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Unified
Theory: Chapter 2B
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20

OCT

2013

by Nikos Salingaros
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Unified Architectural Theory
Nikos Salingaros

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Frank Gehry's Vitra Design Museum is an example of the kind of architecture


deconstructivist thinkers praise. In this chapter of Unified Architectural Theory, Nikos
Salingaros argues why the scientific approach is superior to that of the deconstructivists .
Image Liao Yusheng

We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of


installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the
world. Part one of Chapter Two outlined the scientific approach to architectural theory; the
following, part two of Chapter Two, explains why Salingaros considers this approach to be
superior to that taken by deconstructivists. If you missed them, make sure to catch up
on the introduction, Chapter 1, and Chapter 2A.
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Some traditions are anachronistic and misguided, but as reservoirs of traditional solutions
against which to check new proposals they are of immense importance. A new solution may
at some point replace a traditional solution, but it must succeed in reestablishing the
connections to the rest of knowledge. In the context of social patterns, architecture, and

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urbanism, new solutions are useful if they connect to traditional social, architectural, and
urban patterns (i.e., all those before the 1920s). If there is an obvious gap where nothing in
a discipline refers to anything outside, then there could be a serious problem.

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Recently, Edward Wilson has introduced the notion of consilience as the interlocking of
causal explanations across disciplines (Wilson, 1998a). Consilience claims that all

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explanations in nature are connected; there are no totally isolated phenomena. Wilson
focuses on incomplete pieces of knowledge: the wide region separating the sciences from

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the humanities. He is happy to see it being slowly filled in by evolutionary biologists,


cognitive neuroscientists, and researchers in artificial intelligence. At the same time, he is
alarmed by people in the humanities who are erasing parts of the existing body of
knowledge. These include deconstructive philosophers. Wilson characterizes their efforts as
based on ignorance.

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On Derridas work, he writes: It is the opposite of science, rendered in fragments with

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the incoherence of a dream, at once banal and fantastical. It is innocent of the science of
mind and language developed elsewhere in the civilized world, rather like the
pronouncements of a faith healer unaware of the location of the pancreas. (Wilson, 1998b:
p. 41).

Unfortunately, most of the humanities today subscribe to belief systems that damage the

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Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 2B | ArchDaily

11/3/15, 7:03 PM

is to erase institutions of knowledge. What Derrida has said is alarming enough:

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Deconstruction goes through certain social and political structures, meeting with resistance

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web of consilient knowledge. Although never directly expressed, the goal of deconstruction

and displacing institutions as it does so effectively, you have to displace, I would say
solid structures, not only in the sense of material structures, but solid in the sense of
cultural, pedagogical, political, economic structures. (Norris, 1989: p. 8).

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Many people crave novelty without regard for possible consequences. This craving is often
manipulated by unscrupulous individuals. Not everything that is novel is necessarily good.

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An example of this is a new, artificially-developed virus unleashed into the world. Because
of the immense destructive power that humanity now possesses, it is imperative to
understand possible consequences.

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In a hilarious hoax, Alan Sokal developed a nonsensical deconstructive critique of well

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known scientific claims in an article submitted for publication to a pretentious,


deconstructive academic journal (Sokal, 1996). None of the referees for that journal
challenged Sokals account before accepting the article as worthy of publication. Sokal was
so obvious in his deception that he assumed it would have been exposed; but it was not.

Subsequently, Sokal and Jean Bricmont (1998) exposed deconstructivist criticism as


nonsensical and showed that several respected deconstructive texts are based on
nonsensical scientific references. This is only the most famous exposure of nonsensical

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deconstructive writings; there are many others (Huth, 1998). In a debunking of


deconstructivist texts, Andrew Bulhak codified the deconstructivists literary style into a
computer program called Postmodernism Generator (1996). It is remarkably successful in
generating nonsensical texts that are indistinguishable from those written by revered
deconstructivist philosophers.

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Putting aside the question of truthful content, a discipline is not valid unless it rests on a
solid intellectual edifice. One characteristic of a coherent discipline is hierarchical
complexity, in which correlated ideas and results define a unique internal structure. Like a
valid bank note, this structure should be extremely difficult to counterfeit. That is not the
case with deconstruction. Thus, a phony article in Statistical Mechanics, using all the
appropriate words and mathematical symbols in a nice-sounding but scientificallymeaningless jumble, would be detected instantly.

Even a single mistake in such an article could not survive unnoticed. It is the function of
referees to check each and every step in the argument of a scientific article submitted for
publication in a professional journal. The very survival of the discipline depends on a system
of checks that identifies and expels bogus contributions. By contrast, the survival of
deconstruction in which there is nothing to verify depends upon generating more and
more deconstructed texts and buildings.

