Drowning In Culture on SCI-Arc

posted by on 2009.09.16, under architecture

There is a great critique of the recent work of local Los Angeles architectural institution SCI-Arc (the Southern California Institute of Architecture, my alma mater) over at Drowning in Culture. Its a critique I didn’t bother to write, though I had considered it Sunday night, as I felt that my heaping more negativity on the place wasn’t going to do anyone any good. Luckily, over at DIC they are a bit more thoughtful and well-spoken than I and make some excellent points about the direction of work at SCI-Arc as well as contextualizing the situation they have gotten into a bit. They also don’t really pull any punches or shy away from placing blame either.

Over the past few years the work has been exceptionally questionable in both its mission and educational scope, leaving behind any kind of critical discourse in favor of the droll world of affect and computational representation…

When architecture reaches this level of mindless digital twiddling it is no longer playing any productive role in the development of modern society and is leaving itself to be exploited purely as a slave to capital…

There isn’t much hope for the school so as long as it’s director, Eric Owen Moss is still at the helm. Moss has made a mockery of the long-touted revolutionary philosophy once present at the school by first alienating it’s more competent instructors to the point where all but the most dedicated faculty left for other institutions, and then by appointing a succession of supplicants who appear unwilling to make provocative decisions with regard to its curriculum.

While I was again disappointed by the Graduate level thesis presentations, I also attended the undergrad level thesis earlier this year, and at the time was actually impressed with the fact that those students were proposing viable buildings and delivering plans, sections, and models actually descriptive of the architectural features of the project at hand. The work was well crafted to boot. The trend toward digital/computational form and embellishment was still there, but it was starting to be applied towards the creation of spaces that had a semblance of use, structure, and service reminiscent of the requirements of building. I am not sure what is generating this schism between the two programs (where their end products used to be indistinguishable from each other) but perhaps those mentoring the graduates should take note of their peers ability to develop more holistic proposals, moving beyond the merely digital and bringing it back towards the physical realities of building.