So, let's just say I'm driving this buggy. And, if you fix your attitude, you can ride along with me.
September 6, 2003 10:55 AM   Subscribe

con·struct: To form by assembling or combining parts; build.
de·con·struct: To break down into components; dismantle.
posted by poopy (17 comments total)
The Wexner Center for the Arts, the Shangri-La of deconstructionist architecture, by Peter Eisenman, the general deity of deconstructionist thought. The damn building doesn't display art very well, though.
posted by The Michael The at 12:01 PM on September 6, 2003

Neato. Thanks!
posted by slipperywhenwet at 12:50 PM on September 6, 2003

ooops, sorry, i meant to include the indispensable archinect. and thanks for the eisenman links The Michael The
posted by poopy at 1:05 PM on September 6, 2003

Excellent post (and not at all what I thought it was going to be; I had no idea there was such a thing as "deconstructionist architecture"). The name sounds awful, but I love Hadid's stuff, at least as seen here. You can't really tell about architecture without you walk around in it.
posted by languagehat at 4:35 PM on September 6, 2003

i'm very much curious about wether the development of this style of architecture is due more as a reaction to modernist architecture...or because with the development of finite element analysis (read computers) and CAD this style COULD be done. I realize as an engineer i'm pretty skewed on this one but i can't help feel at times that technology is often the limit of what can be done architecturally (think of it this way: you couldn't have the pantheon without concrete, the early skyscrapers without steel framing, and a whole bunch more without reinforced concrete). Makes one wonder with the development of new materials and better analysis methods how long it will be before we get to live like the jetsons.
posted by NGnerd at 6:22 PM on September 6, 2003

Let me be the smartass to say "You mean that whole thing on 9/11 wasn't terrorism, it was just deconstructivist art?" and get it over with.

You may now re-rail.
posted by wendell at 6:42 PM on September 6, 2003

Wendell: Too late.

It's deconstructivist, languagehat, btw, and that distinction is about as important as the difference between historic and historical (or interpretive vs. interpretative, one that's made even less headway in popular culture). It was never all that popular (partly through impracticality), though there's been a flowering in the late 20th for ancillary developments: for example, the Centre Pompidou in Paris remains one of the most famous postmodern structures. Although it uses modernist form-follows-function rulesets, it attempts to parody them by inverting and exaggerating those rulesets, a technique inspired by deconstructivism.

Once someone understands this, they can understand it as a metaphor for what postmodernism and deconstruction do to less concrete forms of expression. It's also easy to see how someone could get so bound up in deconstructivism that they could design a structure by turns useless, unsound, and inaccessible to humans -- a charge often leveled at postmodern art of any stripe. In many ways postmodernism represents the insight of a student who, in non-architectural terms, suddenly realizes that glass pipes would show the shit as it flushes away, without realizing that there's a reason pipes aren't, generally, glass.

Cynical, ain't I? Well, I'm the guy who once asked a room full of Marxists how it all fit into other 19th-century utopian movements, to a roomful of blank stares. Deconstructivists aren't used to having the technique turned back on themselves.

MetaFilter: Showing the shit as it flushes away, since 1999.
posted by dhartung at 9:57 PM on September 6, 2003

-and the marxists' proper answer [from their perspective, not that i necessarily agree] should have been, "marx got it right, unlike faurier etc."

and i do think deconstructivists are used to having the technique turned back on themselves. after all they compete with and are criticized by each other as much as with/by the older orders. it's just that their structures [physical & theoretical] are intentionally fragile, unlike the robust thereness of modernity.

you were taken in: those pipes are clear poly apart from the ones close enough to touch / the architect designed them to shatter / there are no toilets anyway.
posted by mitchel at 7:20 AM on September 7, 2003

dhartung: I copied and pasted the phrase from The Michael The's comment, being too lazy to type all those letters. So, all together now: it's deconstructivist, The Michael The! (Or are there possibly rival camps, the deconstructivist and the deconstructionist, savaging each other relentlessly while an indifferent world looks on unawares, never noticing the crucial two-letter difference?)
posted by languagehat at 8:32 AM on September 7, 2003

So, dhartung, what is the difference between deconstructivist and deconstructionist? Much of the literature surrounding the subject (at least in architecture) can't seem to make up it's mind. Case in point: Mark Wigley's seminal work Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida's Haunt, published in 1993, which is one of the defining works in deconstructivist architectural thought.

