Letter to Lebbeus Woods concerning teaching.

Kevin Rhowbotham: At a time through which the very nature of corporate reality will be drawn down to a point of disappearance it is self evidently inappropriate to valorise previous institutional practices which have failed to deliver the professed consequences of self interested philosophising.
Neither professional nor academic propositions have offered successful solutions to a plethora of ingrained and perennial problems , legion within the social realities of global states, the consequences of which void the well meaning naiveties of both positions.
Considering the position of schools of architecture is, given the implosion of the neo-liberal model of international capitalism, somewhat isolationist in its political scope.
Things are not joined up. Self pleading is the order of the day. ‘It’s not my fucking problem’ , the most explicit sentiment allied to an all pervasive institutionalised Gallic indifference.
As much as I would like to feel that schools of architecture can construct an opportunity to remake the world or even a fragment of the world in the liberal image of the global state’s apologists, nothing could be further from the rude fact of reality.
And what then is the material fact of things?….that schools of architecture, their pretentions, actions, productions, personalities………don’t amount to a hill of beans; Sub specie aeternitatis. Let the lions escape. Kevin Rhowbotham

Lebbeus Woods: (Kevin Rhowbotham:) There doesn’t seem to be a ray of hope in your comment, at least for schools of architecture. You have been a teacher in several schools over many years, and I wonder if you still are. If so, I would be interested to know your approach to teaching in light of your pessimistic outlook. Also, does “letting he lions escape” refer to the students, their imaginations…?

Kevin Rhowbotham: I find it difficult to understand how a notion of hope may function for the dispossessed in any way other than as a mask to systemic alienation. You use the term hope rather like the term faith, or even talent ; terms which offer something at a distance , always displaced and never at hand. Terms which reserve power to the giver, like a gift might, begging a dependency.
But I don’t want to dwell on a single point.
It has always been my personal contention that any educational institution which took itself seriously would, as its first declarative act, disband itself in the name of truth. At the very least it would construct the means of self-criticism. The fate of empirical ideologues is always a descent into febrile positivism.
You ask me am I still teaching? As you know me, and since I have recommended to you, as a teacher to a teacher, the innocent and impressionable, you might have concluded, without too much reflection, that, for me at least, teaching is a matter of human grace, generosity and love; qualities , I seem to remember you exhibit in abundance.
Let me answer you more directly, I contend that teaching is not subject to the institution, rather the institution is subject to it. We all have needs for this to be well remembered.
This is precisely why the school is threatened by the teacher and the teacher undermined by the school; and can it be any other way? ….a dialectical inversion subtended by an uncritical need , common to all institutional interests, to perpetuate themselves uncritically and self-interestedly, in the face of self-evident social requirements. This last having been recently exhibited, and in an exemplary fashion, by the banking system so I understand.
teachers teach that knowledge waits,
leads to hundred dollar plates,
that goodness hides behind its gates……………

The purpose of teaching is empowerment; more precisely, the transfer of empowerment. This demands risk on the part of the teacher since the institution places a vicious break upon anything which attempts to divert its control.
Subjects to be taught are mere vehicles and are of only secondary importance. It can never be the subject of teaching which is liberating, be it macro economics, techniques of torture , or architectural design, but rather the political will of the teacher to impart methods of inversion, necessary to make the world anew. This is precisely a negative project.
If there is no social product to teaching, there is little social benefit. To wish for an isolated art without social determination is to wish for solipsism. This is precisely the position of architectural education , (a category which was itself manufactured by the academic project); solipsistic, self-referential, blinkered, decadent, careerist.
The object of teaching is to secure the maturity of those who wish to be taught, the successful outcome of which must culminate in the redundancy of the teacher.

To answer your implied question as to agency, vis…if you think like this what would you have us do?
Disband all institutional forms of teaching: de-school society.
Yes we can!
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
Rather than pursing a debate on architectural education it might be more pertinent to examine the structures which constrain the way education thinks of itself. The first topic might then be the ideology of corporate empiricism and its alternatives. This would unlock a means to establish different intellectual landscapes and different methods of reflection.

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