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Talk on clinker at Veretec 2022
Talks at Veretec

Postcard, Brasilia, date unknown c. 1960s
BBC: The Inquiry
BBC World Service 2019

Itapoã, DF Brazil photograph © Joana França 2011
Brasília: Life Beyond Utopia
Brazil Institute, Kings College London 2016

Brasilia, DF Brazil photograph © Joana França 2011
Brasília: Life Beyond Utopia
Architectural Design [April 2016]

McAslan Gallery: Emerging Architects
Two exhibitions for the McAslan Gallery
McAslan Gallery 2016

Edzell Castle, Angus
Edzell Castle: Architectural Treatises in Late 16th Century Scotland
Garden History Society 2014

Architecture and the Humanities
Architectural Research Quarterly 2014

Rio: Canal do Mangue Postcard
Urban Planning in Rio 1870-1930: the Construction of Modernity
Brazil Institute, Kings College London 2014

London Tower Block
Review of Remaking London: Design and Regeneration in Urban Culture
Architectural Research Quarterly 2013

Oscar Niemeyer: House in Canoas, Rio de Janeiro
Life's a Beach: Oscar Niemeyer, Landscape and Women
The Rest is Noise Festival
South Bank, London 6 October 2013

Brasilia Tres Poderes
BBC: Last Word
BBC Radio 4 7 & 9 December 2012

Brasilia Tres Poderes
Brasilia: Fictions and Illusions
Brazil Institute, Kings College London 2012

Nolli Plan of Rome
Connected Communities Symposium
University of Dundee 2011

Arup: White Building, St John's College Oxford
Architecture + ESI: an architect's perspective
FESI [The UK Forum for Engineering Structural Integrity] 2011

Booth Poverty Map of London
Review of Mapping London
Architectural Research Quarterly 2010

RIAS: landworkers exhibition
Dundee Contemporary Arts
14-28 May 2009

Antonio Carlos Elias: Epulis Fissuratum
The Studio of Antonio Carlos Elias
Epulis Fissuratum [Brasília 2006]

Thomas Deckker: superquadra penthouse project
Superquadra Penthouse Project
Penthouse Living
[Wiley 2005]

Arquivo Brasilia
Arquivo Brasília
Sala Martins Penna
Teatro Nacional Cláudio Santoro
19-20 April 2005

Revisiting Brazil: View of Exhibition
Revisiting Brazil
RIBA Gallery 2
9-30 October 2003

Houston Car Park
Urban Entropies: A Tale of Three Cities
Architectural Design [September 2003]

Guedes Apartment, São Paulo
New Architecture in Brazil - Photographs by Michael Frantzis
Brazilian Embassy, London
5-6 March 2003

Joaquim Gudes: Kerti House, São Paulo
Natural Spirit (Places to Live 007)
Wallpaper* [January/February 2003]

Wallpaper*: Architects Directory
Architects Directory
Wallpaper* [July/August 2002]

RIBA Journal: Foreign Legion
Foreign Legion
RIBA Journal [March 2002]

Le Corbusier: Heidi Weber Pavilion, Zurich photograph © Thomas Deckker 1996
Architects and Technology
The Encyclopaedia of Architectural Technology [London: Wiley 2002]

Mission Concepcion (1755) San Antonio, Texas
Mexican-American Architecture
Mexican-American Encyclopaedia [2002]

W3 Brasilia 1960s Archive Photograph
Canberra / Brasília
Canberra Contemporary Art Space [Canberra: CASC 2001]

Oscar Niemeyer: Congresso Naçional Brasília
In the Realm of the Senses
Architectural Design [July 2001]

Thomas Deckker: Magalhães House
Thomas Deckker: Two Projects in Brasília
Architectural Design [Oct 2000]

Degree Unit G: Mexico 1997-98
First International Seminar on the Teaching of the Built Environment [SIEPAC]
University of São Paulo, Brazil
13-15 Sept 2000

Thomas Deckker: The Modern City Revisited
The Modern City Revisited
[London: Routledge 2000]

Thomas Deckker (editor): Issues in Architecture Art & Design
Issues in Architecture Art & Design
vol. 6 no. 1 [University of East London 2000]

Luigi Snozzi: Monte Carasso, Bellinzona photograph © Thomas Deckker 1982
The re-invention of the site
Relating Landscape to Architecture
[London: Routledge 1999]

The Modern City Revisted Conference
The Modern City Revisited
University of East London
27/28 Mar 1999

Luigi Snozzi: Kalman House, Locarno photograph © Thomas Deckker 1982
Monte Carasso: The re-invention of the site
Issues in Architecture Art & Design vol. 5 no. 2 [University of East London 1998]

Donald Judd: Chinati Foundation, Texas
Specific Objects / Specific Sites
Rethinking the Architecture / Landscape Relationship, University of East London,
26-28 Mar 1996

Herzog & deMeuron: Hebelstrasse Apartments, Basle
Herzog & deMeuron
Issues in Architecture Art & Design vol. 3 no. 2 [University of East London 1994]

Houston Car Park
Car Park, Houston, Texas
photograph © Thomas Deckker 1995

Urban Entropies: A Tale of Three Cities

Architectural Design [September 2003]

In the Park Central Hotel in downtown Fort Worth there is an intriguing photograph. John Fitzgerald Kennedy spent the night of 21 November 1963 at the Hotel Texas there before continuing on to Dallas; the photograph shows him mobbed by supporters outside the hotel in his - fatally unprotected - limousine. When one turns and looks out the window the same street is unrecognisable. Instead of the dense blocks of offices, hotels and department stores in the photograph there is an open grid of parking lots; only a few isolated buildings remaining.

