Sylvia’s bored1.

And that’s a bad thing... right?

From the sound of it, she would like us to believe that it’s our fault; we made her bored. There are so many things to see, though; I’m not sure I can empathize.

Andrew2 and Marcelyn3 have recently made lists of just some of the things we have on offer at SCI- Arc alone.

We have Extrusions, Buildings That Move, and Narratives; Outdated Tools For Contemporary Problematics, Pre-Spline Geometries, Quotations, and Reduxes; Cuteness, [perhaps The Zany4], and Cartoons; Figures, Near Figures, and Figuration; Imagery, Legibility Issues, and Awkwardness; The Revenge Of The Curve, Forms and Geometries Derived From Material Conditions, and Sectional Objects; Boolean Operations, Funniness, Symmetries, and Doubling; Multiple Ontologies, Piles, Obsessive Compulsive Aggregations, and Minutia.

And that is not to mention the rest of the World Architecture5. Isn’t that enough? Aren’t those things Interesting6? Should we have more things? Or is more how we got here in the first place? Too much of a good thing can be cloying. Maybe, for Sylvia’s sake, we need an alternative to more.

Jeff7 and Michael8 suggested we make architectural genres. Genres will help us sort out the cacophonous field of voices within the current state of the discipline. If the genres can act as surrogates in discussion, with numerous works, or even architects comprising each genre, making genres should produce fewer things to talk about. Fewer is the opposite of more. Maybe with fewer things to worry about, developing theories to describe their relationships will be an easier problem. If we can theorize the current milieu, we can better situate ourselves, better project our intentions onto the future, and thus better unify the discipline. That is of course assuming that is what she wants to do. At least the history will be more cohesive, whenever that is written. The genres will make less out of more, and opportunities for writing will be endless...

But Robert9 says that less is a bore.

While it may be our job to write about our work, we as architects, it doesn’t seem sensible that by our work we should make writing for someone else easier anyway. Should we simplify what we do, form our own genre-cliques and work on specific problems until the others have had time to catch up? If it makes life easier to Sylvia, what does it make life for us?

Let’s think about this. Logically, if Sylvia is bored now and has noticed that she is, at some point in the past she was not bored. According to Martin, the first step is becoming bored with something10, with architecture, we can assume in this case. That step must have been subtle; she has been through that step and probably didn’t even notice. While she was reviewing, and writing, and lecturing, and even observing, something was happening to her attention of which she was not even aware. The City of Culture11 took so long to complete that she had to force herself to see through to its end, which is not really even completion; it has just stopped. The Disney Concert Hall12 was worse; that one had been inactive since the 1980s, a pile of steel promising great things for nearly two decades. All the while, frustration and ennui were creeping in, but slowly, quietly, so deviously that by the time she first uttered the sentence, “I’m bored,” it was too late; there was no going back.

If we go by LOG, she has been bored at least since “Lying Fallow13” was written. The article was published in the fall 2013 issue of LOG (29); so we can estimate, based on the publication schedule, Sylvia has likely been bored since the summer of 2013, which is the latest it could have been written. I suspect she was bored before that, though, bored enough to have said it at least once, possibly to have told a friend, or even to have written it down in some form of another. It would be impossible to pinpoint an exact date, but we can speculate. My guess is that she has been bored since she finished Kissing Architecture14. I wonder if that is what made her bored.

Was architecture somehow more engaging before 2011? Two years is not that long, but at today’s rate, lots of interesting architecture would have been made in that time. If being bored is what happens after becoming15, what does Sylvia call the architecture that was made in that time if not interesting? She already is bored; what does she think when she sees architecture today? All of these things must be uninteresting to her. She is well into the being bored phase now, five years in, and there may nothing that we can do about it. We are fallow now; she has cut architecture loose, waiting to see where it lands16.

But can we use this opportunity somehow? Perhaps we can make this into a genre of its own. It would be the genre, temporally based, that constitutes The Boring according to Sylvia. Roughly all of architecture between 2011 and now begets a genre unto itself. The relationship to everything else, at least at first glance is fairly clear: it is the end of every trajectory, everything eventually reaches The Boring. It is the post-post; it is the after After Party17. Where do we go from here, are we out of options, have everything really already been done before? Surely a discipline that bores its own historians has run its course.
But it can’t be the end; Terry18 would be so disappointed with us for giving up.

