What difference could Pragmatism have made? From architectural effects to architecture’s consequences
By the late 1990s, the once fruitful alliance between architecture and continental philosophy was perceived as being responsible for the apparent schism between architectural theory and practice. In that context, some saw Pragmatism as a potential alternative for reviving the architectural discourse. This paper first considers how this enterprise was actually more of a continuity than rupture with former philosophical affinities. The introduction of Pragmatism in architecture was discussed in the same breath as previous developments based on Deleuze and Foucault, mostly around the ‘diagram’. Architectural thinkers were then following the recent revival of Pragmatism in American philosophy, carried out by figures like Rorty, and based on a reconciliation between American Pragmatism and Continental philosophies. This might explain why they favoured Pragmatism at the expense of contemporary analytic philosophy. This also explains why their initiative was not as successful as they expected: the alternative did not appear as offering enough of a contrast. In the second part of the paper, I take this non-fulfilment as an opportunity to explore – to speculate – what Pragmatism could have contributed to the ‘post-critical’ scene that followed in the early 2000s. The main post-critical move is a shift away from ‘meaning’ towards the material, sensuous ‘effects’ of architecture. Pragmatism appeared relevant, as its main gesture is to consider effects rather than causes and to dismiss all discussions that have no practical bearings. But Pragmatism has more to offer than just a refocus on practice. My hypothesis is that Pragmatism expands the obligations of architecture. It doesn’t just bring to the fore concrete, seductive ‘effects’ of buildings; it also insists on considering their broader ‘consequences’ on the environment – physical as well as social and cultural – and on inventing ways of dealing with them.
Allen, Stan, Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City, 1st ed (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999).
Allen, Stan. Practice: Architecture, Technique and Representation (Routledge, 2000).
Baird, Georges, “‘Criticality’ and Its Discontents,” Harvard Design Magazine 21 (2004): 16–21.
van Berkel, Ben and Caroline Bos. Move (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: UN Studio & Goose Press, 1999).
van Berkel, Ben and Caroline Bos. “Volume 3: Effects. Radiant Synthetic,” in Move (Amsterdam, The Netherlands: UN Studio & Goose Press, 1999).
Bijlsma, Like, Udo Garritzman, and Wouter Deen, eds., Diagrams, OASE 48 (Sun Publishers, 1998).
Bos, Caroline and Ben Van Berkel, eds., “Diagram Work: Data Mechanics for a Topological Age,” ANY, no. 23 (June 1998).
Brott, Simone and John Rajchman, “An Interview with John Rajchman, Department of Art History, Columbia University, on Architecture, Deleuze and Foucault,” Subjectivizations: Deleuze and Architecture (Masters Thesis), 2003, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/67949/2/67949.pdf.
Cusset, François. French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States (U of Minnesota Press, 2008 ).
Daidalos - Diagrammania, vol. 74 (Berlin, 2000).
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1988 ).
Dewey, John, “The Development of American Pragmatism, Reprinted in The Essential Dewey, Volume 1, Pragmatism, Education,” Democracy, 1998 (1925), 5–6.
Dewey, John ed., Studies in Logical Theory (Ams Press Inc, 1903).
Dewey, John. Liberalism and Social Action (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1935).
Eisenman, Peter. Peter Eisenman: Diagram Diaries (Universe Publishing, 1999).
Fischer, Ole W, “Architecture, Capitalism and Criticality,” in The SAGE Handbook of Architectural Theory, 2012, 56–69.
Fisher, Saul, “Analytic Philosophy of Architecture: A Course,” American Society For Aesthetics, accessed May 9, 2016, http://aesthetics-online.org/?page=Fisherarch.
Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (Vintage, 1977 ).
Hays, K. Michael and Alicia Kennedy, “After All, or the End of ‘The End of,’” Assemblage, no. 41 (April 1, 2000): 6–7.
Healey, Patsy, “The Pragmatic Tradition in Planning Thought,” Journal of Planning Education and Research 28, no. 3 (March 1, 2009): 277–92.
Houdart, Sophie, “Des Multiples Manières D’être Réel,” Terrain, no. 46 (March 15, 2010): 107–22.
Krauss, Rosalind, “Notes on the Index: Seventies Art in America,” October, 1977, 68–81.
James, William. Pragmatism (Courier Corporation, 1995 ).
Mallgrave, Harry Francis, “Pragmatism and Post-Criticality,” in Introduction to Architectural Theory: 1968 to the Present (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 177–93.
Nobel, Philip, “What Pragmatism Ain’t,” Metropolismag.com, July 2001, http://www.metropolismag.com/html/content_0701/far/.
Ockman, Joan, The Pragmatist Imagination. Thinking about “Things in the Making” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000).
Ockman, Joan and Terry Riley, Things in the Making: Contemporary Architecture and the Pragmatist Imagination (MoMA, New York, 2000), 2001.26a-27d.
Rajchman, John, “On Not Being Any One,” in Anyone (New York: Anyone Corporation, 1991), 100–111.
Rajchman, John, “A New Pragmatism?,” in Anyhow, ed. Cynthia D. Davidson (MIT Press, 1998): 212-217.
Rajchman, John and Cornel West. Post-Analytic Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 1985).
Rorty, Richard, Consequences of Pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980 (U of Minnesota Press, 1982), xviii.
Sanders Peirce, Charles, “How To Make Our Ideas Clear,” Popular Science Monthly 12 (January 1878): 293.
Saunders, William S., “Accept, Resist, or Inflect? Architecture and Contemporary Capitalism,” in The New Architectural Pragmatism (University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
Somol, R. E., “The Seduction of the Similar,” Assemblage, no. 40 (1999): 68-79.
Somol, R. and S. Whiting, “Notes around the Doppler Effect and Other Moods of Modernism,” Perspecta 33 (2002): 72–77.
Speaks, Michael, “Design Intelligence and the New Economy,” Architectural Record 190, no. 1 (January 2002): 72–75.
Sykes, A. Krista, Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009 (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010).
Van Toorn, Roemer, “No More Dreams? The Passion of Reality in Dutch Architecture... and Its Limitations,” Harvard Design Magazine, no. 21 (2004): 22–31.
Van Toorn, “From Representation to Presentation and Back,” in Architecture In The Netherlands Yearbook 2004-2005, ed. Anne Hoogewoning, Roemer Van Toorn, and Arthur Wortmann (NAi 010 Publishers, 2005).
Yaneva, Albena. The Making of a Building: A Pragmatist Approach to Architecture (Peter Lang, 2009).
West, Cornel, “Race and Architecture,” in Keeping Faith: Philosophy and Race in America, vol. 51 (New York: Routledge, 1993).
West, Cornel and Rem Koolhaas, “Critical Mass: Urban Philosophies,” AV Monographs, no. 91 (2001): 15–33.
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.