Cocktail Hour: After The Kool-Aid
I’m Michael Glassman and I graduated from the YSoA in 2020. I had the distinct honor of serving as the co-coordinating editor of Paprika! in the fall of 2019 alongside Camille Chabrol (‘20), Deo Deiparine (‘20), and Helen Farley (‘20).
As your novelty cat calendar will no doubt have informed you, “Tabbies with tortoiseshell coloring are sometimes called torbies!” But also, September has arrived and that can only mean one thing: a new Volume of Paprika! is upon us!
Volume 07 will come to you courtesy of the dynamic CE team of Christopher Pin, Claudia Ansorena, and Saba Salekfard. Those very coordinating editors are, as luck would have it, also the issue editors of Volume 07 Issue 00 “Architecture Kool-Aid,” out now.
Issue 00 pushes back against our indoctrination into the cult of the architect. It asks us to reconsider the norms of pedagogy and practice – the review, the precedent, the vocabulary, the apparel, even the academy itself. And it locates much of this pushback at the heart of the issue – places like the YSoA, where we learn all of the things that it will take an entire career to unlearn.
There is a sense of exhaustion, and rightly so – at it’s best the architecture world (both inside and outside of Rudolph) gives us a sense of community and shared purpose, in no small part informed by a shared set of references, precedents, rituals, and potables. But, and someone really should have mentioned this earlier, those same ingredients might be poisoning us. It is, as the editors note in their introduction, “bittersweet.”
“We love the taste, we hate the taste, we love the taste, we hate the taste…”
The cup is in our hands.
- Several articles broach the issue from a historical point of view, particularly pieces by Elise Limon (Excite and Offend), Reese Lewis (Deschooling Architectural Pedagogy: Counterculture and What We're Missing Out On), and Rukshan Vathupola (The Origin of Authority). These pieces examine our current institutions through the lens of the past, from the Foundation of the Royal Academy of Architecture in 1671, to the radical architecture of the AA in the 1970s, to the radical architecture of the AA in the 1980s.
I jest about the focus on the educational experiments of the last century, but there’s good reason that, 50 years later, these experiments are resonating once again. However, the relative difference in tone between Elise and Reese’s articles do well to create a dialogue within the issue. While Reese laments the lack of free time in today’s studio culture and the relative timidity of today’s architecture students to fight for their pedagogical freedom, Elise concludes with a call to re-enter studio with a brazen and collective energy.
- Meanwhile, the bulk of the issue is dedicated to articles that attack specific norms and customs of the architecture tradition (the proverbial ‘meat’ of the Kool-Aid). Ben Fann (Oh Yeah…) calls for us to be more contextual in our choice of precedents, Jena Meeks (The Making of a Cult Image) examines the architectural uniform, Timothy Wong (Propagating Precision) takes a look at the cult that is axonometric drawing, Katie Colford (Introducing: Do You Read Me?) kicks off a recurring column about architectural language, and Claudia Carle (The Paradoxical Performance) takes aim at the gendered nature of design reviews.
Claudia’s article called out to me in particular, reminding me of an observation from Jeremy Till’s great book Architecture Depends: “One of the mistaken arguments for the retention of the crit is that it prepares for the real world – but at what cost?”1 As Claudia deftly argues, the “psychic and social cost” of a review system that perpetuates the stereotypes of a male-dominated field is a burden that persists long after we leave school, and we are asking our female colleagues to pay it. I would be thrilled to see Claudia and others write further about some of the possible solutions outlined at the end of the article or, better yet!, convince their professors to test them on review day.
I was also pleased to see the re-introduction of the elusive column (a recurring experiment in the P! format), and even more so with Katie’s choice of topic – “humor as a way of cutting through academic jargon.” A first year critic once asked me why my project was underground. It was a seed vault. He said that I had not truly grappled with “the stereotomic.” My favorite, however, is and always will be, “phenomenal transparency,” as in – it was phenomenally transparent that I did not know what “stereotomic” meant.
- Alongside these calls for action sit more personal reflections, including Michelle Deng (Mice!), Joey Reich (Agency and Fantasy: A Love Letter to Architecture) and Joshua Abramovich (All Hail the Architect).
P! articles about the moments between waking and sleep always resonate with me (as in the aforementioned Katie Colford’s wonderful survey “On Nightmares” from Volume 5 Issue 06), and Michelle’s piece on mice was no exception. Growing up in a house where the mice often fornicated in the wall directly behind my headboard, I can confirm that the sound is disconcerting, but you get used to it. As for the anxiety-inducing “threat of humiliation” in design reviews – the other day I sent a roof plan with a wayward toilet block in the middle of it to the Commission of Fine Arts! Imagine the view, though.
Congratulations to the new CE’s and all the contributors on an opening issue that had a lot to offer. And a big shout-out to graphic designers Betty Wang and Mike Tully. Pin this one up and keep it in mind in December when the concrete gets cold and the Kool-Aid feels warm.
- Jeremy Till, Architecture Depends. Cambridge, MIT Press, 2009, p. 8 ↩︎