When I’m bored, I usually try to find someway to entertain myself: change my behavior, get up and go for a walk, watch a movie, read a book.

I wonder if looking back at all the work that was produced before her boredom set in could reinvigorate her. Does she miss Katsuhiro19? Does she miss Paul20? Would that just added to the current surfeit? Perhaps, that there are too many things to look at is the problem; the Possibilitarianisms21 are endless.

One alternative suggest that we might have done it all wrong. Maybe we should try to shake things up. Maybe Roland22 should be a postmodernist, and Jesse23 a parametricist. Could you imagine Patrik24 commanding an army of minimalists.

If that works, how long does that stave off the boredom? Are there ways out of becoming bored? That might at least buy us another 3 years, but then what? Do we shuffle again? We could make an algorithm that shuffles everyone’s preferences every three years and then Sylvia will never be bored again. We could do that for quite a long time, hundreds of years actually just given the number of architects we have now. We could even keep it as capital A problem; let SOM and HOK and all the other BIG acronyms carry on with what they do best. By my calculations, we would have 1497225 years. That’s just an approximation, though, and then we would have another problem: people just don’t live that long.

In any case, we can’t undo the past, so we’d be adding to it. We’d be making the more even more. If that’s not enough, though, then what has happened was inevitable. We were always going to end up here. All that’s happened since 2011 at least wasn’t for naught.

But if it was boring to Sylvia, was it boring to the rest of us? When she sees a “New Sculpturalism26”, she’s bored. When she sees ambivalent objects, she’s bored. When she sees the Helsinki Library competition, is she even paying attention? Is there nothing more than what she sees? Are we all bored? Can we see for ourselves? Maybe she is just one person out of 7 billions who’s bored and she’ll get over it.

But it’s not just her, is it? Rem’s bored27. The Pritzker committee is bored too28. Is it contagious? That’s certainly possible, but at the very least, we can say that it’s spreading. And that’s a bad thing...

Are we all doomed to eventually get the same dissatisfaction out of architecture?

As I see it, there are two options: give up or persist. Some people will give up, naturally; not everyone makes it to the end of Empire29. For the rest of us, maybe we can chose to persist. I know what I have chosen. In the face of impending boredom, maybe we won’t wait for it to surreptitiously over take us as it did to Sylvia. We don’t need to wait; we can search it out. It’s around here somewhere; I can feel it. Maybe we need to look at more things, then more, and then still more. We need the more to tire us out.

We can look for a way to make this productive30. We already have one SuckerPunchDaily, let’s make 2, or 3, SuperPunchHourly... Minutely... Secondly...

That would certainly make me bored, but what do we do when we get there. Does it have an end? Michael31 says interesting is fleeting, boredom lasts. How long does it last? The only way to find out is to make ourselves bored. We can make the projects, while Sylvia’s head is turned, while she’s not paying attention. We make them, and look at them, make them and look at them, and make them again and again and again. While she’s checking her email, another one; while she’s teaching a class, 50 more; when she goes on vacation, 500 more. We go back to John32 and say, “not a 9 square grid, let’s try an 81 square grid, or a 6561 square grid, or better yet a 43046721 square grid!33” We can handle it; after all, we have all the time in the world. Instead of exclusive design decisions34, we will make every option: design them all! draw them all! animate them all!

And if the boredom overwhelms us, we could wait for Sylvia to come around. She got there first; at the very least she got there loudest. We could make her a case study. Keep her progress in the back of our minds while we get distracted, or frustrated, or languid. While we make for the sake of making. Design without the hope of our work being seen; make new work with the sole purpose of not looking at it. While worlds beyond us are making even more, and sometimes less in every conceivable combination and even those we cannot imagine35. You can design in a vacuum; can you design in the dark? While we are amassing a collection of work so much more that we have ever seen, that simply looking at it could instantly make someone bored. When the easy way out is concession, and pushing past being bored, into the productivity36 nearly breaks our spirits.

David37 thinks it’s conquerable, but it certainly won’t be easy.
Not everyone will make it, is my guess. After all, not everyone lives that long.

