Course Syllabus

EXTREME DESIGN: THE ANTI-ARCHITECTURE OF TELEVISION               Fall 2019   Mark Wigley

Television has gone. The idea of dispersed synchronized viewers receiving standardized content on a fixed screen operating as a new kind of fireplace has been replaced by individualized streaming onto countless mobile surfaces supposedly in the time, place, and rhythm of one’s choice—with as much self-broadcasting as receiving. Television has gone. Or is it really the triumph of television, with the logic of television so ubiquitous that we don’t see it? Are we living inside television rather than simply watching it, if watching TV was ever simple?

Either way, TV was a huge challenge to conventional thinking about architecture, transforming the status of walls, windows, rooms and cities. TV had a massive effect on architecture, offering a new kind of exposure but also a new kind of shelter. Perhaps for this very reason, architects have been hugely embarrassed by TV. TV embarrasses architecture. It is rare to see a TV screen, large or small, in an architectural publication. The discipline of architecture pretends that TV didn’t happen and doesn’t happen today—ignoring a massive transformation in the capacities of the human species that it supposedly cares for. It is as if the clients of architecture don’t watch TV or as if TV and architecture are different media that may be juxtaposed on each other but don’t intersect.

Architects act as if their responsibility is to make a space in which the occupant might choose to place a screen and that choice is of no interest. But the screen is never simply a choice and it is probably the screen that is responsible for the definition of space. Architecture is placed within TV rather than TV within architecture. The discipline’s congenital blind-spot about TV is finally a blind spot about buildings.

Yet a whole succession of architects did engage with television over the last century—thinking through the effect of TV on buildings or turning buildings into a kind of  hyper-TV—only for the effort to be largely forgotten. This seminar will recover and explore the thinking and designs of the architects and artists who thought about the anti-architecture of TV, from Ivan Leonidov and Buckminster Fuller in the 1920s to Konrad Wachsmann, Cedric Price, Ugo de la Pietra, Francois Dallegret, Hans Hollein, Takes Zenetos, Archigram, Ant-Farm, Denise Scott-Brown and Robert Venturi in the 60’s and 70’s – along with artists like Dan Graham and Walter Pichler. The idea is to build up a kind of catalog of architectural thinking about TV over the last century in order to start thinking more precisely about the architecture we inhabit today.

 

There will be required readings of historical and contemporary theories of television and all students will be expected to collaborate in expanding the list of case studies, make a presentation on one of the cases and a final paper which is not necessarily on the topic of the presentation. Grading will be based on participation in class discussion, the presentation and the paper.

 

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