Theory and Criticism
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Atheist architecture
What's your opinion on atheist architecture, and neo-liberalism within this upcoming globalization system?

Knowing that atheist architecture has appeared in multiple movements as in deconstruction and such...
Khaled Sedki
Atheist architecture
Khaled, "atheist architectures" are nihilistic uncontextual creations designed to promote nothingness. Neo-liberal (atheist) globalisation promotes meaninglessness, because if all forms of behaviour "good, bad and ugly" are equally valid then there no meaning either to life or living.
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
Mr. Snellling,

I'm interested in knowing your opinion about whether some modern movements do represent that concept, and achieve aspects of neo-liberalism such as deconstruction.

And movements that are not a result of a certain heritage or are a development of former schools.
Khaled Sedki
Atheist architecture
Mr Snelling,
Can you contribute images of the architecture you describe in the context of this discussion?
Thank you.
Terre Ashmore
Atheist architecture
Terry, Unfortunately I am unable to post images because I am using a Turkish language office PC in Turkey without the ability to access or scan images. I asume your reason for asking for images is to check my viewpoint.

Khaled, As I have posted elsewhere, my view is "architecture is design in context". Context being any variation and permutation of (a) culture, (b) climate and (c) environment. Therefore I include the 1900s "turn of the centuary" design movements as being in context; but not the "Ornament is crime /anonymous Internationale Style" Post-WW1 avante garde movements.

As for todays' movements I like the work of Zaha Hadid because her designs are strange but visually aesthetic. Whereas, deconstruction is undiluted nihilism posing as neo-liberalism. The problem I have with nihilism and neo-liberalism is that they hypocritically pretend to be totally unrestrictive and yet actively work to restrict, undermine and ultimately destroy any and all cultural context.

The nihilistic, atheistic and neo-liberal movements in Western countries were forged in the bloodbath of WW1. The horror of static trench warfare, heavy artillery and machine-guns meant your previous life had no meaning. This generated a fanatical idealism based on the rejection of everything that had previously existed. Ornament became crime, culture became crime; any and all difference became crime.

Therefore revolution became the only way forward to create a totally new universally uniform utopia and anyone who wanted culture, context and difference was seen as an enemy to be destroyed. And Deconstruction, far from being the brave new hope of the future is the tired last gasp of the old revolutionary (20th) centuary.

Today, the 21st centuary future is a return to culture, a return to context and a return to difference; but with one difference, that each and every cultural and contextual difference has a right to co-exist provided it causes no damage to any other culture, etc.
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
Thanks a lot Mr. Snelling, that pretty much sums it up. Exactly what I was looking for.
Khaled Sedki
Atheist architecture
Khaled, You are welcome. :)))
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
Forgive me for being blunt, yet I think that someone has to at least brush upon some of the ideas here:

Atheist architecture, Nihilism, Neo-liberalism, Variations and Permutations, Visual Aesthetic(!), Universally Uniform Utopia, etc. etc.
A lot of "ISMS" and very little meaning as related to seeing, experiencing and living in architecture.

What I mean is: can any one of you describe 'rain' (for example) in any of the "-ISMS" you mentioned as related to a building?

I have read a number of the discussions and comments from the same people (Ku, Snelling etc.) and it seems that they all have the same ring to them.

Unfortunately, a confused ring!
Sahba Laal
Atheist architecture

To accept the concept of 'atheistic architecture' is to accept the concept of 'non-atheistic' architecture: It is only our thinking that makes it so.

ma salemah!
Anthony Stewart
Atheist architecture
Yeekee Ku,

Please note that the anti comments about what I have posted are snide comments designed to simply rubbish what have I posted in a genuine attempt to state the reality.

Whereas, these snide comments are based upon emotive reactions not logic.
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
A few thoughts,

I have been frequently surprised at how many people think that "agnostic" and "atheist" mean the same thing.

"Atheist" in itself is a sort of argument: "I don't believe in God so let's argue about his non/existence"

Neoliberalism drives a huge part of our globalizing economy, but there is a counterawareness that has grown right alongside of it.

So, I guess I am wondering if you are getting at the motives. The motives to create a structure to reflect this.

I'm not usually drawn to the aesthetics of most of the deconstruction stuff I've seen. It seems a very intellectual and costly way to provoke thinking, and usually too intellectual to engage the intended crowd. So it comes off as self-indulgence.

I'd like to hear an educated argument to change my mind.

There has to be an interesting spectrum among those who deny the existence of God. I think you are on to something, but I'm wondering what is your personal motive in this?

