“Architecture as politics is by now such an exhausted myth that it is pointless to waste anymore words on it,” sighed Manfredo Tafuri at the outset of his magnum opus, The Sphere and the Labyrinth (1980). Despite Tafuri’s dismissive gesture, many today still insist that architecture possesses considerable political agency. Personally, I’m more inclined to agree with Tafuri. While it would be mistaken to regard architecture and politics as totally unrelated, the precise nature of their interconnection is not at all what most advocates of architecture’s political role seem to think.
And so, without reopening this discussion wholesale, I think there are some basic clarifications that must be made before issuing any judgment about their relationship to architecture.
Namely, what is “politics”? Before one determines what architecture is or isn’t, the predicates attached to it must themselves be clarified. It’s bad enough that architecture is subsumable into practically any ontology (though I’m generally wary of ontological inquiries, but use it here in a loose sense). One may of course declare: “Architecture is X,” or “Architecture is Y.” If they’re feeling apophatic, the procedure is more or less the same, except this time following the via negativa: “Architecture is ~X,” or “Architecture is ~Y.”
For if any old thing qualifies as “politics,” then of course architecture would be “political.” As long as it were anything at all, it’d be political.