ARCHITECTURE and RESISTANCE
Apropos of nothing in particular—unless it is the general spirit of acquiescence pervading the field of architecture today—I have been thinking about the idea of architecture and resistance. Although many people might judge that my work in architecture has been nothing if not a form of resistance, I have never considered it as such. To say that you are resisting something means that you have to spend a lot of time and energy saying what that something is, in order for your resistance to make sense. Too much energy flows in the wrong direction, and you usually end up strengthening the thing you want to resist.
It seems to me that if architects really want to resist, then neither the idea nor the rhetoric of resistance has a place in it. These architects must take the initiative, beginning from a point of origin that precedes anything to be resisted, one deep within an idea of architecture itself. They can never think of themselves as resisters, or join resistance movements, or preach resistance. Rather (and this is the hard part of resistance) they must create an independent idea of both architecture and the world. It is not something that can be improvised at the barricades. It takes time and a lot of trial and error. This is only just, because the things to be resisted have not come from nowhere. They have a history built over periods of time, a kind of seriousness and weight that makes them a threat to begin with. They can only be resisted by ideas and actions of equivalent substance and momentum.
The word resist is interestingly equivocal. It is not synonymous with words of ultimate negation like ‘dismiss’ or ‘ reject.’ Instead, it implies a measured struggle that is more tactical than strategic. Living changes us, in ways we cannot predict, for the better and the worse. One looks for principles, but we are better off if we control them, not the other way around. Principles can become tyrants, foreclosing on our ability to learn. When they do, they, too, must be resisted.
Resist whatever seems inevitable.
Resist people who seem invincible.
Resist the embrace of those who have lost.
Resist the flattery of those who have won.
Resist any idea that contains the word algorithm.
Resist the idea that architecture is a building.
Resist the idea that architecture can save the world.
Resist the hope that you’ll get that big job.
Resist getting big jobs.
Resist the suggestion that you can only read Derrida in French.
Resist taking the path of least resistance.
Resist the influence of the appealing.
Resist the desire to make a design based on a piece of music.
Resist the growing conviction that They are right.
Resist the nagging feeling that They will win.
Resist the idea that you need a client to make architecture.
Resist the temptation to talk fast.
Resist anyone who asks you to design only the visible part.
Resist the idea that drawing by hand is passé.
Resist any assertion that the work of Frederick Kiesler is passé.
Resist buying an automobile of any kind.
Resist the impulse to open an office.
Resist believing that there is an answer to every question.
Resist believing that the result is the most important thing.
Resist the demand that you prove your ideas by building them.
Resist people who are satisfied.
Resist the idea that architects are master builders.
Resist accepting honors from those you do not respect.
Resist the panicky feeling that you are alone.
Resist hoping that next year will be better.
Resist the assertion that architecture is a service profession.
Resist the foregone conclusion that They have already won.
Resist the impulse to go back to square one.
Resist believing that there can be architecture without architects.
Resist accepting your fate.
Resist people who tell you to resist.
Resist the suggestion that you can do what you really want later.
Resist any idea that contains the word interface.
Resist the idea that architecture is an investment.
Resist the feeling that you should explain.
Resist the claim that history is concerned with the past.
Resist the innuendo that you must be cautious.
Resist the illusion that it is complete.
Resist the opinion that it was an accident.
Resist the judgement that it is only valid if you can do it again.
Resist believing that architecture is about designing things.
Resist the implications of security.
Resist writing what They wish you would write.
Resist assuming that the locus of power is elsewhere.
Resist believing that anyone knows what will actually happen.
Resist the accusation that you have missed the point.
Resist all claims on your autonomy.
Resist the indifference of adversaries.
Resist the ready acceptance of friends.
Resist the thought that life is simple, after all.
Resist the belated feeling that you should seek forgiveness.
Resist the desire to move to a different city.
Resist the notion that you should never compromise.
Resist any thought that contains the word should.
Resist the lessons of architecture that has already succeeded.
Resist the idea that architecture expresses something.
Resist the temptation to do it just one more time.
Resist the belief that architecture influences behavior.
Resist any idea that equates architecture and ownership.
Resist the tendency to repeat yourself.
Resist that feeling of utter exhaustion.
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- May 9, 2009 / 2:38 pm
- Lebbeus Woods