The Architectural “Blob” is Dead, Long Live the “Pile”

Faculty Andrew Kovacs, Alumni Ellie Abrons (M.Arch.I ' 06), Adam Fure (M.Arch.I ' 06), Andrew Holder (M.Arch.I ' 05), and Claus Benjamin Freyinger (M.Arch.I ' 05) are featured in the Chicago Architecture Biennale on view in Chicago through early January 2018.

The blob ostensibly obliterated the culture of tectonics within architecture, but it was a short-lived fad. Interest has shifted again toward a loosely “aformal” approach—the pile. What are the consequences of architects piling it up? by Samuel Medina

“Architects tend to be idealists, and not dialecticians,” Robert Smithson once said. The artist, best known for his earthworks in which raw dirt and industrial materials collided, often in acts of smothering and commingling, accretion and dissolution, had an uneasy relationship with architects. “They never seem to allow for any kind of relationship outside of their grand plan.” Speaking to an actual architect, Alison Sky of SITE, Smithson riffed on the idea of an “entropic architecture” to describe a work site in Central Park he had seen: a vast pit shored up by scaffolding. It should have stayed, he thought.

LADG’s The Kid Gets Out of the Picture (2016) assembles a diverse set of objects into an unlikely landscape.Courtesy Los Angeles Design Group

On the face of it, Smithson’s cosmic position seems untenable for architects. Entropy is an ineluctable fact, but it is easily deferred; other considerations—professional codes of safety, programmatic desiderata—necessarily come first. It doesn’t help that entropic effects occur at a register at odds with our own faulty spatiotemporal antennae. The human animal has great difficulty reconciling cosmic laws with the finitude of everyday experience, and architects are as bad at this as everyone else.

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