• Retrospecta, the Yale School
    of Architecture's annual review
    of its student design, published
    in its 2003/04 issue an exchange
    that took place that year between Columbia architectural historian Kenneth Frampton and architect/
    theorist Demetri Porphyrios.
    Both had been guests of Yale — Porphyrious as a visiting professor, Frampton as a guest juror of the
    work of Porphyrios's students. In
    this excerpt from a conversation
    that developed in the course of a student jury, Frampton was talking about architecture. He might as well have been talking about the culture
    in general:

    Kenneth Frampton There is an aphorism by Adolf Loos that goes as follows: “There's no point in inventing anything unless it's an improvement.” It’s an ironic remark, but also a challenge to this moment in time, where everyone seems to be losing it.

    Commerce will tell you that this is ridiculous from the point of view
    of architecture. Now you can say,
    "Well I don't give a damn about
    commerce, this is an artistic work!"
    But Architecture is not...Fine Art in that sense. [Architecture] is a modus, which has to deal with certain kinds
    of reality. Its poetic comes through
    its transformation of reality....

    The question is, What are the limits in which this transformation can take place? You have to talk to society in some way — in a way in which you can appeal to some kind of evident values. It can be money values, but also can, at the same time, can it be other values?

    Otherwise it's like a conversation between the deaf and the dumb! There's no reason why we're to do anything! I could tell you to cut six more slots into this thing, and it wouldn't make a difference. It's a negative critique of the project, but
    it's also a critique of the whole
    goddamn situation.

    You have to have a principle; otherwise you cannot communicate anything to anybody. Why should I invest my money in this, as opposed to some other project? You have to have a reason! Otherwise the architects don't even talk to the society! Don't you see that predicament?

    These computer renderings
    produce aesthetic affects very well, seamless, very seductive, but they
    are not about anything. They are delusions! They are mirages! I'm sorry, it's very aggressive to say this, but aren't we going to start talking? It's just ridiculous to say, "OK — individual interpretations," so on
    and so forth. One has to talk about something fundamental; otherwise we're never going to talk about anything anymore!

    Demitri Porphyrios I'm not sure what you're talking about.

    KF I'm talking about the fact that there is a total degeneration in the capacity to discuss anything.

    DP Do you want some coffee?

    KF No, I don't. Sorry, I don't...

    DP Look, look, look. This is a disgusting situation. It's not right
    to get upset.

    KF It's something to get upset about! We always have polite discussions; we have to sometimes get upset, because otherwise we just don't talk about the things that matter.


  • I am the founder of this nonprofit
    that works on a variety of fronts — research, education, advocacy — to advance the legacy of Joshua Abraham Norton (1818-1880), best known as the San Francisco eccentric and sometime visionary, Emperor Norton.

    Learn more at

Save Gabe's

  • A grassroots initiative to redevelop and restore Gabe's Tower (1963) as an economically and culturally vibrant symbol and icon of Owensboro, Ky.

    Learn more here.


  • Looking at Three for the World,
    Eli Attia's 2002/3 design for the World Trade Center site (pdf below), the towers themselves might not be your cup of tea.

    But the big architectural idea
    that Attia offered with his design — which could have been adapted to a variety of aesthetics — was far superior to anything that rebuilding officials offered to the public or, for that matter, even considered.

    Download a PDF of the design here.

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24 May 2012

My Photo


    18 years. Same ranch house,
    same middle class street, same Southern Baptist church, same western Kentucky town. That's
    how it started. A 2-year stint as a classical-singer-in-training in Nashville (yes, Nashville). A master's degree in religion and philosophy at St. Andrews University in Scotland.
    A 3-year turn in the postgraduate theory mills of Duke University. Liberal church, then none. Emigration to Manhattan, 1998. Escape to Brooklyn, 2003. Flight to San Francisco, 2010. Back East to
    Boston, 2020.

    These (sometimes polemical) observations and speculations on architecture, design, media and politics are part of an attempt to understand that everything we encounter creates our sense of place.

    Why the effort? Because most of us — including me — have not begun
    to appreciate what a radical and necessary enterprise "making the world a better place" is.

    I live in Boston, with my wife, my
    dog, and a benchmade, all-stainless Parsons table that I would make love to if I could.


    [email protected]


  • For hire...

    Writer and strategist.

    Classically trained? Sure. (See Orientation, above). But think David Bowie. John Cale. Middle Tom Waits. Randy Newman. Neil Hannon. Maybe a little Anthony Newley and Tony Bennett for good measure.

    Voice over.
    Narrative; Commercial (political, organizational, PSA); Audiobook

    Listen to demo reel here.

    [email protected]


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