"We should not ask what principles are, but rather what they do. They are not entities, they are functions. They are defined by their effects."
-G. Deleuze Empiricism and Subjectivity, 132
Motivating forces within modern architecture, functionalist ideas were brought to bear on a range of design decisions in the last century and a half. These decisions often relied on functionalism's pseudo-scientific criteria to certify or authorize an architectural narrative, or architectural form. Functionalists likened architecture to an organic or mechanical system (animal or machine), endowing buildings with the agency formerly accorded to sentient beings or mechanical assemblages. We can study the many appearances of functionalist building and at the same time examine the impulse itself: the desire to locate architectural authority in a mode of thinking tied firmly to Enlightenment rationality and technological utopianism.
The term "functionalism" also has other modes of appearance in buildings, and we will explore how these modes entered architecture less visibly, yet more instrumentally. The logics of factory design, operations research, and worker efficiency, for example, emerged from a culture of expertise, a particular era of capitalism, and a new form of mass democracy that is largely identified with the 20th century. Motion studies, graphic representations of the movement of goods and humans, and the parsing of multiple kinds of persons in different sorts of space, all came to be used on a range of building types from factories to offices to hospitals and mental institutions. We will consider that through this version of functionalism, architecture came be a tool of governance of the bodies and objects within, and query which kinds of ties exist between form and function in architecture today.
This seminar thus explores the relationship between the need or desire for inevitable form (certified by an idea of function), and the encrypted modes of functionalism by which buildings and institutions did their work, and which might or might not be reflected visibly in form and narrative. Theodor Adorno identified overt functionalism with the expired dreams of a phase of modernity closed by World War II. His1965 "Functionalism Today," will lead us into an expanded definition of functionalism as it appeared in a period of post-functionalist programming, and will serve as a fulcrum for the polarity described above. In concluding this course, we will address similar impulses as they continue to appear in architecture today. Requirements: weekly readings and analysis, class presentations and discussion, and a final research project. Estimated cost of materials: less than $100. D. 4.
Image: Etienne Decroux, L'usine, 1961