My personal opinion is that this topic is both silly and interesting. Silly because as people, we are just silly, interesting because we are spending our lives dwelling and creating like some kind of dog, and we argue about the existence of dog. So, what better way to praise by pause for cause!
Isis Willa
Atheist architecture
Obviously there is no such thing as "Atheist Architecture" because it would spell out the truth that the avante garde is usually if not always covertly or overtly anti-religious.

Deconstruction is intentionally subversive, covertly anti-religious, anti-spiritual and anti-aesthetic.

Similarly, "neo-liberalism" (a trendy euphemism for anti-spiritualism) is intended to covertly subvert any and all traditional belief systems in the misguided belief that millions of years of human evolution mean nothing.
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
salaam -

"Deconstruction," to my way of thinking is a design tool, same as a pencil:

On the positive side, deconstruction allows designers to isolate and identify each and every design element first independently of the whole, and then in terms of each elements relationship to other elements within the design. This affords a larger design vocabulary to work with.

The negative side of deconstruction has to do with its application to 'post-modernist' critiques: Here at California universities, 'post-modernism' has come to imply criticism without end without regard for offering alternative 'perspectives' much less possible 'solutions' to any problem under critique. It is because of this that many of my colleagues have come to associate 'deconstruction' with nihilist tendencies of certain political perspectives and/or design schools.

A pencil is neither left nor right, destructive nor constructive by nature - it is what we do with it. For some, deconstruction is too demanding, takes too much time and therefore gets in the way of pursuing timely solutions. For others, such as Zaha Hadid - deconstruction seems to allow her a greater breadth of command in regard to design elements.

The term 'deconstruction' has itself become problematic, becoming more of a philosophical 'red flag' than anything else. I use the term extensively with regard to language, depend on its application to cultural linguistics to help me better understand core human community values. I apply this perspective to architecture as meta-communication between cultures, across barriers of time and language.

Does that help?

ma salemah!
Anthony Stewart
Atheist architecture
I don't believe in the possibility of atheistic architecture.
Daniel Owen
Atheist architecture
love the `pencil' analogy... deconstruction might just be alive and is subject to interpretation.
Maya Sanskrit
Atheist architecture
Hi to all,

It seems like an interesting discussion even though the expression of `atheist architecture` is rather somewhere in the air.

Yet, as being an architect practicing as a professional rather than an academician, i do believe in that it makes more sense to grasp the recent happenings going on in the 21st rather than to seek a name for them such as atheist architecture...I think it s not our task but acedemicians` or the historians` to name it...

Bahri Saka
Atheist architecture
In addition to this,

A couple of weeks ago, I attended a lecture of Rem Koolhaas, entitled `the present condition of architecture`. The architect was talking about more or less the already discussed things above such as Neo-liberalism; globalization; the importance of emerging markets - such as Moscow, Petersburg, Kazakhstan, Dubai etc- as the very locations to trace the recent architectural improvements... He never mentioned a name for the ongoing process such as `atheist architecture` (I think he deliberately did so) but rather he highlighted the importance of an understanding of architecture focusing on the relationship between the content and the form rather than merely accentuating the form during the design process.

Bahri Saka
Atheist architecture
Atheist architecture is that which is deliberately designed without reference to faith or culture. The object of such intent being to place humanity as an accident of nature not design.
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
G'day to all,
My mother was Muslim , My father was Orthodox (Christian) at the time of my birth. I live in Australia now. I love all historic cultures and religions , and it sounds so immature to me to "hear" all the fightings about the atheist architecture. I consider myself 'an atheist' - which doesn't mean I am not a spiritual person. I educated myself on many religions of the World, and I think they're all positive and very simmilar. I understand that many people create in the name of God - there is nothing wrong with that, but please don't judge us who create in name of love,.. charity,..nature,... Don't all "God's books" ask for non-judging others? By the way - atheism does not have anything to do with nihilism and deconstructionalism!
I wish more women respond on this web-site!
Jasna Varcakovic
Atheist architecture
Isn't this fun. God, atheism and architecture!

What a banquet of topics. Not sure how it will help me get higher fees from my clients, but it certainly is a grand form of recreation.

It seems to me that atheism is a belief system no different than any other ideology whose core idea is to be "against" something.

That is why it lacks any great power as an intellectual position, despite the fact that many highly intelligent people - Richard Dawkins is a notable example - promote it.

Ideas that are "for" something may also be "against" other things, for instance a fundamentalist of any religion is likely to be "against" a non-literal interpretation of the scriptures that inform his or her faith.

But that type of "against" philosophy is at least counter-balanced by an ideological position "for" something else.

