I enjoyed reading Michael Speaks essay “After Theory” in June’s issue. He cogently points out some of the limitations of architectural history/theory especially as it relates to the practice of building. There has been a kind of exclusionary fundamentalism in much of recent architectural history/theory. Speaks is right to open up the dialogue to include other voices to temper the dominance of the anointed, black attired, critical elites who often fill our juries and journals.
Yet by setting up Eisenman and Hays as the old guard so he can initiate a “frontal attack on criticality”’ he seems to ignore the much wider world of architectural history/theory that has developed over the last twenty-five years or so. History/theory since the 1960s has become increasingly diverse and sophisticated. Instead of looking at built form as an object alone, recent writings have contextualized architectural forms by enlarging the critique to include among others; material and pop culture (Robert Venturi, Amos Rappoport, John Stilgoe), landscape and environmental systems (J.B. Jackson, Paul Shepard, Alexander Wilson), metaphysics (Alberto Perez-Gomez), and politics (Galen Cranz, Kenneth Frampton, Gwendolyn Wright).
While I agree with Speaks that architectural innovation can be promoted through practice based prototyping and non-linear thinking, I also believe that architectural history/theory has and will continue to provoke new insights and suggest new methods of practice in the making of buildings.