A well-crafted deconstructive text does make sense, but not in any logical fashion. It is a
piece of poetry that abuses the human capacity for pattern recognition to create
associations, employing random technical jargon.

As Roger Scruton has pointed out: Deconstruction should be understood on the model
of magic incantation. Incantations are not arguments, and avoid completed thoughts and
finished sentences. They depend on crucial terms, which derive their effect from repetition,
and from their appearance in long lists of cryptic syllables. Their purpose is not to describe
what is there, but to summon what is not there Incantations can do their work only if key
words and phrases acquire a mystical penumbra. (Scruton, 2000: pp. 141-142).

The use of words for emotional effect is a common technique of cult indoctrination. This
practice reinforces the cults message. Whether in chants that make little sense yet can
raise followers emotions to fever pitch, or in the speeches of political demagogues that
rouse a wild and passionate allegiance, the emotional manipulation is the message. Even
after the exposure of the deconstructive philosophers fraudulent character, their work
continues to be taken seriously. Deconstructionist books are available in any university
bookstore, while respectable academics offer lengthy critical commentary supporting these
books supposed authority. By affording them the trappings of scholarly inquiry, the
impression is carefully maintained that they constitute a valid body of work.

Followers of deconstruction apply the classic techniques of cults to seize academic


positions; infiltrate the literature; displace competitors; establish a power base by employing
propaganda and manipulating the media, etc. They use indoctrination to recruit followers,
usually from among disaffected students in the humanities. As David Lehman put it: An
antitheological theology, [deconstruction] shrouds itself in cabalistic mysteries and rituals
as elaborate as those of a religious ceremony it is determined to show that the ideals and
values by which we live are not natural and inevitable but are artificial constructions,
arbitrary choices that ought to have no power to command us. Yet, like a religion-substitute,
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Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 2B | ArchDaily

11/3/15, 7:03 PM

deconstruction employs an arcane vocabulary seemingly designed to keep the laity in a


state of permanent mystification. Putatively antidogmatic, it has become a dogma. Founded
on extreme skepticism and disbelief, it attracts true believers and demands their total
immersion. (Lehman, 1991: p. 55).

Extracts from: Nikos A. Salingaros, Anti-Architecture and Deconstruction (AAAD), Third


Edition (Umbau-Verlag, Solingen, 2008). Reprinted by permission. This Chapter is also
available in Chinese, French, Italian, and Russian.

Unified Architectural Theory is available in both an International and US Edition.

References

Christopher Alexander (2001) The Phenomenon of Life: The Nature of Order, Book 1, The
Center for Environmental Structure, Berkeley, California.

Christopher Alexander, S. Ishikawa, M. Silverstein, M. Jacobson, I. Fiksdahl-King & S.


Angel (1977) A Pattern Language, Oxford University Press, New York.

Andrew Bulhak (1996) Postmodernism Generator, available online from


<http://www.elsewhere.org/cgi-bin/postmodern>.

John Huth (1998) Latours Relativity, in: A House Built on Sand, Edited by Noretta
Koertge, Oxford University Press, New York, pages 181-192.

Lon Krier (1998) Architecture: Choice or Fate, Andreas Papadakis, Windsor, England.
Retitled The Architecture of Community, with new material, Island Press, Washington, DC,
2009.

David Lehman (1991) Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man,
Poseidon Press, New York.

Christopher Norris (1989) Interview of Jacques Derrida, AD Architectural Design, 59


No. 1/2, pages 6-11.

Nikos A. Salingaros (2006) A Theory of Architecture, Umbau-Verlag, Solingen, Germany.

Roger Scruton (2000) The Devils Work, Chapter 12 of: An Intelligent Persons Guide to
Modern Culture, St. Augustines Press, South Bend, Indiana.

Alan Sokal (1996), Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics


of Quantum Gravity, Social Text, 46/47, pages 217-252.

Alan Sokal & Jean Bricmont (1998) Fashionable Nonsense, Picador, New York. European
title: Intellectual Impostures.

Edward O. Wilson (1998a) Integrating Science and the Coming Century of the
Environment, Science, 279, pages 2048-2049.

Edward O. Wilson (1998b) Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, Alfred A. Knopf, New
York.

Cite:
Nikos Salingaros. "Unified Architectural Theory: Chapter 2B" 20 Oct 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 3 Nov 2015.
<http://www.archdaily.com/439498/unified-architectural-theory-chapter-2b/>

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