Punching the Cracks

“We are now nearly two decades into the assault on criticality in architecture,” began Douglas Spencer, as he read from the introduction of his new book, Critique of Architecture: Essays on Theory, Autonomy, and Political Economy (Birkhauser) at the Architectural Association. The book launch was hosted by Marianela D’Aprile and joined by Eleni Axioti, Will Orr, Ricardo Ruivo. Spencer said he hoped to give a sense of why critique is a “long, deep issue for architecture,” and why it’s especially timely now. Questioning the role of the critic was a consistent theme among panelists. Orr pondered how discourse functions as academic branding. Axioti remarked that “being branded as another intellectual product cannot be avoided,” which Ruivo didn’t see entirely as a problem—he compared it to the way Marx and Engels branded their ideas as communism. But ultimately, he said, “critique means that you are transforming the framework, exploring its contradictions … and every crack you see, you punch it.”

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