Maybe I realize that I am angry; that having just come back from an architecture lecture/conference that effectively banishes "revolutionary architecture" to the corner, I realize that I am angry and upset; that I am upset at the meekness of architecture, at the slavishness and obsequiousness with which architecture faces its own present condition; with the lack of boldness or bravado or naive courage or hopeful idealism that architectural discourse seems to lack; that the flat dregs of the lecture was just the usual refrains of "this is all we can do", “what else can we do”, ad nauseam.
Usually, I pipe up and say things at lectures, more often then not so that I won't have the post-lecture moment of regret. "What if I had said such a thing?" And this time I didn't, because I felt like the lecture was too long gone, too far over the point of salvation, but now I do regret. I regret not asking, "what is your relationship with real estate, with finance, with economics and politics, and if there is none, then why not?" I regret not asking, if architecture can only be whorish, to paraphrase Philip Johnson.
I regret not asking why it is that we understand it to be a common phenomenon that hundreds and thousands and tens of thousands of protesters may gather in the street and yell about their desires; that it’s understood that someone’s profit margins are calculated under the hopes that millions of consumers will buy things that are bad for them; that when Kickstarter's budget has already exceeded the NEA's budget we nod our heads sagely in the power of crowdsourcing; that in the hugely optimistic tech startup world it's understood that a single innovation could change everything overnight -- hence the positive co-opting of the term 'disrupt' within the startup world. Yet we can't even begin to conceive of alternatives to profit-driven private housing; we can't imagine that architects should bring it upon themselves to think about issues larger than the design and construction of a single building. And for some reason architects always lose sight of the life underneath the city, of the governing flows and forces that really drive the manifestation of buildings upon an urban field: power/knowledge. Who builds buildings? The strongest flows, the status quo.
I'd argue that, right now, one of architecture's revolutionary potentials lies in the possibility of creating an infrastructure for a few -- not because this would be a selfish ego-oriented architecture dreaming of a libertarian vogelfrei freedom, “free like a bird”, but rather because the possibility of existing and sustaining alone thus immediately opens up the possibility of existing together, freely, within a space. The possibility of outliers, dissenting opinion, alternative viewpoints is possible when the maintenance of the individual is not contingent on a larger mass of people or a majority. Hence the use of the camp, the tent, the sleeping bag, the jacket, as the primary tool for assembly and protest. Why is it that architecture cannot even begin to match the hopes and dreams of newness, productive growth, self-transformation through change, that the world of outdoor camping and travel gear attempts to conjure up? Or in other words: What has architecture done for optimism and political change that Coleman, North Face, and Marmot have not?