Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: architecture, corporate, education, private, public, Rem Koolhaas, starchitect
We used, as architects, to do things for public benefit; now we broadcast the interests of individuals or corporations. This has changed the work, says Koolhaas in the interview below.
How it has changed the work? That’s a big question, but one can make guesses: from heterogenous to sterile, playful to slick? Today people want their new houses to look like hotel interiors. You could do open heart surgery in most contemporary house interiors they’re so white and polished.
And how to move on from the private and corporate place we’re in now? One way is to get rid of the starchitect. Did you ever wonder why J. K. Rowling writes all the books, Steve Jobs makes all the computers, Zaha Hadid designs all the buildings? It’s a bad system when so much work is generated by so few people. The conversation closes down and stagnates, as Koolhaas – himself a starchitect – notes.
Here is Koolhaas:
The profession has an investment in the idea that the architect has superhuman powers. It is totally counterproductive, because it cuts off any real communication between the architect and the public. When we put ourselves on a pedestal it makes any engagement with other aspects of the profession almost impossible. Since I am interested in communication and I write, I like to understand what the real issues are, and what the changing conditions are.
In the ’60s and ’70s the public sector was very strong, but in recent decades that has given way to various forms of market economy. This has enormously changed the conditions in which architecture can be produced. In the first instance, the architect was expected to do things for the public benefit. Now we are expected to broadcast the interests of individuals or corporations. So, although we still maintain the core values and ambitions of what architecture can do, this change has radically transformed the architect’s work.
Batik, Biennale and the Death of the Skyscraper, Interview with Rem Koolhaas, 19 February 2014 | By Andrew Mackenzie
Filed under: departure lounge, brave new world | Tags: democracy, India, intolerance, liberalism, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Silencing of liberal India, The Hindus: An Alternate History, tolerance, Wendy Doniger
Nationalism is on the rise in India; Modi – India’s big new hope for Prime Ministership – is a Hindu fundamentalist set to sweep away the longstanding tolerant Congress. I remember India in the 1970s – admittedly from child’s eyes – as being genteel and tolerant. Not any more. It feels coarser, on the edge, aggressive and desperate.
Following is a passage from a review of a book (The Hindus: An Alternate History, Wendy Doniger) that has been, in classic fundamentalist fashion, pulled from circulation. Some of the article’s observations in chart form:
the argumentative Indian > the offended Indian
the tolerant Indian > the intolerant mob
the reflective citizen > the hurt communal mobiliser
the courageous Indian > the cowardly thug
Here is the passage from Mehta’s review:
India is a democracy, but its reputation as a bastion of liberal values is dimming by the day. The argumentative Indian is being replaced by the offended Indian, the tolerant Indian by the intolerant mob, the reflective citizen by the hurt communal mobiliser, the courageous Indian by the cowardly thug who needs the state to protect it against every argument, the pious Indian by the ultimate blasphemer who thinks he needs to protect the gods rather than the gods being there to protect him. Whether this is a tiny minority or represents the majority is beside the point. The point is that the assault on free expression is winning. How is liberal India being silenced?
Silencing of liberal India, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Indian Express
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: education, Finland, school, United States
Works: Finland – no standard testing, individualized grading, no accountability, cooperation not competition, equality not excellence.
Doesn’t work: United States - track performance, test constantly, accountability, merit pay, competition, choice.
From the article in the Atlantic:
From his point of view, Americans are consistently obsessed with certain questions: How can you keep track of students’ performance if you don’t test them constantly? How can you improve teaching if you have no accountability for bad teachers or merit pay for good teachers? How do you foster competition and engage the private sector? How do you provide school choice?
The answers Finland provides seem to run counter to just about everything America’s school reformers are trying to do.
For starters, Finland has no standardized tests. The only exception is what’s called the National Matriculation Exam, which everyone takes at the end of a voluntary upper-secondary school, roughly the equivalent of American high school.
Instead, the public school system’s teachers are trained to assess children in classrooms using independent tests they create themselves. All children receive a report card at the end of each semester, but these reports are based on individualized grading by each teacher. Periodically, the Ministry of Education tracks national progress by testing a few sample groups across a range of different schools.
As for accountability of teachers and administrators, Sahlberg shrugs. “There’s no word for accountability in Finnish,” he later told an audience at the Teachers College of Columbia University. “Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted.”
