In May of last year Patrik Schumacher published an essay in which he advocated the elimination of living standards to exclusively subject the sector to the criteria of private economy.
Without getting into the climate considerations and territorial evidence – which Schumacher simplified by alluding solely to consolidated urban environments – it ended up being peculiar that the author, who for years came to make himself known as more or less neoliberal, poorly intellectually substantiated yet very well advertised, addressed head on two questions that characterize the ultra-capitalist argument of the most recent years.
First off, a constant questioning of rights that, until this moment, had been considered untouchable. Putting these rights in question came accompanied by the negation of progress in purely technical terms that could only be considered reactionary. Housing standards, derived from hygienic processes and modernity from the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, entailed an indisputable technical advancement that consolidated the apparition of today’s basic principles (despite it’s incomprehensible abandonment) such as the right to a respectable home.
It ended up being evident that the technical advancement and the lightness with which it was questioned, as the right which was diminished – this is, and not the other way around, the objective – affects the most disadvantaged classes (workers, temporary workers, including the middle class) and that the approach of the unsupportive maximalism constitutes a direct attack on the best achievements that, like discipline, have given architecture to society.
However, and this is the second question, announcing these intentions are not accompanied by the stark authoritarianism of ‘Thatcherism’ or of the presumptuous attribution of the concept of the liberty of ‘Reaganomics,’ but rather of the glamorization process that, as Evgeny Mozorov indicated upon noting the dangers of the collaborative false economy, covers the vital free election (falsely liberating and modern).
In this way, the model does not do yet it replicates the characteristics that were placed in Fordism ahead of Taylorism: its perception – totally casual – as a lifestyle and not as much as a productive and economic product. It is this same vital characterization, taken to the extreme, that invades the mass media and that the outbursts of Schumacher are not, sadly for an architect’s ego, the most perfect form.
They are, on the other hand, the proliferation of programs and news of a new wave of televised/information based on housing (or in many cases purely decorative) that transforms it into attractive, perfectly wrapped up and converted into concealing fetishes, and highly precarious models.
Some testimonials of the rise in minimalist homes – that do not comply with even the most reduced VPO standards – in the category of stylized choice (with more than a few green connotations, absolute sustainability) and of the apparition of information that transmutes the rental crisis in the more modern ‘co-living,’hiding the reality of a society with so many uncertainties when it comes to labor opportunities, that sharing an apartment has become more of a necessity and not so much a lifestyle disguised as being for the young and modern.
Still from the trailer of the program “Minicasas” on Divinity.
The ridiculous banality arrives so extreme as to call ‘foodcooking’ that which is cooking on the weekend for the purpose of filling a lunchbox, or also for referring to whoever it is that has arrived at the idea of considering a beehive colony tiny apartment (three square meters for 250 euros/month) as anything other than the return of overcrowded housing which was typical in the 18th century back when the stylization of finished shared housing did not hide its purely speculative and extractive objective.
Carmen Pardo Vela, “Co-living’, the new way of sharing an apartment, arrives in Madrid”, El Mundo, 18-11-2018.
This current trend, that both sweetens and numbs, represents propaganda – nothing innocent – whose effects in these complicated times of post-truth and populism we still must try.
For that reason, beyond other aesthetic questions, these are political questions that require the clear positioning of our architectural profession, that always put its best self forward when it understands that it serves society and that that which is technical (as before mentioned) must form part of the consolidation and the protection of citizen rights.
José María Echarte
Arquitecto por la ETSAM (2000) y como tal ha trabajado en su propio estudio en concursos nacionales e internacionales, en obras publicas y en la administración. Desde 2008 es coeditor junto a María Granados y Juan Pablo Yakubiuk del blog n+1.
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