The desire to confirm points of view on what it is necessary to to do has been done loudly between architects in the last three decades. In some academic means this desire turned as for study, is named (incorrectly) A Theory of the Architecture. That would be a body of ideas, concepts, points of view, which seek to explain the architecture, dealing for explanation
“to do patent what, why, for what, and how of the things and of the events of the world”,
definition that I take for lack of better other one and that has been the substance of the philosophical occupation for centuries.
When I began to study Architecture in 1955, the chair saw as “theory” on “Introduction and Elements of the Architecture”, that was coming to be like a general speech on the architecture and the architect’s trade. Our teacher was Santiago Goiri (1919-1974), who was speaking to us for example that the principal problem of the architecture was the cover, which the history of the Humanity was written in stone, or the parts of which a Project was consisting.
But nothing more. There had not arisen still the trade of “critic of architecture”; and those who were exercising this function were doing it rather from the perspective of the historian. There were sounding very much the names of Sigfried Giedion (1888-1968), of Lewis Mumford (1895-1990) and a bit less Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), all historians. Of Giedion they were recommending to us to read insistently “Space, Time and Architecture”; and when the prestige of Bruno Zevi (1918-2000) became strong we would read “The Architecture Is able to see” (1948) where the history was a foundation of the judgment of value.
Reyner Banham (1922-1988) or Leonardo Benévolo (1923) cultivated this look, as well as in the following decade Manfredo Tafuri (1935-1994). Giulio Carlo Argan (1909-1992) though major enough that Zevi, irrumpe in the world of the critique later, with his book “Project and Destination” of 1965. They were our references.
From this legacy, at the end of the sixties the critical activity expands with the postmodernism. The names are great. The critique becomes institutionalized … and the debate is impoverished. The critics claim autonomy (¿?). It passes of a vision “especially ideological” to one that wants to be “especially philosophical”. An example of the first one might be the critique (1956) of Giulio Carlo Argan to Ronchamp’s church of Him Corbusier, to which he was considering, from his Marxism, a perfidy to the rationalism of the first Corbu. And of second Robert Venturi’s famous book “Complexity and Contradiction in the Architecture” (1966) that it is an intelligent summary of many of the reflections on the historical architecture that they were coming circulating from the fifties.
Aldo Rossi’s famous phrase (“there is no ideological justification for a bridge that falls”) formulated by a man of Marxist formation, marks the abandon of “this” ideological bale. Rossi, already not a historian but an architect in exercise, calls to a vision of the most complete city, values the paper of the monument, of the memory, resorts to the concept of the analogy between new city and city of the memory, rescues of the scorn images of an essential architecture: the ceiling to two waters, the window as perforation, the baroque symmetry. There is established the “appointment”, the detail that reproduces the old ornament. And the architecture of paper is imposed, the worship to the graphical values of the representation of the architecture.
Metaphysics and Architecture.
If the postmodernism could not deny the value of the architecture of the second modern generation (Aalto, Kahn, Niemeyer, Villanueva, Barragán) did it doing without his cultural roots. Corbusier turned to Him, as spokesperson of the modern thing, into the visible enemy. And if he had said that he was “out of any philosophical intention” it was corresponding to refute it turning to philosophize in central resource. There is this the “Theory” of the Architecture, which supplants that of my times of student. She is handled not only by historians but active architects (besides Rossi, Venturi, Eisenman, the Krier, etc.).
They depart from the idea of that a metaphysical construction has a direct correspondence in a physics, the architectural one, forgetting (except Leon Krier, born ideologist) that everything to reason philosophically to affect in the action does to itself ideology, moral ethical and aesthetic code that dictates a way of proceeding technician. The “spell of the language” confuses. To go from the speech to the action “inside” of the discipline there is needed an ideological regulation of technical scope. As that a building is white, on piles, that the musical scale is dodecafónica or that the painting is abstract. The philosophical speech stays behind. Seeking to escape of an ideology other one is adopted. It is what these thinkers – architects do, in account end.
In the quite creative bottom on having selected a color, a material, a harmony, it does from an ethics (linked to an aesthetics) that derives from an ideological body. And this creator can be big or mediocre. Paradoxically, many architectures of good thinkers, as whom I have just named, are little interest.
Today ideology is done by the use of the computer, as well as ideology was done by the systems of buildings (industrial regulations, prefabricación) from the Marxist vision. The whole world to doing become warped surfaces and working with spatial networks!
But any more it is worth not forgetting that the ideologies are exclusive, they must be substituted for others thanks to the contribution of the free creator, of the craftsman, of which he constructs in a cultural specific context and neither wants it must not even be excluded. The ideologies like codes of conduct arise to be overcome, modified or enriched.
The article continues in “Thinking the architecture (II)”.
Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, march 2011,
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero