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Architecture and 'pessimism'
by Pedro Levi Bismarck

More than another plea to the political commitment of architects, this essay seeks to understand how neoliberalism challenged an entire way of practicing architecture. If words like «city» or «plan» are just an uncomfortable embarrassment in the mouth of so many architects, or simply old relics placed in the showcase of the museum of architectural history, it is because the entire foundations of the idea of project – which marked the experience of architecture throughout the twentieth century – were shattered by the progressive dismantling of the Welfare State. That’s the reason why the «architectural object» is the true successor of the idea of «architecture as project»: it consumes and consummates the death of the project while giving formal and conceptual expression to the position that architecture occupies in the political economy of neoliberalism. On the other hand, the current disciplinary anxiety for the «essential values of architecture» or the «poetics of form» is not a coincidence: by making each architectural object an eternal spring poem, full of promises of happiness, it redeems the harsh reality of a profession crossed by precariousness and social irrelevance, concealing the neoliberal dissolution of public institutions. This is the reason why the object is always private: a privatized architecture, that is, an architecture expropriated from its public condition. Nonetheless, if we are left with nothing more than pessimism, this doesn’t mean any fatalistic resignation, but means, as Walter Benjamin already knew, that this is the only point from one can start: «il faut organiser le pessimisme».


Bio Pedro Levi Bismarck is an architect graduated by the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto (2008). He worked and lived in Berlin and Porto. He is currently a researcher in CEAU (Centro de Estudos de Arquitectura e Urbanismo – FAUP), where is developing his PhD Thesis. Between 2015 and 2019, he was Assistant Professor of Theory of Architecture in this Faculty. He is also editor of Punkto Journal and of the editorial project Stones Against Diamonds. He has been writing in several magazines of architecture, art and critical thinking.


Title Architecture and «pessimism»

Author Pedro Levi Bismarck

Editors Ana Catarina Costa, Paulo AM Monteiro, Pedro Levi Bismarck

Publisher Stones against diamonds