04 December 2006

one year on.

Today Progressive Reactionary turns one year old. It was exactly a year ago when I sat down and decided to conduct an experiment: to start a blog about architecture, urbanism, and politics, and to see if it would go anywhere. I was (and remain) thoroughly convinced of the political potency of two separate realms -- the blogosphere and architecture -- and I saw this project as an experiment to link the two, with the hope of exploring what such an intersection could produce and how such potential could be further developed. Having recently graduated from architecture school and just beginning to practice professionally, I am (still) deeply committed to the political dimension of architecture, and the fact that the smallest creative act -- whether designed, drawn, or written -- has larger political repercussions that always must be taken into account. The blog was to become a forum to test these assumptions.

It should be said that there were two main factors that initially inspired Progressive Reactionary. The first is a general political ignorance at both the academic and professional levels of architecture culture that, for lack of better words, just drives me crazy. Ignorance breeds inertia, and the unbelievable lack of political engagement on behalf of architects -- practitioners of the most political of arts -- is simply unacceptable and, truly, unsustainable. The second inspiration was the ongoing debate on the role of pragmatism in architecture: specifically, the flurry of articles and theoretical treatises in recent years on the merits and inadequacies of so-called "critical" architecture. What seems to be a perpetual dilemma for architects -- to what extent one should operate within or without the machinery of global capitalism -- seemed to be a logical starting point for a blog on architecture and politics.

So I thought it would be worthwhile to take a moment and look back on this year. A recap, if you will. And maybe a little pre-cap for what's to come. Anyway, without further ado...

Progressive Reactionary began with a simple provocation: could it be possible to have a reaction of progress? In other words, could reactionary strategies pragmatically be applied to progressive causes?

Several themes emerged. Hurricane Katrina and the incredible -- if tragic -- opportunity it offered for some kind of progressive reconstruction of the Gulf region became an obvious topic of discussion, especially as such progressive prospects dwindled and such opportunities were lost. I found myself posting numerous diatribes on New Urbanism and its discontents, an issue that continues to fascinate me and that will surely surface again. Reconstruction at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan became another target: the memorial design, the Freedom Tower , and the entire master plan have all devolved into artifacts of bureaucracy and poor leadership, and collectively they represent another missed opportunity.

Another recurring theme has been the work of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott-Brown, and their incredibly prescient embrace of architecture's capacity for social commentary. Apparently there is an obsession with the Venturi's that has been brewing in my subconscious and has been unacknowledged until I realized how many posts I had written about their work. A related obsession is the work of their young British followers, FAT. Stay tuned for more discussion of how garish postmodern architecture can interface with progressive political ambitions.

Some other highlights and random musings include: John Portman (a pseudo-hero, I'm a bit embarrassed to say), Paul Goldberger, Herbert Muschamp, various political postings (and then some), the Baghdad Embassy, the merits of sustainability, SANAA, and Herzog & de Meuron. Quite a grab bag, I know.

As for what's on tap... I have a long list of things that I'm planning, including numerous book reviews, plenty of more architectural criticism, and hopefully more coverage of lectures and events. I have a piece on the Danish architects formerly known as PLOT that I'm working on, as well as a look at the OMA / CCTV exhibition currently on view at MoMA. If only I didn't have a day job... alas. Thanks much to all my readers -- I never expected this experiment to take off so rapidly (I think the latest hit count was somewhere in the thousands, which always surprises me). As always, I appreciate any commentary, criticism, etc... you know where to find me.


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