And while Americans love to talk about competition, Sahlberg points out that nothing makes Finns more uncomfortable. In his book Sahlberg quotes a line from Finnish writer named Samuli Paronen: “Real winners do not compete.” It’s hard to think of a more un-American idea, but when it comes to education, Finland’s success shows that the Finnish attitude might have merits. There are no lists of best schools or teachers in Finland. The main driver of education policy is not competition between teachers and between schools, but cooperation.
Decades ago, when the Finnish school system was badly in need of reform, the goal of the program that Finland instituted, resulting in so much success today, was never excellence. It was equity.
With America’s manufacturing industries now in decline, the goal of educational policy in the U.S. — as articulated by most everyone from President Obama on down — is to preserve American competitiveness by doing the same thing. Finland’s experience suggests that to win at that game, a country has to prepare not just some of its population well, but all of its population well, for the new economy. To possess some of the best schools in the world might still not be good enough if there are children being left behind.
What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland’s School Success, Anu Partanen, Dec 29 2011, The Atlantic
Filed under: the sweet life | Tags: health, heart, life, life expectancy, Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers, society
In the 1950s, two researchers named Bruhn and Wolf went to the village of Roseto in eastern Pennsylvania near the New York border, to attempt to find out why the townspeople there were outliving – by a wide margin – people everywhere else in the country. Their assumption going in had been that there were physical reasons for the longevity, like diet and health. What they found was evidence that the reason for exceptional health was social.
Rosetto PA was settled in the 1880s by stone workers from the Italian town Rosetto Valfortore. The settlers brought the name of their southern mountain town with them and apparently they brought a lot more than just the name. When Bruhn and Wolf visited the town they found a very tightly knit, socially cohesive community. They were publicly and privately social, they lived in extended families, they worshipped together, they formed multiple social organizations, and the classes mixed and were mutually supportive. (more…)
Some observations from someone who has read woefully little history and knows only one and a half languages. Of the European languages there are three groupings that dominate: Germanic, Slavic and Romance: the northern low landers, the easterners and the Mediterranean; and several that are secondary: Finno-Ugric, Baltic, Celtic, Greek and Albanian. The secondary languages are either old empires that didn’t gain enough geographic or cultural influence (Greek, Hungarian) or groups that were isolated or pushed back by invasion and expansion (Baltic, Celtic).
English is Germanic because of its history of low land invasion but also tied closely to French / Romance because of the Norman invasion. We trace our western history back to the Greek and Roman Empires. The Roman is represented by the Romance group, a great swath that covers much of the north shore of the Mediterranean where the Empire dominated. The Greek is isolated, because its empire is older and didn’t extend as far geographically.
From Etymologikon blog by Teresa Elms
The original research data for the chart comes from K. Tyshchenko (1999), Metatheory of Linguistics. (Published in Russian.)
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: Aristotle, Charles Taylor, common good, economy, family, the good life, thriving
There is life and good life. ’Life’ is infrastructural and sustaining (concerned with labour and reproduction); and ‘good life’ is flourishing - the pursuit of justice, the common good, political and moral order. Good life needs life to support it, but to merely live life and to fail to make life good is … not human, says Aristotle via Charles Taylor below.
But consider now the balance or lack thereof of what we think and talk about in our world today. Infrastructural ‘life’ talk and energy (labour and reproduction) nearly eclipses ‘good life’ discourse. The economy, your job, family dominate while … well, when is the last time you heard anyone bring up the common good? Are we living sub human lives?
Some Aristotle via Charles Taylor:
‘Ordinary life’ is a term of art I introduce to designate those aspects of human life concerned with production and reproduction, that is, labour, the making of the things needed for life, and our life as sexual beings, including marriage and the family. When Aristotle spoke of the ends of political association being “life and the good life” (zen kai euzen), this was the range of things he wanted to encompass in the first of these terms; basically they englobe what we need to do to continue and renew life.
For Aristotle the maintenance of these activities was to be distinguished from the pursuit of the good life. They are, of course, necessary to the good life, but they play an infrastructural role in relation to it. You can’t pursue the good life without pursuing life. But an existence dedicated to this latter goal alone is not a fully human one…. The proper life for humans builds on this infrastructure a series of activities which are concerned with the good life: men deliberate about moral excellence, they contemplate the order of things; of supreme importance for politics, they deliberate together about the common good, and decide how to shape and apply the laws.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self, pp. 211-12, from Andrew Taggart blog post Sustaining Life is not the Good Life
hipster beer choices:
pooch daddy saison
blue caboose barley wine
christian bale ale
baby dick Belgian white
Dr. Filsner pilsner
ark of the covenant ale
Starbucks drinks – the same story.