SUPERCRITICAL #2  -  Friday February 5th, 2010

AA Words series 1-4.

I don’t want readers thinking I’m being overly supercritical – even though the meeting between Rem and Peter (see below) was a poor excuse for a conversation, this is neither indicative of Supercritical as a volume or the AA Words as a series. Millennium People reviewed Anti-Object (the second book in the series) September last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it (featuring two guest reviews by M. Rosin-Melser – late of ETH, recently returned to Sydney). In a sense, the failure of Koolhaas and Eisenman to establish a dialogue is practically inevitable given the intensely complicated history of these two figures. This is all by-the-bye, and I am no apologist.

The series aims to “deflect” the force of an architectural culture dominated by the endless production and consumption of images by means of “direct language, concise editing and beautiful, legible graphic design”. As a concept it works – as much for its visual appearance as its content. I suspect (and in several cases this suspicion has been confirmed) that quite a lot of the students I’ve seen buying the Words series do so initially for the Underground typo and bold primary colours, only to find that the text is pretty alright too.

That said, in response to Brett Steele’s claim that it’s “really a magazine in disguise”, its really only issue one, Supercritical, that feels like a miniature magazine, and I think this is due to the diversity of its content, even if it does largely revolve around Rem and Peter. Apart from the disastrous dispute there is a great discussion between Robert Somol and Jeffrey Kipnis, moderated by Mark Cousins, (the highlight of which is when the two critics impersonate Koolhaas and Eisenman and have the “conversation they might have had if they had been honest with each other”), a really interesting discussion between Alvin Boyarksy and Peter from 1975 (broadcast on AA radio, which, though fascinating, shows that Peter was just as difficult back then as today), a 1976 interview between Koolhaas and Peter Cook, and a 100 point document by Brett Steele analysing the nature of Peter and Rem’s work, rise and success, writing, as individual entities and in comparison to each other.

The result of these varied chapters is to present a snapshot of the two architects not just at one moment (one discussion, one night) but over time. The nature of the starchitect is to have their popularity reinforced by the present – this method of displaying a timeline of vignettes goes a long way to removing something of the aura of the two men and presenting them in a more critical light. What becomes very evident from the ‘miniature magazine’ is that Koolhaas and Eisenman are only human after all…

I highly recommend the series.

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