February 18th, 2012 — 3:12pm
cement house
Cement (source)
Construction Site in Seattle (source)


What is it that holds us together as a society? What is the glue that keeps us together? I asked these questions in a seminar once to provoke the question of metaphysics, for metaphysics, philosophically speaking, is largely about glue. For Plato it was a common capacity, whether innate or learned, to understand the qualities of The Good. For the nineteenth century Romantics it was The Nation, and indeed for many people today this is still the glue. But it could be also religion, or even a sports team. Often, we do not see The Glue. It is so naturalized that we fail to account for it as operative in our lives, or even if we do account for it, we fail to be able to deconstruct its potency. We believe that the harder the glue is, the better it is. This is, of course, a huge mistake, for which humanity seems to have little native resistance. Kant might have said that we have an inner capacity to be social, but he underestimated the compulsion we seem to have to over-determine who is or is not part of the social Glue. So for that reason, here and there, in one way or another, we should also try to un-Glue ourselves. This does not mean that we should go to the outback and live by ourselves. But we could ask what is keeping us Glued in and certainly resist the temptation to see the Glue of metaphysics as a universal, for that brings only tragedy.


Architects enjoy masquerading as urbanists. As a basis for any urban project, they generate a vast amount of conceptual data—historic property boundaries, gradient maps of walkability, vectors of development—aimed at illuminating trends that will provide an argument for Form. This search sometimes cadences into a figure-ground drawing where a project reveals its urban thesis. Frequently the criteria is to maximize desirable aspects of the site: delivering building users with scenic views, aligning with historical axes of the city, enhancing pedestrian routes, or providing open space for public use. Such goals are championed by those interested in architecture getting along with its context, strengthening the coherence of its surroundings. This cheery role is maximized in scenarios where single buildings are able to recapture unproductive voids or augment older buildings, thereby densifying an area, with architecture working as an urban adhesive. It is a grand act of civility when buildings behave with good manners (manners being a quality I’ve heard referred to as ‘the glue of society’).


However, just as often as the opportunity to unify arises, architects are guilty of working to delaminate tight-grained districts or, given tabula rasa, build at gigantically… more


Mark Jarzombek



Jack Murphy


1 comment » | Guest Contributors


© 2010-2013 BI, All Rights Reserved