The transformation of American cities has been viewed as a natural phenomenon, as a 'survival of the fittest' - not least by its beneficiaries - that it is, perhaps, a surprise to find the quantity of opinion directed against its assumptions. No city other than Los Angeles has been the subject of so much critical attention, most famously, perhaps, by Edward W. Soja, Frederic Jameson, Lynne Spigel and Mike Davis, to the point where it has become a metonym for disastrous urban development. Davis in particular has charted the future decline of Los Angeles through its own 'internal contradictions': by social division in City of Quartz: excavating the future in Los Angeles (1990), by courting natural disaster in Ecology of fear: Los Angeles and the imagination of disaster (1998), and by the displacement of the Anglo population by the Hispanic in Magical Urbanism (2000). Finally, in Dead Cities and other tales (2002), Davis extends his metaphorical description of capitalism as war to American landscapes and cityscapes.

Davis's thesis in Dead Cities and other tales is how American capitalism - insane and unfettered greed, endemic racism against Negroes, Hispanics and Native Americans, and the collusion of government, monopolistic industries and an unaccountable military, has brought not only Los Angeles but the whole Southwest to the brink of environmental disaster- not least because of the nuclear, chemical and biological development sites - and social adversity. The parallels Davis draws to the expansion and suburbanization of Los Angeles that began during the Second World War are intriguing. He notes that, in 1942, the US Army was building (and rebuilding) full-size models of the centres of Berlin (advised by Erich Mendelsohn) and Tokyo (advised by Antonin Raymond) in Nevada to perfect the destruction of their civilian populations and urban cultures by aerial bombardment. I am sure we are all familiar with photographs of the results.

Few downtowns, however, could look a devastated as that of Houston. Houston is, in many respects, a more extreme but less glamorous version of Los Angeles. It stretches towards Galveston, much as London stretches towards Brighton, but with only 2 million inhabitants; its density is one quarter that of Los Angeles. Lars Lerup and Albert Pope, Dean and Professor respectively at Rice University, have both found a less apocalyptic critical voice for their city. Pope fully deserves to join Soja and Jameson; in Ladders, he provides a precise analysis of how 20th-century suburbanization developed along closed 'ladder' grids, that is, cul-de-sacs along freeways, rather than 19th-century open rectilinear grids. This new and parallel sub-urbanism could hardly be said to be a populist reaction to architectural theory: it was partly based on the English Garden City ideal of Ebenezer Howard in the 1890s and Barry Parker & Raymond Unwin in the 1900s and on its later development by Ludwig Hilbersheimer in the 1940s (Richard Neutra was also implicated). Pope, quoting the Second Law of Thermodynamics, concludes that entropy, a condition of 'chaos and sameness' has replaced 'organisation and differentiation' as the paradigm of the urban condition.

How that entropic urban condition is articulated is described by Lerup in The City after Tomorrow, an enlargement of the thesis first published as 'Stim & Dross: Rethinking the Metropolis' in assemblage in 1994: that out of a 'zoomorphic field' of dross ('dregs'), occasional stims ('stimulations', or from the German Stimme, 'voice') occur which, borrowing an analogy from chaos theory, briefly act as 'strange attractors' for urban life. Such stims have no use for architecture: they are social rather than spatial. George O. Jackson's photographs - freeways, vacant lots, parking - revisit the territory of Robert Smithson and Ed Ruscha. Pope calls this the 'aesthetic of emptiness'.

No visitor to Houston, however, particularly if they are visiting Renzo Piano's Menil Collection, could fail to be impressed by the 'Museum District' in which it is found. The 'Museum District' is a an area of mixed use par excellence: middle class homes, museums, Rice University itself, restaurants, shops, with a prosperous Hispanic district adjacent. This is the area which Lerup calls the 'middle landscape', an indeterminate zone inside the inner freeway loop, between downtown and suburbs, and squalor and growth. This 'middle landscape' has developed without the formal architectural theories and corporate construction system of the suburbs, but rather through co-operative anarchy; it is an 'open' system of creation rather than the 'closed' system in which entropy is inevitable. It will be strangely familiar to the inhabitants of London.

If violence, turmoil, greed and ignorance are the factors Davis sees as ensuring the decline of American cities, they are exactly those which Peter Ackroyd believes have ensured London's rise to world prominence. From this viewpoint the well-meaning but patronising Abercrombie plan seems surely a fleeting aberration in a Darwinian struggle. Darwin's thesis was, of course, not 'the survival of the fittest' popularly supposed by theoreticians of capitalism but survival through adaptation to changing environments. In London - The Biography Ackroyd charts the growth of what used to be known as the 'Modern Babylon' and its decline after the Second World War, partly a result of it emptying into the Garden Cities and New Towns beyond the Green Belt. The 'aesthetic of emptiness' governs London as much as Houston; if it necessarily needs its 'other', then it surely has created it along the M25, a bizarre world of insane asylums, military establishments and secretive corporations mapped out by Iain Sinclair in London Orbital: A Walk Around the M25. Yet Ackroyd's final chapter is 'Resurgam'. The return of London to a kind of co-operative anarchy may be, instead of its decline, a sign of its survival in the late capitalist world.
Thomas Deckker
London 2003