Undisciplinary is the personal wiki of Martin Zemlicka.

Mark Wrigley


I would be first understood as a theorist; then, secondly, as a historian of theory; then, only thirdly, as a historian, maybe. What does that mean? That, as a theorist, I’m more interested in the things that stay the same than the things that change – as a historian, you’re very much interested in the change.

Mark Wrigley, interview with Monika Mitášová, in: Oxymoron and Pleonasm

Q: To what extent is White Walls driven by an attempt to write a critical history of modern architecture histories, let’s say, like the “canonical” historiographies by Giedion, Banham, etc.?

A: It very much is an attempt to challenge or to question the canonic histories of Banham, Pevsner, Giedion, and so on, but mainly to show how the most obvious aspects of modern architecture were problematic – just the most obvious, nothing subtle. There are millions of other books, revisionist histories of modern architecture being written, all of which I like, very much, and they’re much more sophisticated and deal with much more complicated questions of post-colonial identity and economic power and so on. But I am just fascinated with a box with white walls and a flat roof, how that one little thing never ever came close to being sort of in an obvious synergy with the descriptions of it. Modern architecture never was what it was said to be, in its most basic level. So one was the desire to call into question those points of view, not for the historical reasons, but for the theoretical reasons. In the end, what fascinates me the most is ornament. Basically it’s a book about ornament, as was the book on deconstruction.

Ornament, by definition, is that which does not need to be there. And nothing is more pleasurable for me than showing that the thing that does not need to be there is the one thing without which nothing could be there. So to say that that was true of modern architecture is just the very example, because modern architecture appeared to remove that which was unnecessary, in the favor of the necessary. So the ornament was an easy victim, oh no, no no! There was, in my opinion, not a single architect of the circle of the modern movement who believed that they were removing decoration, Le Corbusier being probably one of the most intelligent; his slogan that the decorative art of today was that art which was not decorative, fully understands the paradox that the plain white wall is the decorative art of his day; that removing decoration is the decorative posture of his time. So he knew perfectly that he was not removing decoration – he was redefining what it should be. Like Adolf Loos, arguing that what was the appropriate decoration for his time. So the book was more trying to make people thing about decoration than think about moderna architecture, ultimately.

Mark Wrigley, interview with Monika Mitášová, in: Oxymoron and Pleonasm

Q: … What is the role of theory in deconstructivist architecture?

A: Zero. It had zero role. Bernard Tschumi and Peter Eisenman had a self-conscious understanding of deconstruction. Libeskind had a kind of Babylon babble, not to discredit it. Gehry has a clearly anti-theory theory, and so on and so on.

… Theory itself played no role. Well, to put it another way, in no way did their specific knowledge of theory (in the case of Tschumi and Eisenman) in any way contribute to their projects.

Mark Wrigley, interview with Monika Mitášová, in: Oxymoron and Pleonasm