# POLITICS /// Francois Roche cancels at Sci-Arc / Manifesto for Architectural Schools as Speculative Laboratories

Francois Roche was recently invited to give an exhibition and a lecture at Sci-Arc about R&Sie(n)‘s work, starting on April 6th. However he just canceled both of them and made public the reasons in an open letter which text is the following:

I have no other way than to cancel the Sci-Arc exhibition in the Gallery (scheduled in May 25) and the lecture (scheduled the April 6-2011)
The gap of point of view, and the lack of interest for politics and attitude, reducing the architecture process to a unique design agenda cannot fit with our scenario of production and scenario of speeches.
Our works and attitudes are toxic, animal, dangerous, regressive, politic and computational.
Architecture is mainly an affair of resistance and self-defense, against hypocrisies and “in”voluntary servitude, to quote La Boetie. It cannot be reduced to a design goal, exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling. I disagree on the way the knowledge is framed by and for predictable professional, without any potential to corrupt and desalienate through educational procedures the “coming out” of neoplagiarism and neocopism, which remind me the Beaux Art symptom and syndrome. I ‘m French and know perfectly the stickiness of this sliperring addiction.
I just want to precise that this voluntary abandon, cannot be understood as a “tantrum or capriccio” against the Sci-arc students pool, but it is at the level of Sci-Arc staff arrogances and ignorances, which seems to shrink architecture purpose to a simple affair of design agenda.

My best
F Roche /
PS Speaking and writing are done, here, in my Frenchglish dialect / I let you the opportunity to translate it in the Shakespeare  “mayonnaise”.

Beside the pleasure I can have that my favorite architect is tackling one of my less favorite, Eric Owen Moss (see the article I wrote a bit more than one year ago about his abject aesthetization of the US/Mexico border), I think that it is rare enough to observe an ideological debate within the education system to look a little bit closer to the problem.

In fact, Sci-Arc does not seem to me as being more problematic than most of the mainstream schools of the world. It is even there than we had the delight to see one of the very most interesting projects of last year: Latent City by Yaohua Wang that I published a while ago. However, one has to recognize the two main issues enunciated by Francois Roche in his letter:
– the obsessive fetishism for the tool
– the constitution of a brand for each school (which ends up to be pretty similar to the others anyway) that can be reproduce year after year
The question then, is whether or not Architecture schools should be considered as speculative laboratories of ideas and techniques, or simply the place of transmission of knowledge from a generation to another in order for the latter to be apt to enter the market after its graduation.
One could obviously accuse me of caricaturing and polarizing the discourse, and that is true, but those two propositions constitute two horizons very different that schools have to choose without compromise.
It is thus probably time than the three bodies of the Universitarian structure take their responsabilities:

– The administrative staff (that Francois Roche blames here) should give up this “branding” of their school which make them certain to propose an attractive image to potential students who are far too much considered as clients, especially in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom in which schools are insanely expensive.
– The professors should give up this idea that teaching is only what makes them be sure to have a salary at the end of the month and to consider students like their employees who will anonymously provide the slides of their insipid lectures.
– The students (and they are those who I know the best) should give up their absolute need of paternalist structure that prevent them from being passionate and fully engaging in something that they might actually love. Their laziness is not characterized by their amount of hours of work  but by their total absence of effort to propose an emancipated radicalism.

If these three conditions are established (especially the last one), then we could start to imagine a school of architecture in which a real political (in the true meaning of it) debate can be possible. I therefore invite everybody  in schools to spread the word (this one and others) and to trigger meetings (if you have the dean with you, that’s great, if not, you don’t need his permission) about what should be the essence of your school.

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Teaching at Columbia and still lecturing at UCLA while calling for the abolishment of “tooling” is beyond absurd. Instead of writing an awkward letter show up and challenge these assumptions. I remember when Raymond Abraham delivered an incredibly powerful argument on his foundations for architecture. Great confrontational moment.
I find this letter to be one of the more cowardly things I have witnessed in architectural academia.
Moss has taken over SCIArc (in a bad way) but there are many avenues, allegiances, and paths through SCIArc that don’t involve neoplagerism. Maybe these paths are shrinking but SCIArc is much more feral than Columbia, UCLA, or any other Ivy league school.
Just my two cents

Léopold Lambert

That would not be the first time that Francois Roche inspires you kind of comments (it’s started a long time ago in France), proof, if not that he disturbs, that he triggers the debate.
As far as I am concerned, I repeat that Sci-Arc is certainly not specifically in my target, which is valid for the (not so) various schools I know a minimum about.
I think that plagerism here, involves more a very narrow way of conceiving/teaching architecture that is being transmitted years after years.

My advice for you would be to get over F.Roche’s undiplomacy, and start to wonder about the issues he tackles.
That was my own two cents !

michael corleone

seriously what a drama queen Roche is
this is just an example of architects shooting themselves in the foot.
roche would be nothing without his tools

Léopold Lambert

Which tools are you talking about ?

If you are talking about the computer, I would recommend you to look at R&Sie(n)’s work for the last twenty years, it has never been in any way more important than the narrative or the materiality.


Roche is not triggering debate. He removed himself from the debate in a way that is actually offensive to the students and to architectural discourse. Peter Cook shows up at SCIArc and calls it the only school he feels home at in the US. Patrick Schumacher shows up and ruffles everyone’s feathers by stating parametric design is the only future. Roche writes a letter and posts it on his website.
After following Roche’s work there is not much of a difference in his tone of work from the Bartlett students work or SCIArc studios, or Columbia. Same tools used – Many of the same theoretical ideas – Similar outputs – That’s unfortunately how it works these days.
Hate Moss as I and many do but it’s hard to ignore how he challenges the standard practices of theoretical building by actually building.

