I have always enjoyed MONU. The editors somehow manage to balance two seemingly incompatible aspects of the architecture/urbanism magazine: an impressively wide spectrum of perspectives and thematic coherence. In the latest issue, No 15, contributors from four continents cover the theme post-ideological urbanism from various angles. The pieces somehow slide into place as you read, becoming a series of narratives and perspectives that definitely do not offer one singular image, but somehow still make sense together, in spite of their apparent disparity.
One of the issue’s central themes is the notion of ‘greenwash’ of the contemporary urban ideology, how ideology is reduced to aesthetics and eventually simply to the colour green. Green becomes a reason and legitimisation to do anything in an urban context, and it is fundamentally a label – something to wear rather than something to believe in. Fundamentally, ‘green’ reduces ethics to aesthetics. Then again, the corruption of ideals is nothing new, but perhaps what is new is that the ideals are reduced beyond any actual or even pretended ethical value to simple aesthetic attributes.
Another theme is whether the present era could be considered post-ideological, or if it instead is dominated not by one single ideology, but many. The question is then whether this is a permanent condition or simply a period of ideological instability and openness that will somehow crystallise into something ideologically more coherent.
A third theme is the attempt to find and name methodologies for working with and understanding post-ideological urban practice. One interesting piece by Brendan M. Lee examines how the ‘Lean Start-up’ concept, primarily used to test the market viability of the products of IT start-ups, could be applied as an urban methodology, where ideas are tested and adapted on a small scale before being applied on a larger scale.
It comes as no big surprise that Rem Koolhaas – who may be considered one of the godfathers of the post-ideological city – is a key reference throughout the magazine (not least in my own contribution). The prevailing impact of the format of S,M,L,XL becomes apparent in a number of essays that sample the stylistic format and tone that Koolhaas established. To an extent, Koolhaas in turn sampled much of this format from Russian suprematists as well as Superstudio, Archizoom and others with a radically different ideological agenda than his own. Perhaps ethics always has been, and will be, ultimately reduced to aesthetics, only to resurface in a reflective format at a later point in a cycle of ideology and ideological corruption.
MONU is, as I said in the beginning of this post, always a fascinating read, and MONU No 15 is no exception. It invariably inspires further exploration of the theme presented and provokes elaboration and reflection; MONU is a magazine that provides starting points rather than ready-made solutions.