Comments on Comments

Performing Comments on Foreclosed

18 February 2013, 6:30­­­­­–8:00

Buell East Gallery, Columbia University

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The Buell Center marked the completion of the publication and website, Comments on Foreclosed with a public event, “Comments on Comments.” A performance of excerpts from the archive opened a multimedia panel discussion and Q&A. In so doing, certain gaps in the public conversation on American housing and urbanism were identified, and systemic deficiencies called out.


“Comments on Comments” was also a conversation about the architecture of the media—including its frameworks, practices, protocols, and structures. The public is invited to join Columbia students, faculty, and many of those who contributed to the initial discussion, in continuing to address these urgent issues shaping our discipline.




Event Transcription


Millay Kogan

Outside | Local


Notions of nostalgia, intrigue, apprehension, hope, cynicism and pride all seem to collide in this discussion, shedding light on a growing push/pull phenomenon within the American populace between those who seek radical change and those who cling to past comforts and modes of operation. Heated arguments erupt over whether proposals are grounded in “reality” and whether that “reality” is indeed every American’s truth, resulting in futile exasperations of sarcasm, defensiveness and snobbery. So perhaps now is the time for reflection and change. Perhaps now is the time for us to all come to terms with the fact that our current spatial systems have indeed failed us and that any notion of “reality” (whatever they may be) may no longer be quite so relevant.  Perhaps now is the time for the public conversation itself to shift away from one that expects all proposals to be grounded in something known  to one in which all participants agree that true creativity and outside-the-box thinking are what may in fact be needed. To quote the late Lebbeus Woods: “living changes us in ways that we cannot predict, for the better and the worse.  One looks for principles, but we are better off if we control them, not the other way around. Principles can become tyrants, foreclosing on our ability to learn. When they do, they too, must be resisted”.



Dan Taeyoung Lee

Inside | Local


An allergic reaction prompted by the past failures of modernist housing projects has developed into an autoimmune disorder, where earnest and well-meaning efforts to rethink the roles of architecture and housing are recast into the well-worn narrative of the architect-as-dictator. Alternately, the common exhortation of “architects can only do so much” serves to do little more than absolve the discipline of social, economic, or political responsibility, positioning architects and planners as neutral agents ultimately instrumentalized by larger forces and powers. To paraphrase Slavoj Zizek speaking about the end of capitalism: it seems that it is easier for architects to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the transformation of the field of architecture.


A 27-year-old Marx argues: “The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice. … Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” Perhaps a way out of anguished self-critique or defeatist surrender would be to continue to find architects, designers, and planners who operate aggressively in the realm of technology, media, policy, politics, and real estate; NOT to “look outside” the discipline but to incorporate these aspects into the discipline itself, and to find a necessary newness, if not ‘revolutionary spirit’, in practice.



Marcelo Lopez Dinardi

Inside | Global


Comments on the web reflect polymorphous data sets of people. As such, my response reacts to a small and multiform sample.


16.9% thinks the discussion goes around the word public, that’s good, if we knew what public is.
11.2% still believe in design.
9.8% is concerned about the social, but never socialist!
9.8% also sees America as a unitary whole.
9.8% too is close to think of MoMA as a communist (not fascist) dictator.
7.0% only! realized that architecture as a profession runs by inertia.
5.6% used the old trick of asking for the useful to attack architecture.
5.6% is still interested in talking about the New we need to?
5.6% would like to know what constitute the people in a capitalist system.
4.2% of the commenters did not understand the intellectual agenda of the exhibition.
2.8% seems to prefer developers instead of academics as curators.
2.8% see exhibition as an imposition, do you?
2.8% suggest that the projects are to abstract? We need to look for the tweets of the International Style exhibition then.
2.8% need a clarification, yes, the MoMA is an elite institution, who didn’t know that?
2.8% commented on the wrong exhibition, 9 Ways of Being Political in Architecture came after Foreclosed! Misplaced comments, never mind.

The overlapping percentage groups might give us even more clues about the comments.


29.5% is perhaps a symptom of the social realities of the museum in America.
16.9% of these comments can be arranged with the dangerous combination of the words useless-New Urbanist-people? or, are people useful for New Urbanists?
14.0% might reflect a small political and abstract discussion about the apparent imposition of the elite.

Oh!, housing, sure, how could I forgot, only 4% mentioned it. Thank you.




Marina Otero Verzier

Outside | Global


So here we are, performing comments on comments in front of you. A conversation has been curated, and we have conducted a rehearsal beforehand. But I still misunderstand and misspeak. The former intentions of the commenters are blurred by the possibility of repetition. We are never fully present in a speech act. They say: “architects build reputations instead of structures,” “none of these designs is likely to be built.” We are not afraid. A disciplinary white-picket-fence dream is getting out-dated. Even if we don’t have control over the final outcome, we still can inspire thought, inspire discussion, make you envision possible futures. Yes, architects feel free but architecture still plans for total control. So here we are. A conversation has been curated. Communal style of living. Applause.