The Cooper Union
School of Architecture


Architecture and war are not incompatible.
Architecture is war. War is architecture.
I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority
that resides in fixed and frightened forms.
I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family,
no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end,
no "sacred and primordial site."
I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories
that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears.
I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments,
and forms that appear with infinite strength, then "melt into air."
I am an architect, a constructor of worlds,
a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody,
a silhouette against the darkening sky.
I cannot know your name. Nor can you know mine.
Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.

It is natural to want to replace something important lost to the destruction of war. Ideologies count on this desire among people, and thus make restoration (or the promise of it) their first principle of reconstruction. They believe that the phoenix can rise again from its own ashes. Important civic and cultural monuments no doubt will be restored to their undamaged condition, as tokens of past coherence that might serve as models of civilized thought and activity. However, such restorations inevitably reaffirm a past social order that ended in war. The attempt to restore the fabric of old cities to their former conditions is, therefore, a folly that not only denies postwar conditions, but impedes the emergence of an urban fabric and way of life based upon them. Wherever the restoration of war-devastated urban fabric has occurred in the form of replacing what has been damaged or destroyed, it ends as parody, worthy only of the admiration of tourists.

At such a moment of recovery, it is crucial that new directions and new choices are articulated. Because governments and corporations cannot be expected to take the initiative in establishing new and multilayered societies, the impetus for their creation must come from below, from people who begin to build directly, without the sanction of any institutionalized authority. These people include those from every socially defined group whose energies, once released, flow readily into a turbulent and newly complex human stream, one composed of distinct atoms of existence, and not melded into an indiscriminate flood.

The new spaces of habitation constructed on the existential remnants of war and natural disaster do not celebrate the destruction of an established order, nor do they symbolize or commemorate it. Rather they accept with certain pride what has been suffered and lost, but also what has been gained. They build upon the shattered form of the old order a new category of order inherent only in present conditions, within which existence feels its strengths, acknowledges its vulnerabilities and failures, and faces up to the need to re-invent itself. There is an ethical and moral commitment in such an existence, and therefore a basis of community.

Professor, Proportional-Time Faculty