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The State of the Art of Architecture, delivered by the Chicago Architecture Biennial Exhibition, must leave lay-visitors bewildered by one overwhelming subliminal message: Contemporary architecture has ceased to exist, the discipline’s guilt and bad conscience has sapped its vitality, driven it to self-annihilation, and architects have now en masse dedicated themselves to doing good via basic social work.
Amanda Williams’ Color(ed) Theory. (Courtesy Chicago Architecture Biennial)
A less charitable interpretation sees the hijacking of the newly created Chicago Architecture Biennial as a marginal but academically entrenched ideological tendency within the discipline that has abandoned its societal remit of innovating the built environment at the world technological frontier, and is instead pouring its allocated resources into concept-art style documentation and agitation on behalf of underdeveloped regions and the milieu.
I am rather suspicious of these creative/artistic engagements with poverty. It sometimes risks mutating into a questionable aesthetization of poverty, a questionable romance. Questionable because what the poor of this world most probably (and rightly) aspire to requires little creativity and imagination because it is already plotted out for them by the ladder of development leading up to what has been achieved in the most advanced arenas of world civilization, where—in contrast—true, path-breaking creativity is indeed called for. I rather feel that our discourse has become far too moralizing and politicized.
It’s all too familiar by now: Political correctness swamps the discipline and takes over its discursive spaces. For example, why should an ARCHITECTURAL biennial give a huge space to an ART project like Amanda Williams’ Color(ed) Theory when ART has already its own (many more) venues for public display/discourse? How is this more relevant to contemporary architecture than contemporary architecture itself?