Why does subversive architecture, not subvert traffic?

Architectural educators rarely dissuade students from designing projects that subvert capitalism. Leaving half your site undeveloped for spontaneous renditions of the musical Hair; overhanging boundaries in the manner of Libeskind; totally burying a building as though it is underneath Wimbledon Common and you have been commissioned by Wombles; achieving stupidly low FSRs: all these seem like reasonable ways to make “architecture”, instead of mere “building”, when your lecturers can’t agree as to what marks one from the other.

Libeskind's Denver Art Museum overhangs a road, but doesn't actually stop any cars. The loading dock is tucked in the back.

To my mind a building is a work of architecture (and not just a building work) when it is about something—something more than just shelter. This requisite “aboutness” to which I refer, can sometimes (though not necessary) be tied up with the subversion of norms. But do you know, there is one norm that you rarely see architects try to subvert. They don’t design buildings that interrupt capitalism’s most conspicuous progeny: vehicular flows through the city. I’m not talking about proposing pedestrian malls that aren’t already on the tables of planners. I’m thinking more about subtle, genuinely subversive gestures, like sneakily developing site planning strategies that would force trucks entering loading docks to back in from arterial roads.

Consider Daniel Libeskind’s Denver Art Museum, that subverts a road, though merely symbolically. The loading docks, that actually could have been used to interrupt traffic, are tucked safely behind, facing a lane. Actually subverting capitalism, by actually interfering with vehicular traffic, albeit sneakily, is still in the realms of the unthinkable.

Personally, I’m not so down on capitalism, as I am on its direct impacts on cycling. If that overpass in the above photo belonged to a bicycling network, the cars on the street wouldn’t really concern me.


  1. Sacred Vow says:

    Dear Komrade, how glorious of you to think of the collective instead of your own capitalist needs!

    Please consider this party approved and provided travelling instrument which is most equal and adequate:


    Budem zdorovy!

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