Patrik Schumacher is mad. We all know one thing for certain about his rant, more aptly titled a temper tantrum — people took notice. Edwin Heathcote, architecture critic, referred to him as a "troll" on twitter, while the rest of the architectural community clutched their handkerchiefs to their chests and gasped, "and do you remember what Zaha said about her workers in Qatar?" The media grouped all of their bad behavior together: accusing Schumacher of mansplaining to Peggy Dreamer at a CalArt's panel, his manifesto as being holier than thou, and lampooning Hadid's supposed elitism in this twitter account. The sentiment echoed around the internet was a resounding: what is their problem?
These events coalesced in what was to become a Facebook rant we all wish we could forget:
Here's the recap leading up to this rant: The 2012 Venice Architecture Biennial, curated by David Chipperfield, was titled Common Ground. It blasted "the starchitect", and instead emphasized the so-called 99% of architecture. What does this mean for Patrik Schumacher? It means that his work, known for its size and shine, was not recognized. Recently, Rem Koolhaas announced that the theme of 2014's Biennial would be "Fundamentals". Essentially an ode to modernity, it will be the first to submit itself to a purely retrospective gaze. What does this mean for Patrik and his parametric posse? They most likely won't be the recipient of a Golden Lion, again.
So, was Patrik Schumacher simply annoyed that he won't win a Golden Lion, the most famous prize of the Venice Architecture Biennial? Was this Schumacher's Kanye-West-I'm-A-Let-You-Finish-But moment?
Camillo Boano, senior lecturer at University College London, described the rant to Architizer as the "absurd expert position." Schumacher's verbiage is eerily similar to Corbusier's religious devotion to form, the problematic language of a "universal architecture", and the original 1950s starchitects who "broke from the past." Patrik Schumacher, by suggesting that architecture is not political, dangerously separates the way we produce from what we produce and the world it occurs in. Haven't we been adequately reminded that architecture does not exist within a designed black hole? The resounding feeling from the architectural community is — they should know better. Regarding Hadid's glib take on workers' rights in Qatar, Boano argues that the comments "show an absence of ethical reflection masked with political neutrality." He adds that, "I think Hadid simply missed that lecture in University."
Both Schumacher's and Hadid's language propose an architecture that's "above" trivial moral and political hand-wringing, like worker's rights. Peggy Dreamer, in a recent CalArts panel, described Schumacher's style as "über-form," meaning that it takes on the aesthetic of the universal and inevitable in order to create icons of an imaginary future. And that is what China and the Emirates are buying — the Seoul Design Park, Galaxy SOHO, Guangzhou Opera House, the 2022 Qatar World Cup Stadium. These are icons of future cities, not current ones.
2022 Qatar World Cup Stadium, via Washington Post
Guangzhou Opera House, via New York Times
Patrik Schumacher — by way of writing the Parametric manifesto, coining the term, and being its resident bad boy — somehow owns it. Within her speech, Peggy Dreamer interestingly distinguishes between parametrics, lower-case, and Parametrics, upper-case. The former is clearly stamped: ZAHA HADID ARCHITECTS. Cruz Garcia, co-founder of WAI Architecture Think Tank, went to Facebook to satirize Schumacher's rant, Hooray for the yes men (and seldom women) that can’t turn a project down because architecture is an island disconnected from any social connotation by a sea of computer-aided design! Yet, Garcia makes a major mistake: he conflates all computer-aided design with Schumacher's work.
Parametrics, lowercase, has an enormous power that Schumacher's rant effectively veils. Parametricism, an intensely responsive architectural language, has an obvious power to cathartically plug into a complex urban system; just look at the work of Los Angeles-based Materials and Applications. Parametrics can empower small firms to act like big firms, which is no small feat. In many ways, it can be the anti-ego. Parametricism built the Barclay's Center, it is the final death knell of the pen, the first language of architecture's 2014 graduating class, and a movement that deserves recognition from us ... and Venice.
"Bloom," photo by Scott Mayoral