Skip to content

Architecture, Agency, and Culture

I’ve argued several times that human engagement with IP culture is guided metaphorically by a spatial sense that is related to the spatial sense that guides our engagement with the physical world.  See papers here and here.  Oh, and here.   Architecture … borders … boundaries:  these are the metaphors of IP and information law as well as the elements of our lives on and in cities and towns and beyond.  We act through space.  IP policy ignores that spatiality at its peril.

All of that is a wind-up to make relevant this link to an appraisal of Ada Louise Huxtable, the first and greatest architecture critic of the New York Times.  Read the payoff, below, metaphorically — that is, imagine how it might be applied to IP policy and imagine how the limits of the metaphor tell us something, too:

Huxtable’s modest, carefully articulated rallying cry is left to the end: “Space is meaningless without scale, containment, boundaries and direction. … This is planning. It is the opposite of non-planning, or the normal patterns of New York development. See and savor it now, because it is carelessly disposed of.” Her method is developmental, leading the reader to agreement rather than telling them what they will learn at the outset. Huxtable is asking us to look at what is around the architecture as much as the building in question, calling our attention to what is really important to get right.

The more built environment people see and savor, the more they act like architecture critics, the better they will be able to recognize good planning and become advocates for it. What they need to know is how to recognize, articulate and argue for such continuing moments of beauty. The first step is following in the footsteps of the masters. The second is writing about the city you want to see.