For the past academic year, we the editors, have been going to FedEx every other Wednesday. In fact, they know us by name. Once there, we engage in intense negotiations with Kathy, our favorite FedEx employee whose shift we never seemed to miss. We would place our ream of colored paper on the counter and ask for it to be transformed into 250 copies of Knot. But Kathy would have other ideas. Sometimes, she would say they were so busy that we would have to wait hours to get our Knots. Other days, she would insist our preferred printer (the one that produces rich black tones) was busy, so we could either wait a full day or use the crappy printer. Kathy also found many problems with our paper, which (allegedly) jammed their printers. Once, she placed a sheet of our paper on her open palm as a demonstration that the paper was “too bendy” and therefore unfit for use. Other weeks, the paper was “too thick,” “too slippery,” or even “too cold,” threatening further jamming of the FedEx printers. But, despite our colorful encounters with Kathy, she always managed to pull it off. The knots Kathy tied us in encapsulate the better part of our overall experience. For every issue, we would struggle in crafting our call, secure enough submissions, appease Kathy to get it printed, pin-up a Knot-a-Poster, update the website, and keep up our Instagram account. And every time we were happily surprised by last minute ideas, unexpected contributors, wise advice, friendly support, and heartening compliments. And so, we dedicate this last issue of Knot to everyone that has helped us: John McMorrough our advisor, Sharon Haar for her support, all those who submitted to our incessant calls, all those that picked up an issue to read, and of course... Kathy.
The Editors Ali, Scott, Laura
John McMorrough - Knot Over? Loose Threads...
First, congratulations to the extended Knot project and its participants (editors, students, and, occasionally, faculty). In a time when opinions are increasingly proffered as self-evident arguments, there is a pressing need to address these incommensurate views as something other than affirmation or negation. In this context, what Knot provides is something exceedingly necessary, room for debate. In doing so, it enables the highest ideals of both the university and architecture to provide a space of possibility.
With this clear and on-going need for such a forum, it is hoped that the one-year Knot experiment can become a continuing effort. As a start, a few threads to consider: 1) What is architecture if not buildings? 2) Can the future exist without a past? 3) Is design important or not? 4) Does expertise matter? 5) Are good intentions enough?
These seem like pressing questions at this moment in the College, but there are no doubt others. Regardless of the questions, what is most important is that we not settle for easy answers (however “good” they seem), and rather keep asking our collective selves for more, while recognizing that the richness of the college tapestry is both in the distinctness of its strands AND how they come together.
Does anyone feel like tying?
Doug Kelbaugh - Primaries to Pastels
Post Modernism replaced Modernism while I attended architecture school in the 1960s and early 1970s. (That puts me in your grandparents’ generation!) Depending on whether you were in literature, art or architecture, it was a movement, a period or a style. In architecture, it started as a movement, but devolved into a style. In literature, Post Modernity has hung on tenaciously as a post-structuralist movement, substituting the subjective narrative for objective “truth.”
In architecture schools and professional practice, PoMo was decidedly not about interdisciplinary, as it may now appear in retrospect. It was in fact a retreat into disciplinarity, after Modernism had stretched itself thin trying to solve many of the world’s pressing problems. I remember Dean Robert Maxwell at Princeton saying that the architecture agenda had slowly become too diluted with social, political and budding environmental issues. It was all about getting back to the basics and purity of the discipline, including reviving architectural typology and historicism. Primary colors faded to pastels; form became more arbitrary; structure and materials became applique, pastiche, even confection (harking back ironically to medieval banquets, when architects sat with the pastry chefs and upholsterers, not at the head table).
PoMo revoked Modernism, especially its pioneers LeCorbusier and Mies – rejecting concrete brutalism and Cartesian minimalism. I watched with dropped jaw as my former teacher Michael Graves did an about-face, from Corbu to the Dolphin and Swan hotels at Disney World, and as UM grad Charles Moore embraced glitzy, euphoric neo-classicism. In history/theory, the canon morphed from Banham and Venturi’s Vegas to Jencks and Koolhaas. Post Modernism had its moment, then schools moved on to acrobatic DeCon and then digital-design-and-fabrication. Now Anime-inspired design, with child-like, flattened imagery, seems more about flavor than nutrition. We must beware shallow cul-de-sacs in architecture.