This is the reason why current architects are spending a lot of time trying to theorize the media. Michael Hay begins by taking his audience to the history of architectural theories. He refers to a conference that took place at Princeton University about twenty years back titled “Practice Theory”. According to him, this is the conference that gave rise to modern architecture. It is this conference that made way to the architectural designs seen in the world today and the one where Louis Althusser started his critique on the determinants of modern architecture strategies. The man is commonly known as Structural Marxism based on his concern on economic, social and historical determinants of modern-day architecture.
He further claims that all the factors determining modern architecture are dependent on each other. There are many factors such as economic, political, juridical and social aspects most of which were inherited from Freud. To him, all architectural entities socialized to give rise to modern strategies. All units interacted to give rise to outsides and innards that are reciprocally instituted which are the structures that Althusser called structural totality. They consisted of an enclosed interiority and exteriority which totally integrated all modern designs. No region was independent, but each region was an outcome of all the other regions. It means that the structural design of one area determined how the other area would be.
He further claimed that the same principle applies to all life historical situations and ideologies. Any situation or ideology, no matter how firm it is, is a result of other small ideologies, beliefs, and thoughts. All these small units contribute to the unity of the formation. In the same way, the interiority and exteriority of any design determine the overall effect of the structures. With this respect, it is clear that the most dominant aspect of life was the economy. As stated earlier, the economy played a vital role in determining theories that were in place. However, there are many factors in modern society that interact to shape life. The most dominant ones are social patterns and aesthetic practices which are key in influencing all the other factors. Michael notes how Althusser as a Marxist deeply holds the fact that social, cultural and political regions are different and distant from each other. He does not dwell so much on the fact that all these regions are interdependent, and their interaction gives rise to the current trends in the world.
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It now brings the whole idea of structural totality in regards to architectural theory. The main question to examine is whether architecture is a free-floating structure or is it rooted in perspective. If then it is rooted, it is good to examine whether it is independent, or it is as a result of interconnected ideologies. If it is independent it should be seen in constructive terms producing compensations, suppressions, repudiations, and affirmations. However, this is overridden by the whole issue of semi-autonomy which is because structural totality is a result of many interacting forces combined. The idea of semi-autonomy is the central reason for architectural theory.
Semi-autonomy as a concept struggled in two main fronts. The first front emerged from the architectures’ critique which was based on determinants of the strategies of architectural theory as scientism. It views architecture as related to some features such as the performance of people, sociology and also operations research. Most of the papers presented by people like Mario, Peter, and Jorge Silveti aimed at portraying architecture in other ways denying its autonomy. They were collapsing architecture into different regions rather than an independent field about the knowledge and understanding of society. However, there are other linguistic structures of people like Barthes, Kristeva, and Althusser which were converted into dynamic and practical techniques for creating architecture. From these strategies, historical and political concerns were strained from epistemological positions.
The other front was from Althusser and Tafuri who stressed that architectures return to language was clear evidence of its failure which shows how it lacked autonomy in the society. However, though these two arguments are different, there are many common themes. Both look at the whole problem of linguistic coding and issues associated with communications theory. The main emphasis is that communication theory is a result of the current information explosion. It can also be a result of different kinds of information emerging from rapid media changes. They also recognize efforts played by architecture in maintaining and constructing social consensual meaning and the production of such meaning using architectural strategies. It has resulted in the establishment of social agreement, which has been achieved through formal settlements. Through this, the individual architectural experience is thoroughly reconciled giving it a meaning. Tafuri, on the other hand, objects the whole issue of building consensus, until the time when the society would have the material required for consensus. Unless this is done, Tafuri believes that consensus would be impossible. He claims that the architects who would try to reconstruct a consensus would end up wasting time since there would be no sustainability. It is impossible as one cannot use an empty material to build language consensus among the people whose language code has been lost.
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In contrast to these theories, architecture theory recommends using the media and other complex systems without abandoning consensus. The two methods should be integrated so as to produce good results at the end. For the problem of structural totality and semi-autonomy, it is too complex to state which is applicable. The two ideas can be intertwined following the architecture theory since none of them can work on its own. Different sections could be traversed freely without previous transcoding mechanism proposed by Althusser. The best understanding of different regions could not be achieved since it might be complex. Therefore, architecture theory would source its material from other disciplines and references to be used would be totally random. Architecture theory would be subject to heterogeneous texts that could be unified and rewritten. Various attempts were made to bring a variety of texts together and match them, and architecture theory became an order of the day.
By mid-1980s, the order of combining texts had become very popular. The strategy of reading had changed to the strategies of producing different designs and included popular ones like mapping and grafting. With these strategies, two or more scripts are transcoded and joined resulting in a fresh system of incessant and articulate data. The new theory overshadowed the old system of fragments and inconsistency of architectural parts. It gave rise to formal media containing film and video besides graphic design. Other formal systems emerged such as computer imaging, mathematics biology among others.
Michael calls this system ideological smoothness and mentions three of its features. First, the system is a refutation of the effectiveness of modern architectural practices of negation and resistance. The younger architects and theorists understood negation factually as a part of the current legacy that was now thought to be outdated. Michael finally focuses on the new consensus audience. According to him, there are emerging babies who would be the consumers of the new consensus. They are the younger siblings who have developed distinct patterns of cultural expressions. The people are you and me who have been blinded by the modern media leading to addiction. We are the audience who have a high degree of resistance and who care less about the revolution of architecture. They only focus on the current issues which affect people’s way of thinking. Majority of the young people are under the influence of the modern media which has affected their thinking and the way they do things. The perception of certain issues has changed such as talking, walking style, dressing code among others and they view past culture as outdated and retrogressive. It is a wave that has spread across the world ranging from America, Asia, and even Africa.
The whole idea of negation is overlooked. In Michael’s view, new and traditional architectural designs are equally important. The emergence of new designs and ways of doing things should not overlook the past where all this began. The new architecture has been a product of several old systems intertwined. The aspect of resistance is in the mind of both the traditionalists and the new generation. The old generation resists adapting to the new architectural designs while the young people resist integrating old techniques into the new ones.