singing funeral dirges

An open letter to Patrik Schumacher after reading this :

An Alternate Blood-Letting:

Sir [and I use that term loosely] –

Where does one being with such absurdities and contradictions?  How does one approach such appalling invectiveness towards exactly that which should be nurtured?

Mr. Schumacher, hang your head in shame.  Your brief, un-substantive article in The Architectural Review should be digitally burned for its dripping condescension alone.  That you have the gall to completely debase particular schools for not following in your drivel of a practice – devoid of life, devoid of soul, duende, and lays limp in hollow form “testing” – is a testament to exactly why these schools are of the utmost importance today.

Perhaps you might stop to consider exactly why and how these dystopic proposals have developed?  Or do you not care?  Let’s pretend you do.  Perhaps, the current student body is actually engaged in the political and social comings-and-goings of the world and feels a bit of despair because of it?  You must know what that feels like, right?  These projects are only a projection of where we are headed if nothing changes.  They imagine a future in which parametricism and the scientific beatitudes that pervade the undertones of contemporary discourse have overrun the world and destroyed it – and yet the potential brilliance and sweet breath of these projects is precisely their perseverance in the face of inevitable destruction.  They witness some enthroned oaf mucking up the place and decide they’d rather be involved in the solution rather than the perpetuation of the problem.  That it might come off to you as desiring some “poetic import,” suggests many things about your principles and the state of the profession today.  Might you stop to think that perhaps this is a result of the desire for something missing?  Might your designs not be enough for the rest of us with hearts as well as brains?  Oh, cruel world!  Often, they imagine something broken, some larger problem, and attempt a solution.  Does this not suit your taste for “systematic research and serious design experiments”?  In your article you suggest how you imagine a school should be:

I consider the best schools to be a crucial part of the avant-garde segment of the discipline charged with the permanent innovation of the built environment. It is here that systematic research and serious design experiments can be conducted in ways that are more principled and more forward looking than would be possible within professional practice on the basis of real commissions. Academic design research allows designers to select and focus on specific aspects of the built environment, and abstract from other aspects.

That you might even entertain the idea that the RIBA awarded projects contain none of this is so absurd it borders on farce.  I’d laugh if I wasn’t so angry.  The logical basis of the argument is so non-existent that I don’t even know where to begin.  Your more or less stated criticism is that these projects don’t contain valid research but are thrown together from poetry snippets and lustful longings of a bygone Romanticism.  And yet your position is so divorced from reality that I have to wonder how you dressed yourself this morning: “Instead we witness the invention of scenarios that are supposedly more interesting than the challenges actually posed by contemporary reality. “  Please explain to me how an ecological research center is an invented scenario in an era of rampant ecological destruction.  How is that not contemporary reality?  Had you done even a modicum of Googling alone, or read the links posted next to your own article, you might have found that, for example, the structures of the Venice algae monitoring facility actually contained a vast amount of research.  Yet you chose to overlook that and be unsatisfied with the pretty picture you’re seeing, attesting to your shallow field of vision that is reflected in your “professional” practice.  Rather than looking at a compelling image and investing time and energy into discovering what is compelling about it, you look, maybe smirk at its sex, then move on to devour the next piece of flesh.  I have to ask, is satisfying?  Are you full?  But I know the answer: no, not a chance.  It’s a voracious appetite when you’re not truly digesting anything, isn’t it?  There’s your irony.

“The demonstration of creative imagination and virtuoso visualization skills is not enough to merit an award.”  Do you actually believe this?  Is this a joke?  Creative imagination and virtuosity do not merit award?  What in the hell does?  Does it not require creative imagination to invent whatever the hell you’re thinking schools should produce?  Or perhaps you don’t actually want students to create new thing, but only exit the school as institutionalized, happy little indebted corn husks? Christ almighty, I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.

And allegory?  Some might spin an allegorical yarn, yes, but since when does that lack value?  You’d rather have a school of engineering automatons producing so-called technological innovations than encouraging an environment of lateral and nimble thinking?  How dare you claim that these schools lack value and have no place in the professional world!  Implicit is your desire and claim to power, in which you dictate your limpid architectural gestures – and they are nothing but gestures – to be produced and worked out by the automatons your suggested type of school would contain.  I imagine you’d prefer nice quiet industrial designers hunched over glowing computer screens trying to fashion a little joint that doesn’t look like a joint, or a small gear to operate the glossy cover that only exists to cover its own gear; a nice little meta statement of your subjects.  Your loyal servants, your indentured servants, starry-eyed pleading servants.  Chained to desks by those invisible coils of paternal appeasement.

I could go on, but I doubt you’ve read this far.  So I’ll end with this: You, sir, are full of shit.  Glossy white shit.

Very Sincerely –

Martin Byrne

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2 Responses to singing funeral dirges

  1. karel says:


    I saw you posted this over at The Funambulist and wanted to give you some feedback.

    I painfully read some of your comment, but admittedly skipped the mid section. Let me tell you why: it is incredibly difficult to read Ad hominem attacks, even more so to take them seriously.

    It seems like there was some content in there. Might I suggest that you try to rewrite it? I would love to read a more legible reply.


  2. m.byrne says:

    Hi Karel –

    Frankly, I’m torn as to how to respond. Perhaps you might find the content of the argument in the section you skipped? But, admittedly, perhaps not. If you want content, I’d suggest you stick with The Funambulist. You’ll only find addled poetry snippets and shouts of blood over here. I do appreciate that you took time to read any of it though. It came out as a knee-jerk response and there it will stay. You might want to poke around the rest of this blog, though, to get a better sense of why I said what I did and the background that it came from. Enjoy!


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