On Argumentum Ad Hominem And Rem
We mentioned a little while ago about our allergy to argumentum ad hominem. It flared up in full force upon reading Philip Noble's latest column in Metropolis, so much so that we had to reach for our medication. Mr. Noble makes plain his love of the OMA-designed IIT Student Center in Chicago, but still can't bring himself to like Rem Koolhaas. The complaint gives us the so-whats. I can't say I care to care about any architect I'm not personal friends with. The list of Rem Infractions listed in the article make his argument ring of an inferiority complex that should stay in therapy sessions. However, the crux of his argument brings ad hominem to a whole new level, and something worthy of debate:
Can I not, one might also ask, separate the tics of a genius personality from the work of a genius? No, I would proudly respond, I cannot. And neither should you: when a building is itself leveraged on the personality of its builder—as it always is in the case of Rem and so many others who need not be mentioned here again (okay: Peter, Zaha, Richard, Danny)—then that personality, tics and all, becomes part of what one must assess to understand the finished work.
While we at Tropolism prefer to see buildings as most people do--apart from the journalism and gossip that surrounds their making--and entirely focus on how the body of the building interacts with the life of the city, we do agree that it's possible to gain insight into the artistic will of an architect by understanding their personal eccentricities. But what does that give us, except some more Understanding? Understanding is the booby prize. In a hundred years, IIT will still exist in some form, and the slights received by journalists from Rem in the late 20th and early 21st century will seem like trivialities. It is a rare occasion (I cannot think of a single occurence) when our squabbling is not outlived by the buildings we produce, and their effects on urban life. Besides, there are so many other conversations in the city, it's difficult to focus on a few rants, particularly from architects.
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