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Evangelical Crusade

Posted by acdtest on May 2, 2003

Evangelical Crusade

fter slogging through several papers on architectural design written by mathematician cum self-declared architecture theorist Nikos A. Salingaros, two things emerged with crystalline clarity: First, and most glaringly, that the professor is a first-water zealot of the Save The World strain, the most pernicious and virulent strain of all; a self-appointed co-high priest (with his mentor and partner, architect Christopher Alexander) of a new architecture cult with a utopian agenda more political than aesthetic, the first unspoken imperative of which is the defrocking of those he sees as the high priests of the supposed prevailing architecture cult, which supposed cult he labels “modernist” (by which term he seems to mean architectural thinking and design in the 20th century and later), and which supposed high priests are seen by him as a lethal impediment to the triumph of his own new religion. And second, that Professor Salingaros’s writings on architecture make even New York Times architecture critic Herbert Muschamp seem a plain talker, said writings for the most part being impressive-sounding, esoteric, academic gibberish shot through with generalizations, half-truths, unsupported (and largely insupportable) allegations, elided references, and cleverly constructed misdirection, all of it self-protectively clothed in, and armored by, the objective language of science and mathematics as if the thing being considered was of the order of relativistic and quantum phenomena.

It’s a curious crusade on which the professor is embarked; curious because it conspicuously lacks the one thing that might make the object of that crusade convincing: An aesthetically arresting example, an exemplar, of a contemporary building designed and built in strict accordance with the tenets being hawked by Dr. Salingaros and his partner — an aesthetically arresting contemporary building that looks like it belongs to the 21st century instead of to some bygone era. And yet not a single such example is put forward to speak for the rightness and truth of the doctor’s evangelical preaching. It seems to me that such an example would be infinitely more convincing of the dogma of this new cult than is the virtual deluge of densely theoretical, and painfully tortuous and invidious verbiage being turned out by Dr. Salingaros in furtherance of the cult’s aims.

But as I’ve already noted, in his several architecture papers I’ve read, the good professor — a mathematician as I’ve also previously noted, and no architect or historian of art — presents no such example, nor by way of example does he discuss at length, and in vivisectional architectural and aesthetic detail, even so little as a single building of any sort or period to either praise or condemn.

Not one.

Why am I not surprised.

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