One of the reasons for FAT's flirtation (I was going to say interest, but that implies dry academicism, rather than a love that dare not speak its name) with architectural post modernism is the fact that for a number of years we only bought architecture books from the remainder book shop on Islington's Upper Street.
The shop operated on a ten year lag, selling end of print copies of once fashionable architectural theory that had fallen out of favour. At the time - the mid to late 1990's - this mainly meant Architecture Design specials on Post Modernism, Rizzoli monographs on Charles Moore and James Wines and - slightly beyond the pale even for our depraved tastes - Michael Graves. Along with a book on the wooden architecture of Russia and an anonymous collection of gothic drawings, these formed our principle influences. High on this toxic mix of the unfashionable and the unspeakable we thought we had chanced upon a little corner of architecture that we could call our own. Certainly no one else wanted it.
The Rem Koolhaas and Bernard Tschumi books stayed on our office shelves (alongside, for some reason, Jane's Fighting Ships and a book on the Hungerford massacre), their supposed radicalism appearing suddenly pallidly tasteful compared to architectural apostates like Stanley Tigerman and Ricardo Bofill We discovered something else too, which is that if you stop looking at the same stuff as everyone else, strange things happen to your architecture. Most obviously it stops looking like everyone elses' architecture.
The relationship between fashion and architecture is a thorny one. Reference to it usually involves formal analogies between cladding and clothing, or, more literally still, collaborations between architects and fashion designers. Very rarely are the fashion cycles within architecture itself considered. Architecture is generally considered to be above such things, aloof in its timelessness from ephemeral preoccupations and trivial matters of style. This aloofness is slightly absurd, only serving to draw attention to an underlying anxiety. There is nothing as troubling as the recently fashionable, nothing so unwanted or dangerous to one's self belief. Fashion works as a form of Orwellian un-think, a cultural amnesia that allows us to believe that the present is infinitely preferable to the past, always has been and always will. I wear skinny jeans. I will always wear skinny jeans. Oceania is at war with Eastasia. Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.
At any one time various theoretical and formal trends seem to push a number of people in the same direction at once. At architecture school for instance, there are always a small number of books that change hands feverishly, forming a closed circuit of influences until they fall out of favour. Mark Cousins gave a lecture at the Architectural Association once where he observed the impact this process had on the school library. For a while all the books by Deleuze and Guatarri would be out on loan and then, suddenly, they were all back and everyone was borrowing books on bird migration and wave formation.
In my local library there are no books by Deleuze and Guattari and only a couple on wave formation. The architecture section is bracingly random and contains nothing published within the last five years. Unlike the remainder book store it doesn't represent the fag end of a particular point in time either. It is in fact a potentially richer experience, one that could take you in any number of unexpected directions. Like only buying clothes from a slightly ageing mail order catalogue a certain idiosyncrasy of style is guaranteed.
I've been going there a lot lately, mainly to expand my Robert Wyatt collection, but the architecture and design section is a new joy to me. This is what I've read so far: a book on the early work of Philip Johnson, some Pevsner, a dictionary of architectural styles that ends at the Neue Sacklikeit, a Shell guide to ruined monastries and Terry Farrel's autobiography. Very little on parametric modelling basically. Next week I'm hoping to check out Elizabethan building techniques and the history of Playboy. Coupled with watching Doctor Who and the Pyramids of Mars and listening to this, the implications for architecture, as my old tutor used to say, are endless.