Eventually, though, someone will emerge from the darkness, someone will see the merits of what has happened. The seemingly endless routine of making will finally be emblazoned. The more will become something it never was before. When that happens, that person will step out into the light, and Mark38 will be waiting for them with something beautiful to share. And they will look at it for a second, or maybe a year and he will say to them,

“Well, shall we go?”

Yes, let’s go39.
On Boredom

Zachariah Michielli
April 2016

1. Lavin, Sylvia. “Lying Fallow.” Log Journal for Architecture 29 (2013). Print.

2. Zago, Andrew. “Thesis Prep Lecture.” SCI-Arc Thesis Prep Lecture Series. SCI-Arc, Los Angeles. 24 Feb. 2014.     Lecture.

3. Gow, Marcelyn. “Minutiae.” SCI-Arc Thesis Prep Lecture Series. SCI-Arc, Los Angeles. 27 Jan. 2014. Lecture.

4. Ngai, Sianne. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. Print.

5. Schumacher, Patrik. The Autopoiesis of Architecture. Chichester: J. Wiley, 2011. Print.

6. Ngai, Sianne. Our Aesthetic Categories: Zany, Cute, Interesting. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2012. Print.

7. Kipnis, Jeffery. “Master Class Lecture.” SCI-Arc Thesis Prep Lecture Series. SCI-Arc, Los Angeles. 11 Nov. 2013. Lecture.

8. Meredith, Michael. “Parametricism, the New Unifying Style: a response in 4 points.” The Eclipse of Beauty: Parametric Beauty. The Graduate School of Design at Harvard University, Cambridge. 23 May 2011. Web.

9. Venturi, Robert. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2011. Print.
10. Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. PDF.

11. The City of Culture, Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Peter Eisenman Architects. 1999 – 2013.

12. The Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, USA. Gehry Partners. 1987 - 2003

13. Lavin, Sylvia. “Lying Fallow.” Log Journal for Architecture 29 (2013). Print.

14. Lavin, Sylvia. Kissing Architecture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2011. Print.

15. Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. PDF.

16. Everything Loose Will Land. 9 May 2013 – 4 August 2013. Museum Exhibit. The Schindler House, MAK Center L.A., Los Angeles, USA.

17. After Party, PS1 Competition, New York, USA. MOS Architects. 2009.

18. Eagleton, Terry. After Theory. New York: Basic, 2003. Print.

19. Lavin, Sylvia. Kissing Architecture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2011. Print.

20. Ibid.

21. Whiting, Sarah. “Possibilitarianism.” Log Journal for Architecture 29 (2013). Print.

22. Snooks, Roland.

23. Reiser, Jesse.

24. Schumacher, Patrik.
25. 14972 is the smallest number that does not return a statement on the Online Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences ( as of 12 March 2016. Article: “Interesting Number Paradox.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 3 Mar. 2016. Web. Accessed: 12 Mar. 2016.

26. A New Sculpturalism: Contemporary Architecture From Southern California. 16 June 2013 – 16 September 2013. Museum Exhibit. The Geffen Contemporary, MOCA, Los Angeles, USA.

27. Koolhaas, Rem. Article: Dezeen. “Rem Koolhaas Reveals Title for Venice Architecture Biennale 2014.” Dezeen. Web.

28. Whether one agrees or disagrees with the selection of Shigeru Ban as the Pritzker Prize winner for 2014, it is hard to dispute that the emphasis in this selection was on humanitarianism and not disciplinary practices.

29. Empire. Dir. Andy Warhol. New York. 1964. Film.

30. The third and final stage of boredom according to Heidegger: Heidegger, Martin. The Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics: World, Finitude, Solitude. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1995. PDF.

31. Osman, Michael. “Negative: A Reader.” Project: A Journal for Architecture 2 (2013). Print.

32. Hejduk, John, Ulich Franzen, Alberto Perez Gomez, and Kim Shkapich. Education of an Architect: A Point of View, the Cooper Union School of Art & Architecture. New York: Monacelli, 1999. Print.

32. Hejduk, John, Ulich Franzen, Alberto Perez Gomez, and Kim Shkapich. Education of an Architect: A Point of View, the Cooper Union School of Art & Architecture. New York: Monacelli, 1999. Print.