The Cunning of Architecture’s Reason


  • Mark Jarzombek



In the past decade, what has been understood by the word 'theory' has been a discourse that has serviced two types of architectural positions. One the one side there is the language of ‘flow’ and its associated liberalist position of open-ended experientialism. On the other side there is ‘techtonics’ and its associations with reactionary imperatives of a phenomenological reclamation of essence. This paper tries to open a third space, one that has received less attention in recent years, but that hones closer to the philosophical problematic of architecture. To that purpose and to resist the tendency to pull philosophy into an operative design position, I will reassess the philosophies of Georg Friedrich Hegel and Martin Heidegger to argue that when taken together they constitute a type of closure to the conventions of theory that needs to be addressed before the potential for an exteriority to theory can be formulated. The question of how to locate theory, which is of course an extension of the question of how to locate modernity, is, I shall argue, still tied up in Hegel’s studied – and cunning – ambivalence to architecture as a philosophical project. It is this ambivalence that I attempt to deconstruct in order to make it more operational as a theoretical position.

Author Biography

Mark Jarzombek

Mark M. Jarzombek is Associate Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture. He has worked on a range of historical topics from the Renaissance to the modern. He has also worked extensively on nineteenth and twentieth century aesthetics. His most recent book, The Psychologizing of Modernity, Art, Architecture and History (2000), attempts to historicize a complex set of issues around the question of subjectivity and modernity. Jarzombek is currently working on a set of essays on architecture and modernity.