The ever diminishing role played by theory and thought in professional practice is, according to Frampton and Moneo, one of the principal challenges that contemporary architecture is faced with. Add to this the great transformations taking place in society, the economy, and architecture itself, thanks to which the traditional discourses, based on concepts like Zeitgeist, rationalism, and faith in progress, are ineffective. Not to mention the precarization of the labor market, with its terrible effects on young people. In this situation Frampton and Moneo call for a more critical reading of globalization, and also an ethic of resistance grounded upon the principles of the architectural discipline.
Kenneth Frampton (KF): We have known each other since the mid-70s, a time in which theory was very important for architects. Forty years later, the role of theory and the dimension of architecture is sort of diminished in the current debate…
Rafael Moneo (RM): I think that the attempt to make architectural theory uphold architectural practice is nowadays completely gone, the battle has been lost. In the 1970s, Peter Eisenman and others probably had the idea that the pure visualism that was still embedded in building after Colin Rowe could be extended. Nowadays we say that theory fell into the hands of writers inspired by post-structuralism, French writers above all. It doesn’t at all have the presence that it used to have. Therefore it ought to be recognized that even in the entire second half of the 20th century, the true way to try to find out what architectural theory means ought to be figured out by reading historians. In a way, historians are depositaries, they have defined the paradigm of what could be considered ‘modernities,’ something that has changed radically in this new century.
KF: Yes, I think that’s right.
RM: The description of what architects have sought is in the hands of historians. You need to go through the reading to extract what actually matters: the way history has been told isn’t anymore as useful to what is happening today. That would be the point.
KF: This is why I think that philosophical discourse would be more useful. The question of whether the old city can sustain any continuity, given the modern reality, is really a deep problem. And one of the deep problems associated with it is the idea of progress and the question of whether that idea has real validity anymore, not only from the point of view of architecture, but altogether. The question of belief in progress is a problem.
RM: We are no longer able to think clearly in terms of progress.