The student voice of the Knowlton School of Architecture
These lyrics are from the famed 1990 hit, “Vogue” by Madonna. This song was released two weeks before I was born and it soon topped all the music charts. This brought me to the question of what the big deal about Vogue is, and what does it mean to be “in vogue”? In search of understanding and questioning the idea of vogue, I started by exploring the source; Vogue Magazine. Starting as a weekly publication in 1892, the magazine (now issued monthly) has continuously changed the face of fashion in more than 18 countries. Once a magazine that depicted amazing turn of the century artist renderings of the fashion elite, its cover now depicts the actors and models which represent the modern view of fashion and style.
As an architecture student, I believe that I have creative license to judge anything that falls within the realm of aesthetics. Therefore, I only see it apt to question everything that I am exposed to; much to the chagrin of my classmates I am sure. My critique began with purchasing my first copy of Vogue. After the shear embarrassment had passed, I sat down and read the magazine cover to cover. Aside from endless pages of advertisements, the magazine holds an important attribute quintessential to modern culture. Sure, it implores anyone to take part in a life of exuberance and grandeur, but most importantly for me, it raises questions about our current cultural milieu and the part that we play in it.
I am interested in what is new, exciting and popular because that is how I was brought up, as many of you probably were too. For me the 90s were measured by running down the streets of suburbia to watch the Internet start up, to join a chat room, keep my Tamagotchi alive, collect as many beanie babies as possible, get up early on Saturday just to watch cartoons, watch MTV even when I wasn’t allowed, bring my boom box to a sleepover, and countless other things. It should be no question that today we are interested in gaining access to all the latest trends of our current age. Historically, architecture operates in the same manner.
Take Philip Johnson for instance. Widely known as a controversial and provocative architect, Johnson went through architectural styles faster than Gaga changes outfits. As a promoter for the International Style, he curated exhibits and worked both on personal projects and with Mies Van der Rohe. Soon he spoke highly of the changes in Nazi Germany, graduated from Harvard and not long after criticized the style he had championed. Johnson grew increasingly eclectic as he became interested in Post-Modernism and eventually Deconstructivism, on which he curated an exhibit for in 1988. Did this idea of adopting what is vogue die with Johnson? Of course not, Zaha Hadid seems to have taken up the cross of changing ideals starting with her roots in Deconstructivism to her current work in free forms that seem to be guided by little more than her hand gliding across the page. Architects want to be at the cutting edge of design in the changing climate of the architectural field, but commissions are made at the digression of current culture, forcing vogue ideals onto contemporary design.
Architecture is not concerned about what is in the ‘now’, but rather everything that has ever been in the ‘now’. Architecture finds itself at the crossroads of pop culture and sociopolitical endeavors that pressure design to recondition itself relative to the ideals centered on vogue. Whether it be Sufjan Stevens’ new album, Billy Reid being named the best American fashion designer, the latest technologies in modeling or the newest MoMA exhibition, architecture has to be willing to take interest in everything vogue. Today’s architecture must be “opportunistic”, to steal a page from LTL. We as designers must be willing to save everything like Bjarke Ingles or challenge everything like Rem Koolhaas. We must be willing to take risks. I am not asking everyone to go out and buy a copy of Vogue but instead I am asking you to question everything around you and in take the world. Vogue is more than just Madonna, but rather for an architecture student, it is a lifestyle. It is a stance on culture, one open to the reality that everything is interconnected and that everything can be questioned. I challenge you to see vogue as culture and confront it.