Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction

by Nikos A. Salingaros

with Contributions by Christopher Alexander, Brian Hanson, Michael Mehaffy, and Terry Mikiten. Umbau-Verlag, Solingen, Germany, 2004.  

Anti Architecture and deconstruction is a collection of essays on deconstructivist architecture. This book raises questions about how the public can be indoctrinated to accept an architecture that is hostile to human sensibilities, and which often causes physiological and psychological distress. In trying to understand the adoption of an architectural fashion, writers often focus only on aesthetic points, and ignore psychological conditioning and the role of the media. I look at the dark underside of contemporary architecture, and the world that promotes and sustains it.

This book brings science, and the scientific way of thinking, to clear up some of the mysteries of architectural culture. I am able to cut through years of mysticism and confusion, and to expose some established practices for what they truly are. When they are no longer supported by an ambiguous pseudo-philosophy, they fall apart. My goal is to build emotionally-nourishing buildings, so every criticism developed here ultimately leads towards a new, more humane architecture. I am searching for an understanding of what architecture truly means: how to get beyond ephemeral fashions into a profound understanding of the built environment.

Some of the essays included in this book take a decidedly spiritual direction. Admittedly, both architects and scientists of our day may harbor some negative feelings towards organized religion. Nevertheless, I find myself drawn towards a new sympathy with humanistic (as opposed to industrial) philosophies. The world’s religions offer positive means of connecting to the universe, and I utilize this as an antidote to the present disconnecting trend. Although most people succumb to indoctrination by the media, a few individuals look for a way out. For them, I offer strategies that help them to resist mind control so they do not conform through peer pressure.

From the author’s preface

This book offers a critical analysis of deconstructivist architecture and its underlying philosophy. I have felt strongly enough about this topic to write a series of essays, previously published in a variety of online and paper journals. Some first appeared in different languages — the present compilation brings them together in English for the first time. In the absence of any other book that is sufficiently analytical so as to make an impact on today’s infatuation with this peculiar building style, I present instead this collection of essays.

The major change in this edition is the inclusion of three new essays originally written and published in Italian. They are made available here in English for the first time. The rest of the book is more or less the same, except for updating the references (and putting them into uniform format), and re-arranging the Parts to accommodate the new pieces in a coherent fashion. I have also added some new explanations of technical points, and cleared up one or two ambiguous sentences in the text. The Postscript to Part 7 and the Index are new. Michael Blowhard contributed Annotations to the three new Parts, and Michael Mehaffy an Endnote for the Second Edition.

Although only three years separate the First and Second editions, a lot has happened that is worth noting. This book has been unexpectedly influential, and its impact is growing. I am gratified that it received very positive and prominent reviews and was praised by many people, but — perhaps more significant — it has provoked a remarkably hostile over-reaction among some in the current architectural establishment. It seems to have struck a nerve.

The book began modestly as a collection of essays severely critical of the most fashionable and esteemed contemporary architects, published in English by a small architectural press in Germany. The book was unknown to general readers, since the major American and British bookstores (including the online ones) did not sell it. One prominent architectural bookstore in the US did carry it, but astonishingly, condemned it on its website! When my publisher complained that this did not make good sense for promoting sales, the bookstore in question promptly dropped the book. Despite such obstacles, the book has been translated into French, Italian, Persian, Portuguese, and Spanish, and the first edition has now sold out.

Nikos A. Salingaros |