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Pragmatics: towards a theory of things

Adler, Gerald (2017) Pragmatics: towards a theory of things. In: This Thing Called Theory. AHRA Critiques: Critical Studies in Architectural Humanities, 12 . Routledge, Abingdon, UK, 179 to-190. ISBN 978-1-138-22299-1. E-ISBN 9781315406266. (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided) (KAR id:60527)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)


‘Things’ in architecture include buildings, but depending upon the scale at which we observe and experience the world it also comprises streets, rooms, windows and nailheads. With the rise of the digital these hard, finite material things are rapidly melting into air. The fluidity of the modern world, à la Zygmunt Bauman, means that the traditional division between theory and practice, between what advanced architects one hundred years ago would have understood as the dichotomy of ‘architecture’ and ‘building’, no longer obtains.

This paper takes Reyner Banham’s initial essay on tradition versus technology (‘Stocktaking’, Architectural Review February 1960) as its starting point, but inverts his dichotomy. If, according to Elizabeth Diller, ‘…architecture is a technology that has not yet discovered its agency’, then it is surely the case that today it is technology in its globalised and commodified form that has become the new orthodoxy, in contrast to the freedoms suggested by a practice and theory of bricolage, the children of Ivan Illich and Lucien Kroll. Compare the certainties of the brand of any ‘starchitect’ with the serendipities of Patrick Bouchain.

For Bouchain, it is theory represented by imaginative narratives that structure design, evident in his discovery of the self-seeded roof of the wool and cotton auction house that he transformed into Roubaix’s La Condition Publique arts centre (2002-3). In a similar vein, the Californian architect and poet Jill Stoner has argued for a ‘minor’ architecture in which narratives of various stripes inform design decisions. On a more materialist tack, the list in the first paragraph will remind the reader of Heinrich Tessenow’s writings on the provenance of the things that make our houses, prescient of Bertold Brecht’s sentiments in his ‘Questions of a Reading Worker’. All point to the enhancement of architecture through the collaborative and creative agency of designer, user and builder: towards pragmatic theory.

Item Type: Book section
Uncontrolled keywords: architectural theory - pragmatism
Subjects: N Visual Arts > NA Architecture
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > Kent School of Architecture and Planning
Depositing User: Gerald Adler
Date Deposited: 23 Feb 2017 17:04 UTC
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2021 13:43 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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