coromandal


super architect
February 28, 2014, 12:22 pm
Filed under: brave new world, the sweet life | Tags: , , , , , ,

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



the argumentative Indian

BANGALORE HANUMAN0001Nationalism 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



Real winners do not compete
February 28, 2014, 12:00 pm
Filed under: brave new world, departure lounge, the sweet life | Tags: , , ,

On the difference between education in the US and Finland. I think that where in Finland education policy and curricula are being fashioned by educators, in America these activities have been taken over by MBAs.

Some notes:

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