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249 REPRINTS AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM THE PUBLISHERS. PHOTOCOPYING PERMITTED BY LICENSE ONLY© BERG 2008 PRINTED IN THE UK CULTURAL POLITICS VOLUME 4, ISSUE 2 PP 249–252 CULTURAL POLITICS DOI 10.2752/175174308X310938 BOOK REVIEW AN ANALYST’S COUCH FOR ARCHITECTS LI SHIQIAO Camouflage, Neil Leach, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006, 303 pages, $24.95/£16.95, PB ISBN 0–262–62200–9 Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space (1974) brought the plastic power of space to the theoretical foreground,and anticipated a flurry of theorization in architecture in the ensuing decades,eager to provoke an architectural mainstream which is deeply conservative. This architectural conservatism is protected by institutions, and at the heart of these institutions is a body of architectural knowledge – sustained by a grand illusion – that has a long history. During the Italian Renaissance, two treatises, conceived about 100 years apart, probably already indicated the shape of architectural knowledge to come in the following centuries. They were written respectively by Alberti and Palladio. They both took Vitruvius’s Ten Books of Architecture as a model,but developed their treatises in very different ways. Alberti, in On the Art of Building in Ten Books LI SHIQIAO IS ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR IN THE DEPARTMENT OF ARCHITECTURE, AT THE CHINESE UNIVERSITY OF HONG KONG. HE STUDIED ARCHITECTURE AT TSINGHUA UNIVERSITY IN BEIJING AND OBTAINED HIS PH.D. FROM THE AA SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE AND BIRKBECK COLLEGE, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON. HIS WRITINGS HAVE APPEARED IN: THEORY, CULTURE & SOCIETY, THE JOURNAL OF ARCHITECTURE, JOURNAL OF ARCHITECTURAL EDUCATION, JOURNAL OF THE SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTURAL HISTORIANS, DOMUS CHINA, BAUWELT, AND HIS BOOKS INCLUDE ARCHITECTURE AND MODERNIZATION (BEIJING, 2007) AND POWER AND VIRTUE: ARCHITECTURE AND INTELLECTUAL CHANGE IN ENGLAND 1650–1730 (LONDON AND NEW YORK, 2007). HE WAS EXTERNAL EXAMINER FOR THE MASTER AND PH.D. DEGREES AT THE RMIT UNIVERSITY (2005), INTERNATIONAL JUDGE FOR THE RIBA PRESIDENT’S MEDAL FOR DISSERTATIONS (2006); HE HAS ALSO LECTURED AT MANY INSTITUTIONS WORLDWIDE. HE COFOUNDED BHSL DESIGN WITH BELINDA HO AND HAS WON SEVERAL DESIGN AWARDS. > CULTURAL POLITICS 250 BOOK REVIEW (published 1486), followed Vitruvius’s idea that architecture is about all things human, and wrote his treatise in that way, while Palladio, in Four Books of Architecture (1570), worked on the possibility of a “specialized knowledge” of architecture, visually and quantitatively defined and organized. Above all, Palladio was “disciplined” in two senses of the word: he was both careful about the content and conscious of the boundaries of knowledge. As John Habraken argues in Palladio’s Children (2005), we are all regrettably Palladio’s children; the Palladian tradition has played a significant role in the formation of the modern architectural discipline: the establishment of institutes of architects, systems of education, and legislation of codes of practice has become widely accepted throughout the world. The more complex and problematic demand of the discipline was for ontology. J.N.L. Durand, in his Précis of the Lectures on Architecture (1802–5), gave us a version of that ontology rooted in the notion of typology and in the composition of forms, and the twentieth century promoted the idea of function and the industrial process as the key to architectural knowledge. All these became profoundly disappointing because the architectural discipline – however exquisitely created – alienated architecture from human life in whose name it was created. Neil Leach’s book, Camouflage, returns to the Albertian tradition; it is probably not a coincidence that Leach’s foray into architectural theory began with a translation of Alberti’s On the Art of Building in 1988 to replace the 1755 Leoni edition. Camouflage could be seen to have served two broad objectives. The first is related to the “escapist, aestheticized outlook on the world” (p. ix) in postmodernism which Leach argued against in his earlier book, The Anaesthetics of Architecture (1999); here, Camouflage promises “a comprehensive aesthetic theory” which would move away from the “negative critiques within recent cultural theory” (p. 14), and toward a more constructive role of aesthetic theory. The second is to provide an alternative to the contextual explorations in architecture which have been deeply dependent on phenomenology; Leach argues that the phenomenological framework is “constrained ... by a certain outlook, which...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1751-7435
Print ISSN
1743-2197
Pages
pp. 249-252
Launched on MUSE
2016-07-06
Open Access
No
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