Saturday, August 17, 2013

Parametrics before Parametrics

Anthony Vidler
Re-writing the History of the Recent Present: Parametrics before Parametrics
Date: 29/11/2012
Time: 18:00:00
Venue: Lecture Hall
Running time: 63 mins

Re-writing the History of the Recent Present: The New Brutalism to the New Parametricism
Presented at the Architectural Association, London

Synopsis (my own):

Anthony Vidler presents his reading of the conditions of the architectural technology vs history debate in the 50s-60s in his lecture 'Parametrics before Parametrics'. He relies on the evolution of Reyner Banham's publications and debates to ground his retelling, also referring to the French technological Utopians. Vidler referrs to Topologies..., an excellent book by Larry Busbea, which presents the French Utopian experiments in great length. 

Vidler recalls Banhams warning that by the early 60s as it had become clear that the emergence of Neoliberty, Colin Rowe, Robert Venturi, et al signaled that the historical camp in architecture was about to foreclose the technological impetus of the discipline. Banham, an important apologist for the technological camp in architecture, observed that technology had at that moment failed modern architects as it developed according logic internal to the technology and not according to the hopes of architects (vis a vis the various early polemics).
Vidler recounts Banham's insistence that while at that moment technology had let down architects, tomorrow it would be computers.

In comments following the official lecture, Vidler mentions that much of the technological and topological utopianism was developed in the context of a feeling of impending nuclear apocalypse. He observes that that the nuclear apocalypse has been replaced by current spector of ecological apocalypse - that this attitude can infiltrate an entire school.

Vidler conversationally offers a comment that parametricism and computation is currently seen as a panacea to address these issues, and that the conversation is often confined to a scientific conception of the problem, while downplaying other registers of performance such the human,  social or political.
His critique to the room is very simple, that we cannot rely on a sort of automatic resolution of problems by employing parametrics, especially when we are not using our own senses to define problems before we try to solve them.