A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.

At a Chinese New Year celebration, I asked my cookie to give feedback on a very public project that we were most recently involved in.

That is what the cookie said.

Friedrich St. Florian made the observation that considering the length of human existence, fifty years here and there without architecture is barely noteworthy. The way he put it was, “The world can do without architecture for fifty years.”

This seems to be no big deal, really, when you think of it.

Building goes on, governed by substitutes for architecture: pseudo sociological programming, realty logic or developer logic.

That is the literal interpretation of my fortune…with building referring to “bricks and mortar.” But with the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Eygpt, more significant world building comes to mind.

Social Media played a role as a tool chest for the necessary gathering of outrage, intent and action, but the will to define change and a sustained commitment of action had to have been there in the first place.

This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, by William Hutchinson Murray:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, the providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

This makes me ask, was our president’s campaign slogan “yes we can” fitting for our country’s people and times?


  1. Laurence Srinivasan

    Hi Kyna! I just found your arch. blog, very nice! The 50 yr. quote from Friedrich is intriguing- but is that a “classical Roman” perspective? The way I see it, nowadays 50 years is a lot of time. In 50 years, for example, our ocean levels may rise by a foot or more due to global warming, submerging coastal cities..! There is a lot that needs to be done in the next 50yrs. I like the “yes we can” attitude- but I think many people don’t know what to actually do with it.
    best, Laurence

  2. kynaleski

    My friend, an architect, writer and all-round thinker, David Gersten observed:
    “How extraordinary it is that the Egyptian people literally ‘broke apart’ the bricks and mortar of the public space in order to throw it back at the tyranny raining down on them. They lifted up the ground with their bare hands, formed it into hand size pieces and turned it into a dynamic shield, pushing back tyranny. In some way, the most remarkable and beautiful images of all of this were those of the people placing the stones back into their places, rebuilding the ground that had protected them, rebuilding a new public space. I guess this is what ‘uprising’ means. I cant help but be inspired by this and at the same time recognize that this was possible, in large part because the army did not use their tanks to destroy the fragile shield built of the shared ground.”

  3. kynaleski

    Yes, we certainly have the digital and social media tool chest. And, as you say, until “the motivation to do otherwise coalesces…” a perpetuation of the status quo continues.

  4. alex elias

    Great post, Kyna.

    Fitting, yes, becasue it was a campaign slogan, and not a call to action that was perpetuated once the campaign was concluded. It was fitting also because in the context of that campaign, the level of committment it requested–that of making a donation or voting– was minimal. This seems consistent with our culture; we are asked to “buy into” or “identify” with a particular person, product or sports team, and in doing so we abrogate our responsibility to create our own identity by being active participants in culture. (For the purposes of this comment, I would define “culture” as any public activity that does not have a commercial component or intent.)Our political campaign discourse has long since come under the influence of the same “logic” of those who market and sell consumer products and services. “Yes We Can” was a perfectly constructed slogan. It was short, and easy to remember. It did represent a call to action, however narrow and limited that action was. It was plural, and therefore inclusive. And perhaps most importantly, it was vague enough for the receiver to attach their own meaning to it. As such, the slogan was not threatening or even challenging. It was easy, would have been just as much at home in a greeting card as it was on a bumper sticker.

    Developer logic, realty logic, insurance logic, etc., are all generators of architectural slogans, if you will. The architectural slogan is comforting, easy to digest, and presents an image into which the consumer can place his or herself with little effort. It offers the psychological comforts associated with permanence and values. It precludes creation and repalces it with a self-fulfilling cycle of replication and consumption.

    Social media is a latter-day printing press; it will be used, as you correctly pointed out, to further the underlying intent of those who have access to it. If I am at all correct about slogans (and I’d prefer not to be), both campaign and architectural, then it seems our use of social media, and other digital tools will only perpetuate the status quo until the motivation to do otherwise coalesces.