Architecture and «pessimism»

On the political condition of architecture

Pedro Levi Bismarck



Stones against diamonds

Ex-curso . series b <1>

October 2020

ISSN 2184-5859





1. object and landscape

an architecture without project


2. the architect as an entrepreneur

the privatization of architecture


3. to organize pessimism

on the political condition of architecture


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’s total market. On the other hand, the current disciplinary anxiety for the «essential values of architecture» or the «poetics of form» is not a coincidence: in making each architectural object an eternal spring poem, full of promises of happiness, redeems the harsh reality of a profession crossed by precariousness and social irrelevance, furthermore concealing the ongoing 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».