Architectural Design Workshop: Appropriation: The Work of Architecture in the Age of Copyright

Does our appetite for creative vitality require the violence and exasperation of another avant-garde, with its wearisome killing-the-father imperatives, or might we better off ratifying the ecstasy of influence – and deepening our willingness to understand the commonality and timelessness of the methods and motives available to artists?
— Jonathan Lethem, “The Ecstasy of Influence; A plagiarism,” Harpers Magazine (2007)

An engagement with the past has long been understood as a legitimate and indeed requisite aspect of the creative act in architecture; in fact, it could be said to be at the very core of architecture’s disciplinarity. It is as much part of the disciplinary unconscious as the expectation of novelty. In fact, an architect’s engagement with the past is both a means of legitimating her architectural investigation, and of claiming originality against the codified material of preexisting architectural discourse. While the main theoretical charge of the workshop will be to frame a series of historical positions on referencing in architecture (model, citation, analogy, copy, readymade, source material), the main research charge of the workshop is framed by two increasingly urgent contemporary aspects of the culture of aesthetic production: super fast recycling of easily accessible visual material on the production end and the rise of copyright mechanisms in various spheres of aesthetic and intellectual production on the legal end. Both of these pressures have the capacity to shape the question of referencing in architecture in a particularly contemporary sense. At the time when history is made instantly and there is no collectively accepted, dominant, or codified lens thru which to filter its lessons, this workshop is directed precisely at constructing a series of historical narratives based on the very attitude towards referencing itself.

Appropriation is a research workshop. Students will follow readings, sniff out references, track footnotes, dig through digital information, do interviews and flip though both designated archives and unsuspecting sources of architectural knowledge we will construct a map of the way in which attitudes towards copying, referencing and the ownership of ideas in architecture have shaped that architecture, its reception and reproduction. This is the type of design research that places architecture in the midst of an expansive web of cultural, technological and historical pressures. We are interested both in trends and in specific cases, and will supply both readings and a list of case studies to structure our collective research. The research of this workshop will be manifest in an exhibition scheduled to coordinate with a symposium on related topics of reference, copy, and copyright in architecture: “Under the Influence.”