As Mr. Snelling points out, most religious belief systems - and for that matter - most cultural ideologies, have long and complex histories.

They are like cultural genotypes with many complex expressions in the "body" of ideas that inform architecture, law, philosophy, ethics and every other form of human activity...including according to Einstein, science.

And it is simply a fact that the history of modern architecture, and many of the schools of architecture that now populate the fringes of academic architecture, were born from a socialist or communist philosophy of the common man...which was in essence, anti-religious.

At the time, it might have been an appropriate reaction to the inequality of rampant capitalism and the suppression of the weak by the powerful, but now it is as bankrupt as the exploitive traditions that inspired it.

In the real world, the majority of people are guided by values and ideals that are based in the basic tenets of a religious tradition.

Even if they themselves do not attest to such beliefs.

The ideas of the great religious teachers are now part and parcel of every intellectual tradition - including that of the "liberal" and humanist traditions that seek to contradict faith traditions.

So what would you design with atheist architecture? A "godless" building?

Would it be as emotive and powerful in its expression as the Chartres' cathedral?

Would it impact your emotions like the many great mosques, synagogues and temples that past architects created?

How do you make a building "against" something without descending into nothingness and nihilism?

And what is the point?

That human beings are flawed? That you are unique and different? That you have expressed your outrage at history?

How does that serve those who inhabit your designs?

Architecture should be for people. People need to feel safe, comfortable, healthy, self-expressed, and loved.

They need hope and happiness. They need inspiration, and "inspiration" means among other things the act of "breathing in."

What "fresh air" could "atheist architecture" by any definition offer to the real needs of real people?

Wikipedia also offers this definition of inspiration:

"A supernatural divine influence on the prophets, apostles, or sacred writers, by which they were qualified to communicate moral or religious truth with authority; a supernatural influence which qualifies men to receive and communicate divine truth; also, the truth communicated."

Great architecture creates wonder.

Being "against" anything creates strife and discord. Being for freedom is much more powerful than being against slavery.

Being for beauty is more powerful than being against ugliness.

Being for diversity is more powerful than being against standardization and mass production.

Being for buildings people love is more powerful than being against the failures of tradition.
Christopher K. Travis
Atheist architecture
Atheism, as briefly explained by Daniel Dennett, does not claim to have proven that a supreme being does not exist; rather, it is more on the assertion of the scientific proof that the material world has come about independent of the intervention of such supreme being.

The burden of proof that God exists rests on those that do believe.

Atheist architecture, therefore, is more of a way at looking at how we evolve, and the way that architecture facilitates this process.
Benito Castiglione
Atheist architecture

I love Dennett, but it is hair splitting to make a distinction between denying a supreme being, and denying his or her intervention in nature.

If "atheistic architecture" was about committing to a scientific view - particularly a Darwinian view - of architecture, I would be an avid atheist.

The fact is that "God" is an ontological issue cannot be proved or disproved by science. It is a matter of faith or a personal spiritual practice through which a person organizes their actions.

It is a claim to a "state of being," which is a subjective experience. And despite the great progress in science in the last century, we are no where near collecting proof of the non-existence of a supreme being.

Now if we were talking about "evolutionary architecture" in this discussion, we would be into a subject with real meat on it.

Because right now with only a few notable exceptions, the real areas of interest in that domain - human factors research, environmental psychology, ergonomics, neurosciece in architecture etc - are largely ignored by the architecture community.

Though there is research going on in some arenas. Even the research wing of the AIA is now funding neuroscience and environment studies in a few universities.

Looking at design through a Darwinian lense might also mean work like Eugene Tsui's (Evolutionary Architecture) and ideas like Grant Hildebrand's (Origins of Architectural Pleasure).

But so far the people who study human factors and practitioners are speaking two different languages and cannot seem to find middle ground.

I work in that area a lot, and trust me, we have a long way to go before academic architecture is truly going to adopt an evolutionary perspective because the old guard is still fighting for the point of view that architecture should be approached primarily as an "art."

In the end, if we are going to move the "art" of architecture closer to the sciences of biology, neuroscience and ecology, there must a fundamental change in how architects approach the needs of the "organisms" that pay their fees.
Christopher K. Travis
Atheist architecture
Christopher, what on earth has "neuroscience" (whatever that jargon word stands for) to do with architecture and design?

I forsee architects in the future doing a brain scan of their client to make sure the client can pay the fee.:)))
Frank John Snelling
Atheist architecture
Yes, yes, this is a truly a sensitive issue. And while there are wider aspects to which this discussion can be taken, shall we limit matters to architecture.
Benito Castiglione

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