Architectural students of my generation—the last of the baby boomers, starting college in Europe or in the Americas in the late 1970s—had many good reasons to cherish architectural history. Everyone seemed to agree at the time that the Modernist project was conspicuously failing. Late Modernist monsters were then wreaking havoc on cities and lands around the world, and the most immediate, knee-jerk reaction against what many then saw as an ongoing catastrophe was to try and bring back all that 20th-century high Modernism had kicked out of design culture: history, for a start. I drew my first Doric capital, circa 1979, in a design studio, not in a history class (and my tutor immediately ordered me to scrape it, which I did).
Book presentations, or book launches, are holdovers from ages long past. One could argue that the same applies to books in print themselves; but we still read and write books, never mind in which shape and form, while I do not see many reasons to keep presenting them in brick-and-mortar bookshops, or similar venues. Friends in the publishing industry tell me that a single tweet, or a successful hashtag on Instagram, can sell more copies than a book launch—and at a lesser cost, for sure. Besides, one of the most baffling aspects of book launches is that, traditionally—and I remember this was already the case when I was a student—a significant fraction of the public in attendance tends to be viscerally and vocally hostile to the topic of the book being presented. Why would readers who dislike a book as a plain matter of principle take the time to read it in full then vent their anger at its author, I cannot tell; but this is to say that having published a book last fall titled The Second Digital Turn: Design Beyond Intelligence, I had plenty of opportunities, in the course of the last few months, to glean a vast repertoire of technophobic commonplaces. Chiefly noted among them, due to its sheer outlandishness, was the objection that digital innovation would by now have fully run its course: having adapted to, and adopted, some new tools and technologies, architects would have moved on, free at last to get back to things that really matter to them (whatever they might be).