Book Review: Anti-architecture and Deconstruction

Anti-architecture and Deconstruction, by Nikos A. Salingaros



In this collection of essays, mathematician and scientist Salingaros criticizes deconstructivist architecture and the philosophy that influenced it, Jacques Derrida's Deconstruction. This well-known philosophy is known more for its difficulty and its creator than the ideas it presents. Salingaros admits as much, so his critique centers more on architects' interpretations of Deconstruction, though he takes the existence of both to be a breakdown of traditional ways of thought and existence. Throughout the collection, the author many times states his goal: being alive to the maximum extent possible via the shaping of our surroundings. But this goal always lies underneath a sharply-negative, and sometimes over-the-top, criticism of architecture not only influenced by Deconstruction but of 20th-century Modernism.
 
Aided in this review by Micheal Benedikt's Deconstructing the Kimbell, we see that the architects that Salingaros takes aim at - primarily Daniel Libeskind and Bernard Tschumi - create a shallow, surface architecture that symbolizes Derrida's Deconstruction without exhibiting any depth of reading. Salingaros suffers a similar fault. He also errs in a few other ways: by not clearly demonstrating or discussing a valid alternative (along the lines of Christopher Alexander's architecture, whose interview that closes the book is as negative as the preceding 175 pages), by contradicting himself throughout his arguments (such as labeling deconstructivist architecture a cult because it denies any other views as valid - which may or may not be just speculation - all the while standing firm that his and Alexander's way is the truth, based on scientific fact and evidence that he doesn't present), and placing the yet-to-be-seen harm of deconstructivist buildings over the harm wrought by automobiles, of which he never even mentions.
 
The author's assertion that the avant-garde and a stylistic pluralism exists as a means (perhaps even an end?) to destroy society may be an overstatement for effect, but ultimately it falls on deaf ears without the positive ways he propounds ever being presented or evidence that variety in cities is really that harmful. More than the style of a building and its neighbors, harm comes from how city's and town are planned, built, moved around and lived in, but that is a topic outside the narrow focus of this collection.

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