Here's my question: If a weekly blogger misses a post on Thursday, and knows she'll miss another one on the next Thursday, does a post on the Tuesday between count for both? You see my problem...I didn't post anything last week as loyal readers--and I know at least one of you is out there--know. Why? Well, I spent most of the day last Thursday talking.
I had hopes for a quiet fall, with activities associated with Green Community starting to taper off toward closing next month. My work on the book done, all I needed to do was await publication and have that delicious moment of holding it in my hands. Ha. Nothing quiet about this fall. As part of the gearing up for the publication of the book the folks at APA have got my co-editor Tim Mennel and I interviewing our contributors for later podcast on their, and the Museum's, website.
Last Thursday I did 3 phone interviews. I'm not complaining; it was great fun really. What's not to like about calling up experts and talking to them about their work? Our 30-40 minute conversations will be edited down to 5-8 minute podcasts. (how did these mini-audio events get that name? I wasn't casting from a pod when I made the calls, and one need not be pod-laden to enjoy them. It seems we just stick "i" "e" or "pod" onto any word and it sounds real futurey) I got to talk to Carolyn Steel in London about communities, architecture and food; Esther Sternberg about communities and architecture that can heal us or harm us; and Mary Rickel Pelletier about communities, architecture and water. Turns out all three of them either began their lives in architecture, remain there still, or have found their way to architectural research. All three have in their hands their own keys to the gate of architecture, despite the gatekeepers attempt to keep the discipline pure and autonomous.
There's a strong tradition that Architecture, wearing its capital "A" like a crown, should occupy a rarefied station as art, as critique, as intellectual pleasure. It takes liberally from other equally rarefied disciplines like philosophy or linguistics but only at its fringes does it dirty its hands with reality. All three of my interviewees challenged Architecture--as practice, profession and product--to throw off the capital A and get to work.
As a beginning grad student I used think of Architecture that way. Nothing delighted me so much as deciphering one of Eisenman's games, or sniffing out regulating lines. But it got old and began to seem pretty irrelevant; heck, even Eisenman's moved on and designed a football stadium. By the time I began my teaching career I struggled with the responsibility of teaching the discipline while reminding students that they served something other than their own egos. The really scary truth is that architecture has immense power to harm and to heal.
In the winter of 90-91 Steve Badanes (aka Jersey Devil)opened a lecture at the Catholic University by asking the stunned crowd "how many of you think this war is about architecture?" That was the first Gulf War, but we didn't know then that we'd need to number them. Those students are middle-aged now, and I'm right there ahead of them, and we should all rightly be asking ourselves the same question. But we have to add to it, after hearing the experts we're letting into our world:
How many of you think that health care is about architecture?
How many of you think the banking crisis is about architecture?
How many of you think that leaving no child behind is about architecture?
How many of you think that cash for clunkers is about architecture?
If you answered yes to all of the above then you've realized that, to paraphrase those rarefied deconstructionists I mentioned, that architecture is in the world and the world is in architecture.