Equity, Diversity, Inclusion: Firmness, Commodity, and Slight of Phrase

Equity, diversity, inclusion is a pretty little phrase, quaint, nice and polite, well suited to swimsuit contests, campus riots, and advertising campaigns.  We find this fawning phrase graphicly projected on smart boardroom screens, carelessly taped to smudgy coffeehouse windows, and boldly italicized upon preachy university websites.  I cannot speak for you, yet, as for myself, I picture the sing-song “diversity, equity and inclusion” flowered upon pastel walls, petaling into blossom, easily attracting breezy flutterbys, 60s wallpaper-like … or, I picture “equity, diversity, inclusion” black plastic framed, hung crooked in dentist waiting-rooms, in toy-busy daycare centers, and happy prison cells.  Too, I hear melodiously, harmoniously the quaint phrase painfully elevator slow, as I am sure do you, “eqqq – ui – ty … di – veeer – si – ty … in – cluuu – ge – on”.  Very pretty, in a muzak sort-of-way.    

That other phrase, the phrase upon which nations have been built, a phrase over which an aesthetic battle is being tickled, “Firmness, Commodity, Delight” is bold and beautiful, suited to chiseling into cold stone, it is phrase unlikely to be silk-screened upon rainbow tee-shirts and unicorn bases.  And yet, after firmness and commodity, “delight” is a happy word, a word of surprise and pleasure, “dee-light”, in ejaculation, alike the explanation point, alike the reward of a head pitted upon a pike, or of that cherry atop the akroterion.  Even so, when “delight” is spoken in the original, generative Latin, the language of legion and law-court, the venustas of “Utilitas, Firmitas, et Venustas seems a bit, well, I don’t know … patriarchal? 

Certainly, venustas is not feminine, not matriarchal, not charm-bracelet inclusive; no, the foot-stomp authority of the ultimate masculine syllable, “ven – oos – tas”, is very much unlike the breathy, diphthonging feminine climax of, “in – cluuu – ge–on”, inclusion so alike air, so ahh sweet, so much aroma floating upon the breeze, so much ineffable breath all – too – soon dissolved away.  Yes, “inclusion” has not the exclaiming power of, “delight”.  And you will note that “diversity” quivers before “firmness”, that “equity” resists “commodity”, that “command” overpowers “sentiment” … that progressive rules are made to punish the “erect”, to protect the “supine” diversity, equity and inclusion.  And, you will notice: “Firmness, Commodity, Delight” is by restraining-order expelled from colleges of architecture.

Temple Types, in Antis and Prostyle (Vitruvius, Book 3, Chapter 2, nos. 2, 3), attributed to the Sangallo family, 1530 – 1545; collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art

And so, the wilting sponginess of progressive, Schools of Architecture, have delivered forth bastards of design, confusion engendered, justly socialized Orwells.  You have, I expect, perceived diverse weakness in crookety buildings, discerned a drooping imitation, a slavish parroting.  Why?  A “social justice” flat as equality, an envious idiocy, a political power-grasp gendered in the preening runway each student is made in tipitty high-heels to strut.  Social Justice is hip-swing fashion, an artsy show, a farce and folly.  Schools and colleges of progressive architecture are fluffy (ask anyone), and expensive, a fleeting fashion that denies training in the craft of building, the art of design, eschews sympathy to fellow man, the hard rules of logic, order, pleasure. 

AIA Chicago, “Equity, Diversity, Inclusion” logo

If you are the parent of a college-age Orwell, likely you will have observed analytical and conceptual problem solving skills”, “post-natural built-environments”, “insurgent Social Justice transformative of creative arts” and other fortune cookie maxims found on college admission pages.  Do you notice: no mention of constructing houses, churches, statehouses, outhouses, prisons and other firm necessities of civilization.  Why?  Bumper-sticker minds, air-headedness, pretense, impudence, progressive impotence.  Architecture schools have not taught commodious design and firm construction for a very long time.  No need … state subsidies. 

Predictably, administrators progressively disgorge pablum, a built environment which enhances our ability to imagine alternatives in an effort to create a more equitable and sustainable world”, et cetera.  Then (proud parent of a student applicant), when you are dulled to blank-stare, your pocket is fleeced, your wallet lightened, your hard-earned funneled onto a college snap-card.  And soon, your budding Orwell is Gehryed, crumpled, twisted; later, the pitiable Gehry, with penciled tongue, scribbles Orwellianisms upon the breeze, and finds work drawing plumbing plans.

Meanwhile, the progressive college professors pander government colleagues and corporate partners to, “build community through a shared intellectual exchange”, a community of intellectual exchange which does not include you.  You putz.  You paid.  Go away. 

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion in Architecture, Kent State University

Here, I will describe how your Orwelled was Pavloved: By daily bending colored cardboard, by folding construction paper, by tapping CAD-keys, by reciting nonsensities, by stacking blocks and crinkling screens into neat little buildings and other crooked things.  See them on the table there, arranged.  Look close, look up … you will recognize the kindergarten projects enlarged, monstrosized into looming skyscrapers that throw shadows upon you. 

This, the aesthetic joke of modernistic city-skylines.  Froebel blocks billioned in construction.  Might go on, yet, well, neither time nor space to dilate upon that subject, and besides, you see the picture, get stuck with the point.  Instead, we should admit: Paper-crumbling, videogame students cannot draw their way out of a snack-box; progressive professors are little more than CAD mechanics; both professor and student aspire to save-the-world by computer-screen fantasies, socially with justice.  And, you will agree: Air, posture, and nonsense are means unsuited to the design, the creation of appropriate habitation for human beings.

You have, I expect, noticed the road carbuncles, the apathetic, blank buildings higgledy-piggledy plopped upon the streetscape; have paused; shrugged; turned away.  Nothing there to see.  Nothing there to love.  Truly, reasonable persons have no care of dumb, ugly buildings, tattooed students, bow-tied professors, long-toothed administrators, and other frivolities subsidized by college savings and bait-and-switch student loans. 

Right … no-one cares about schools and colleges of architecture, excepting, perhaps, the clueless students and the hapless, often regretful, parents (and yet, we should care).  Increasingly, earnest homeowners and ambitious business-owners will avoid the pretense of architects, will choose a pattern-book design and hire a builder, will scribble on a lined-sheet or napkin the dream-gabled house, the neighborhood of heart’s desire, and hire a draughtsman.  Truly, which good neighbor or kindly shopkeeper will want the wall-crooked house of an architecture student, will commission the spiky-dark store of an architecture professor.  Right, neither you nor I, nor your good neighbor. 

Here … now … listen again to the universal chant of glass-eyed students and recent grads, equity, diversity, inclusion … equity, diversity, inclusion … equity, diversity, inclusion” ad in – fin – i – tum.  You know: “equity, diversity, inclusion” does not build one damn thing, other than an impotent army of progressive minions, which, of course, is the purpose of “equity, diversity, inclusion”.   Good, strong, solid buildings are formed with hard knuckles, brow sweat, and strong backs in “Firmness, Commodity, Delight”.

Utilitas, Firmitas, Venustas” I say. 

Radcliffe Library, Oxford

Through all of the slithy progressivism, Firmness, Commodity, Delight stands erect, a stout Doric column, stone-fixed against the fickle breeze and variable rain, a bulwark against progressive vanities and fashionable airs, touchstone for the few young architects who care for civilization, the bodies, the minds, the souls of fellow man. 

God love us all.

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