The “theory” that Michael Speaks addresses is not theory, but a recent bias of ideology: neo-Marxist criticism. At best, it’s at the extreme end of theory.
We need to distinguish the difference between Theory, Criticism, Commentary, and Ideology. Speaks urges us to jettison “theory” and concentrate on a market-savvy design method. Design method, in its revival from the 1960s, is also a part, but not the most important part, of architectural theory.
The assertion that “theory,” as Speaks abuses the term, is “not just irrelevant but continues to be an impediment” not only lacks finesse, but sense. He needs only a dictionary to learn that theory is “the general or abstract set of principles regarding a fact, science, or art.” Architectural theory, the body of knowledge that defines practice, is what we know about architecture, and more important, what we want and need to know about architecture. Without theory, architectural writing is empty rhetoric, whether by Hannes Meyer or Michael Speaks.
But let’s not throw out theory with the latest ideological bathwater. We must reserve for theory its role as a producer and sustainer of architectural knowledge.
Eugene Kupper, architect and Professor Emeritus of Architecture, UCLA