Saturday, 2 March 2013

Architectural Writing

Something is happening to architectural writing. Somewhere between the quasi lyricism of the water flowing underground psycho-geographers; the Iain Sinclairs, the Will Selfs, those surface mounted self regarding archeologist anthropologists going nowhere on bicycles, and the convoluted, luscious ruminations of the more succinctly lyrical, sedentary if ambiguous or at least permanently startled Jonathan Meades- standing in another field, against another silo wearing those glasses, eating crisps, perhaps even in fancy dress- and the even greater exquisitaries of the likes of Owen Hatherley on the subject of..... Jonathan Meades (it seems there is a competition going on- I've just ploughed pleasantly through Hatherleys review of Meades in yesterdays LRB) we've all gone word crazy.
It started, maybe, with Matthew Collins, it perhaps had it's genesis in Clive James, maybe found it's feet with Dave Hickey and strolled around like Robert Hughes, or did it just sit in the bar with Ian Nairn (Meades's hero, for some reason). What exactly happened? Where did all the straight talking go, was there any in the first place?
I even found myself described as 'rollicking' (but wrong) in the AR this month.
And funnily enough Matthew Barac and I held our first seminars on architectural writing this very week, as if it were some new task to hand which had previously been considered simply automatic, day to day hack work; something that just happened as the transmission of knowledge. Of course we all knew language wasn't innocent, we're not stupid, we are post structural. But something that was still something mostly unselfconsciously transmitted had now become something we had to think about more creatively and somehow teach. It had become a problem. Goddammit. We run the risk of becoming footballers with writers block, or Fernando Torres if you see what I mean.
If there is an overarching motif to all of this it may be 'the torn', those torn between 'making great television, but bad history' those torn between loving things in the ramshackle way they are, and their great vision of tomorrow, because they want both/and; they like it ugly, but not like that. Those torn up by plainly ridiculous processes of design and those torn up by the process of making decent sentences. Perhaps with grander perspective it's just that we can't do anything (we will never, by definition, fulfill our desire, desire is unquenchable) and we're torn up about it. This, of course, makes writing about it more important.
I generally prescribe Ernest Hemingway and Marx for Beginners in chronic cases.

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