(btw: Frank Gehry is most definitely not a deconstructivist architect - he himself eschews (see the first paragraph in the third link) the title. He is more a sculptor than anything.)

And as far as the World Trade Center goes, it hasn't quite reached it's status as a "deconstructivist" work yet: most definitely was it destroyed (or deconstructed, if you like), but to obtain the status of a deconstructivist work, it needs to be summarily reconstructed after an in-depth analysis, and there's probably no better person for that than Peter Eisenmann. (Much as I may dislike him.)
posted by danbeckmann at 4:26 PM on September 7, 2003

A partial explanation of deconstructionism/deconstructivism. Languagehat, feel free to stick that in your hat and smoke it.

/good-natured discussion
posted by The Michael The at 4:54 PM on September 7, 2003

You say deconstruction,
I say deconstructive,
Let's call the whole thing off...

dhartung: Wow. I've been waiting all week for you to reply to one of my non-sequiturs with something frighteningly sequitur. Have you found any architecture reviews of the new Ground Zero design with the inevitable tasteless comment of 'deserving another attack'?
posted by wendell at 5:26 PM on September 7, 2003

The Michael The: You mean, "dhartung, feel free to stick that in your hat and smoke it"—I'm an innocent bystander here, caught in the middle—I'm still trying to figure out deconstruction a la Derrida, never mind this architecture stuff!
posted by languagehat at 7:09 PM on September 7, 2003

My apologies, LH! I realized my mistake after posting, so I cheerfully retract that comment.
posted by The Michael The at 7:38 PM on September 7, 2003

Using plain language, I think I would say that deconstructionist architecture attempts to subvert the social experience and position of building types, e.g. designing a taco hut in the form of a gas station; while deconstructivist is more concerned with the social aspects of architectural construction, e.g. why are walls straight and roofs angled? what if we reverse that? But then, I'm only a dilettante; my college didn't have a Comp. Lit. degree, only a few classes; and I don't feel like parodying Derrida tonight. Try this: deconstruction is about the subversion of the whole of human thought; things which are deconstructive merely appropriate the techniques of deconstruction for less grandiose purposes.

In the end, a pissant différance such as this is typical of the ha-ha-only-deadly-fucking-serious approach of postmodern writing, and a virtuoso twenty-paragraph dissertation on the distinction would normally be called for, ideally with twenty-five paragraphs of footnotes run in a sidebar wider than the text columns, and carefully orchestrated so that footnotes might be geographically distant from their origin points but nevertheless harmonize with the local text.

Put even more simply, perhaps, deconstructionist architects write; deconstructivist architects design. Yikes, I'm nasty.
posted by dhartung at 12:11 AM on September 8, 2003

dhartung: Many thanks (and yes, I did know about la différance).

I gotta say, though, you're getting old. The dhartung we once knew would have given us the virtuoso twenty-paragraph dissertation on the distinction with twenty-five paragraphs of footnotes without thinking twice or breathing hard.
posted by languagehat at 7:31 AM on September 8, 2003

However, dhartung, if you look at the thought processes behind most (valid) deconstructivist architecture, it is that same societal and historical analysis that you assign to deconstructionist architects. This is why I have no trouble in labeling Frank Gehry non-deconstructive, and also why I have trouble assigning the label to Zaha Hadid - granted, she does have the thought processes that are specific to Deconstructivist Architecture, but often times, they are justifications (sort of,) of her paintings, which are usually where her forms stem from. Which is also why I find it odd that she is noted as being the common element in lists of deconstructive architects.

All this makes it all the more difficult to do honest-to-Derrida deconstructivist architecture. The only people that I think have mastered the technique are Bernard Tschumi and Rem Koolhaas, or at least this far into my research.
posted by danbeckmann at 11:07 AM on September 8, 2003

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