The Predicament of Architecture

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Lectures NYC, NY, USA December 4, 2018

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“Architecture,” Henry Cobb writes, “is caught in a conflict. On the one hand, it is impossible for architecture to ignore the ethical obligation stemming from the fact that buildings are intended to be useful. On the other hand, it is fatal for architecture to become trapped in the condition of being merely useful. From the ethical perspective, architecture is contaminated by its art status, while from the artistic perspective, it is contaminated by its use status. Yet this is precisely what makes our art so important in the culture: Every work of architecture is inescapably enmeshed in the systems of power and standards of ethical conduct from which its art status demands with equal insistence that it be liberated. The reconciliation of these seemingly irreconcilable demands precisely defines, in my view, the ultimate task of the architect.” [Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948-2018]

How do architects address this predicament? Nader Tehrani guides this Architectural League of New York discussion at the Cooper Union’s Great Hall with historian Joseph Connors and architects Cobb, Preston Scott Cohen, Elizabeth Diller, and Marion Weiss.

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