Only by understanding what is worth conserving can new architecture enrich the old, says Patrick Lynch.
In her 1970 essay ‘The Crisis in Education’, German-American political theorist Hannah Arendt reflected on the strife that hit university campuses in the 1960s. Arendt said that education must by its nature be conservative, because human artefacts wither and decay and the young must be educated in order for them to be able to make decisions about what is worth conserving or remaking. She added that because human affairs are perishable, and in need of conservation and renewal, it is pointless trying to maintain the status quo, and that attempting to do so – the basis of conservative political thinking – is hopelessly wrongheaded and futile.
As Arendt was painfully aware from her own experiences fleeing Hitler during the Second World War, it is the ignorant who want to smash old things and to glorify their youth in the name of some chimerical future. To illustrate how supposedly radical education policy leads to conservative architecture, I draw your attention to the latest project by the ex-Dean of Columbia University’s schoolof architecture, Bernard Tschumi: the BLUE residential tower in Manhattan. Chamfered blue glass walls in aluminium frames plus air equals ‘a mosaic of the diverse community around it’. Or so we are told.