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Imagine a graph. This graph traces the historical trajectory of a particular art form. The y-axis could be a measure of something arbitrary, something like height, weight, volume, square footage, page length .... the list can go on for ever. The x-axis is time. And somewhere at the top right-hand corner of this matrix, the trajectory plateaus. It ceases to oscillate up and down. It just continues to move forward with no qualitative change.

This is an overtly simplistic historical model, a thumbnail sketch of a thumbnail sketch. It does, however, begin to capture a controversial and provocative idea brought to light in G.W.F. Hegel's Lectures on Aesthetics (1832): that art has reached its end. Hegel's so-called "End of Art" thesis does not postulate an end to the making of art, but it does suggest that art has ceased to develop. The reason for this is complicated. It is related to Hegel's idea that as art develops from material to conceptual manifestations, it grows and declines. Like the graph mentioned above, it captures the idea that art not only has a history, but it is part of a historical process.

Modern architecture has often been cast as a strawman, a volitional agent that erased all sense of historical development of the art form. It was Norman Mailer, of all people, who cast the problem in such terms for a 1964 issue of The Architecture Forum. It is an idea that still resonates. Historian Mark Jarzombek problematizes this view in a 2007 article for Footprint, where he subjects architecture's modernity to a Hegelian crucible. Jarzombek writes:

Architecture begins its life as a modern philosophical project by a series of alienations and forced detachments from its presumptive disciplinary realities, realities that have enclosed and trapped it, according to Hegel, in the narrow discourse of scholarship and ideology. Though freed to engage the philosophical, architecture is denied an ongoing role in the advancement of metaphysics, has its origins in a competing artistic medium, has a philosophical history that is not related to its empirical history, and, finally, becomes architecture at the very moment it becomes no longer relevant in the dialectic of History, namely in the shift from work to miracle. In other words, Hegel makes architecture into something one can call "not-architecture": not a real building, but an "enclosure", not an ancient building, but a "sculpture"; not a free standing production, but the appearance of one, and not a miracle of representation, but a labour that ends in a mere simulacrum (2007:35).

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