Léopold Lambert

When I write that F.Roche triggers the debate, I am not necessarily implying that he takes part of the debate, he only creates the event that start the debate. Whether this event is to be considered as a polemic (which apparently is the case, people seeming to stop to the mean more than to the essence), or as the beginning of a conversation within the schools does not depend on him but only on students, teachers and the administration.
Once again, I don’t think that anybody should polarize on Sci-Arc here (not the people there being touchy nor the other schools looking down at it) but rather on schools in general and especially those which has been branding a production rather than develop the conditions of a continuous dialog and experimentation between the three university bodies.

thanks for your message
ps: Moss builds and that’s the only thing he does, any intellectualism from him is grotesque

sci arc students

Dear… The letter of f Roche fit perfectly with the low res. Knowledge provided by this school, where students are cowly driven to be professionally slaved for the main stream production. But more than this affliction , they is a wrong perception at our opinion (in some comments) to consider rsie as a vector of toolings. Infiltrating tooling to desalienate its addiction from inside could be consider as a strategy. Many poeple want to be either or either (eco, computation, polic) some other want to be neither and neither….Rsie are neitherless , trying to articulate the montain of trash and values arround us, without reductionism and negationism…and simultaneously to corrupt from inside US childish arrogance… We will miss his lecture.that is just not so profitable for us…..


Some years ago enthusiastically bringing Roche to the Bartlett but finding over the months that he hardly bothered with them : made a rather embarrassing neo=porn subject area : many of the class failed the year and had to be rescued by other teachers. Roche then made a typically rhetorical ‘anti-show- in the bar across the street, Expecting a response he couldn’t handle the (sometimes useful) English reaction of ‘silly showoff’. We watched how in several other schools he excites but then leaves a trail of destruction.
Intriguing that Leopold Lambert (who edits this blog and was one of my best students) defends him. Of course LL worked for him and probably has that particular French stomach that can handle talent (which Roche undoubtedly has – in bundles) with the inherited culture that seems to need histrionic political rhetoric as a kind of mothers’ milk. I love SCI-ARC actually because it does contain a myriad of positions. Knowing it for some 30 years i have seen various ebbs-and-flows. immense jealousies too. At the moment Hernan Diaz Alonso makes others envious since he too has bundles of talent – but also humour. Also, there still seem to be plenty of students around who DON’T do parametrics or pure digital romanticism. It is one of the few American schools where the healthy component of architects who build, play with robots, fold paper, cad-cam rubber, use graphics with glee, think out of the box…etc…etc Of course this doesn’t appeal to the philosophy-saturated East-Coasters or the French who generally talk too much and don’t know much about building (they run to the bureux d’etude and draw the staircase afterwards). I love the fact that many SCI ARC students hate Eric Moss’ buildings (I actually like them, but that’s by the way)…in a dynamic (which is different from rhetorical) world, the near presence of an ACTIVE ant-body is useful. Moss is broad enough (and perhaps confident enough) to enjoy parrying with Schumacher, goading (in an uncle-like way) Alonso, being not too taken-in by Kipnis and finding us English a bit stuffy but usefully quaint.

barttlet old student

I was student at the Bartlett, with Roche and his assistant Alison Drill, and the story of Peter Cook seems a pure “fictional reconstruction” of the reality…
At the contrary the students were really intensively inventive and reactive on the course of Roche, but the opposition of the staff, including Peter, creates an absurd antagonism, as the back of the Anglo-French war…. It is true that at this time Bartlett was driven by an exclusive post « Archigram » pathology, and Roche was not a puppet which perfectly fits with this limited logic of repetition and historical mimicry.

Meanly the students (2 exactly) who failed were not in this fragile situation because of the quality of work, but the revenge of some Peter clones and epigones, who abusively constituted the jury of the final term, trying to frame Roche, what was and is deeply impossible. We did effectively an exhibition in front of Bartlett with a large banner “censured project”…as an independent position. It was for me one of main exiting experience of my student’s period… architecture as a zone of conflict, where we could avoid conforming ourselves to the oriented authority of the grandfather…

I follow sometimes the teaching and Lab works of Francois Roche, and what he is doing at Columbia since 6 years, and some guest position at Angewandte, USC, and more / http://www.new-territories.com/laboratoriesteaching.htm , that seems relevant in term of computation and politic, robotic and ecology…. it’s a pity that Bartlett did not check the work at its value.

Perhaps Peter, you just need to retire and go fishing….as a perfect agenda to quiet your resentment…


TU Delft Faculty of Architecture may have burned down in 2008 but survived direct encounter Francois Roche with of Patrik Schumacher on the orange apenrots. Not without the expected surprises. R. called S. “my brother” among many other words. That was the nicest one he had, others will NOT be reported on the web. Indeed not many elderly star architects got away so easily. S. proved comfortingly resistant, wearing a think and soft jacket. Still dizzy, from the wine. Thanks to Marc and Deborah for a VERY INSPIRING day and for showing some nerve at X AGENDAS FOR ARCHITECTURE . Francois is damn right, we should do what we really care for !


the LOG#25 just released…with this guy in guest editor…something as “reclaim resistance-lience”…so …we have to check if it has the value that his attitude pretends…with legitimacy or illegitimacy… as a catharsis…in parallel we are waiting Peter Cook in the role of the retired fisher man…with the ideal audience …mute and deaf…

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