Image: Shanghai Expo
Imagine the bubble architecture students find themselves trapped in while pursuing higher education: long hours cradling a mouse demote food and sleep, much less investigations of non-disciplinary theory. How wonderful, then, that the Roth-Symonds Memorial Lecture Fund supports lectures and small-group meetings to expose Yale School of Architecture students to speakers outside architecture; past lecturers have included sociologist Loic Wacquant, urbanist Saskia Sassen, and media and cultural theorist Thomas Y. Levin. This spring, Neil Smith, distinguished professor of anthropology and geography at CUNY, delivered “Toxic Capitalism: Neoliberalism, City Building and Crisis.”
This past Monday the anti-establishment infiltrated Yale School of Architecture in a dashing gold scarf. Seducing the audience with a breathless stream of “Frenglish,” whose charm derived from the speaker’s sheer enthusiasm for his subject, François Roche rose to a god-like status typically only afforded movie stars. And if there were a god in whose likeness he is modeled, it would have to be Janus, the forward-backward-looking deity of beginnings and transitions. As Roche drifts nebulously in and around the purview of art and architecture, human and mechanical, historic and futurist, he raises questions of authorship and agency that strike a nerve for a profession coming to terms with its post-recession identity.