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					         The State of Theory and Practice in America (Post 9/11)*

         It is still too early to gauge the impact that the recent terrorist attacks on the
United States will have on an already frail American intellectual life. The spontaneous
reflex of many professors (at my university and others) has been to curtail their political
opinions to their intimate circle of friends, and to decline invitations to speak in public.
The response of some university administrators has been to warn foreign students not to
―provoke‖ (white) Americans by criticizing the foreign policies of the United States. For
a European observer, what is most striking about these reactions is the degree to which
they help perpetuate a quintessentially American form of non-violent and consensual
repression of dissent –last epitomized by McCarthyism, which was not just a communist
witch-hunt but also a broader cultural censorship of discordant voices. As the tenuous
social voice of American intellectuals comes under threat, the likelihood of immediate
repercussions in architecture increases, beginning with the demotion of criticality in favor
of a perfunctory professionalism at the service of the status quo.
         The question of whether practice, through its experimental and trial-and-error
methods, can serve as an aid to learn about, discover, or solve emerging social and
political problems, without falling prey to ―totalizing‖ ideologies, is still very much under
dispute. This issue of BAU makes available in Spanish some important contributions to
ongoing debates about the nature of criticality in both theory and practice. In dialogue
with American Neo-Pragmatism, the following essays test and contest architecture’s
heuristic function in the political, cultural, social, and aesthetic dimensions. The articles
were originally presented at a two-part conference entitled ―The Pragmatist Imagination:
Thinking about Things in the Making,‖ organized by philosopher John Rajchman and
architectural historian Joan Ockman at Columbia University’s Buell Center for American
Architecture in May 2000, and at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in November
of that same year. The conference raised the question of how to best guarantee a central
space for emerging or marginal theories and practices. At issue, in essence, was the
capacity of either philosophy or architecture to answer the need for maintaining the
openness and fairness of broader socio-political debates.
         Although this issue has been in preparation for months, the effort to uphold the
free exchange of ideas seems all the more relevant in periods of political tension which
—like the present one— are given to polarization. We witnessed ideologues of both
Right and Left try to quickly put the events of September 11 th at the service of their
respective dogmas, attempting to fit the present into the fossilized binary framework of
the Cold War. To preserve their civil society and multiculturalism, Americans are once
again presented with the difficult task of avoiding (and critiquing) the closed-mindedness
of extremisms while remaining open to alternative points of view. The following articles
present one important intersection between this broader cultural dialogue and
architectural discourse in the United States.
                                                                                Jorge Otero-Pailos
                                                                    Boston, September 24, 2001

*Introduction to the issue of BAU in which Otero-Pailos served as Associate Editor. Published in Spanish as
―Escenario de la Teoría y la Práctica en América,‖ in BAU: Revista de los Colegios de Arquitectos de Cantabria,
Castilla y León Este, y León, n. 21, (2002), p 12.