An Argument Against the Everyday

MARK FOSTER GAGE (Assistant Dean and Associate Professor, Yale School of Architecture)

I’m not sure I’m the right person to be writing on the everyday as it’s not really my cup of (everyday Lipton) tea. I’m more of a Lapsang Souchong person. I’m more interested in the disciplinarily anomalous than the everyday. For me, the everyday is just takeout —nothing special (by definition), but it does its job of preventing starvation when I get home. One can, of course, make claims that there is actually specialness in the everyday—as has been done in architecture a few times a century since Laugier—but if the everyday is special, it would no longer truly be everyday. Everyday is often synonymous with ordinary. And one cannot, by definition, be both ordinary and special. It’s a contradiction in terms. And so this argument becomes a redefinition of the term “everyday” rather than an argument about architecture. Today the term “everyday” in architecture also confused with “understated,” or a type of minimal effort. Minimalism is a style and I’m not particularly interested in style arguments.

I just wrote about this as a response to Michael Meredith in the most recent issue of Log[1] on minimal design effort and “indifference” as a position. I believe the pursuit of the everyday in architecture is a form of political indifference. As if you’re doing work that supports the status quo of everyday life, as it exists today (and every day), you are offering nothing to change it. That means your architectural efforts are politically inert. You can either design for the everyday in which you live, and solve its problems to keep it running smoothly, or you can design for the tomorrow you want to see—which explains my involvement with Speculative Realist philosophy. I am invested in a project of speculation about new, and more equitable, social realities—as I’m not satisfied with the current paradigms. If today’s reality is the reality you think we should live in—then, by all means, design for its propagation through producing its everyday architecture. Of course,I think we can do better than today’s everyday—architecturally, politically, culturally and socially. Now back to my cup of very special tea. My special​-​ty, as it were…

[1] Log 39, Winter 2017: Observations on Architecture and the Contemporary City.