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Resistance or Reaction

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This PDF was first published by Architecture and Behaviour Magazine for a special issue: Vol. 9 (1993), No. 1. pp. 1-156. The paper was presented at an invited seminar in Monte Veritas on Lake Locarno, Switzerland in April of that year. In it, I review the cultural politics of design and design education. As noted in the Introduction:

"In architecture .... postmodern design theorists have developed structures of understanding which reinstate design practice as a depoliticised sub-category of fine art production, which takes as its sine qua non the building-as-beautiful-object, founded upon what are reputed to be universally accepted aesthetic norms. In so doing they have at the same time divorced form from its social, cultural and political roots, and have presented it as a value free commodity, the embodiment of the postmodern conception of the "free-floating-signifier" to be bartered and traded in an ever-escalating attempt to transform the use value of buildings into the exchange value of speculative, designed environment. In this process, notions of how the shaping of the built environment might reflect and reproduce asymmetrical arrangements of power which benefit these theorists themselves have been entirely elided from the theoretical discourse. These theories are paradoxically represented as value-free, while at the same time their ideological roots have been masked in logical mystifications which inhibit critical interrogation. They have played a crucial part in bringing about the abandonment of scientific rationality as a mediating factor of architectural design, and their ideology now stands as the dominant belief system to a whole new generation of design students. Yet postmodern theory has been applied in the design disciplines in a partial and selective manner calculated to prescribe the ways in which the professional designer might operate as a public intellectual. Its proponents in the design professions seek to preserve a sacrosanct domain of professional expertise, based upon normative theories of aesthetics, through which the designer might exercise control over what stands for quality in the built environment

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