Andrew Atwood’s “Not Interesting” take on architecture criticism is a pretty interesting blur of ideas and images.
Welcome to the age of ADD Architecture. As author Andrew Atwood himself admits in his both brilliant and (purposefully) confusing Not Interesting: On the Limits of Criticism in Architecture (Applied Research + Design Publishing, 2018), he may have had attention deficit disorder as a child. (Apparently his parents disagreed.) That diagnosis might account for his fox-like interest in many things and interpretations, as well as his lack of desire to build a single argument. His achievement in this volume is to flip that lack of focus into a virtue, arguing for the “not interesting” approach to architecture of the title. Note, and bear with the author and me here, that what he is not interested in are buildings that are not interesting. He wonders instead whether we might be able to interpret our built environment from a different set of perspectives:
But what if we were careful to uncouple attention from interest? Would this remove the expectation that attention requires us to sort, distinguish, and discriminate between things? Might we get rid of the negative connotations of things that are not interesting? What if we deliberately tried to look without seeing, listen without hearing, touch without feeling? What if we forced ourselves to turn from the interest of the urgent, the signal, the foreground, and deliberately attend to the boredom of hum humdrum, the confusion of noise, the comfort of the background?
What he proposes, in other words, is an other (not necessarily new or novel) way of both seeing and being in the world that offers an alternative to the kind of order, hierarchy, and laying of meaning that we have considered normal for so long.