Populism (II) | Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz


La Plaza de Italia, en Nueva Orleans, pura imitación, puro fake efímero, le dio fama también efímera a Charles Moore, en los setenta.
The Italy Square, in New Orleans, pure imitation, cigar fake ephemeral, gave reputation also ephemeral to Charles Moore, in the seventies | oscartenreiro.com

When I was studying architecture we had a Cuban teacher called Ricardo Porro Hudalgo (1925-2014), who should construct in the pro-Castro Cuba a few years later one of few works of worthy architecture of mention in the half century of Cuban revolution, a school of art with vaults of brick that has been very praised. Lazy, Marxist militant in this epoch (today it lives in France and little be of him), it was pleasing of doing proselytism between the students, and since he was a man of wide culture, very good exhibitor and personality exceeded like we say in Venezuela, it was turning out to be very difficult to contradict. The man was intimidating.

I was not his student because I was practising in the low courses, but since I was differing ideologically from him and I could not stand his proselytizing mien, I slipped once on his course one evening anyone. I do not remember accurately which was the topic that Lazy was exhibiting, but yes of my disagreement, which I exhibited with the whole infamy of my short age. I was trying to refute it with arguments that were coming from my personal experiences and from certain convictions, before Lazy which the one who had heard me very respectfully asked me: in which author you support yourself to say what you say, in which I free? Before which very disturbed I answered him that in none but that this feeling, which I had exposed, was in the people with whom I had contact. Others it is to say that to Joint it convinced very little my allegation and continued his class without stopping more.

Many years later was telling me the Engineer August E. Komendant (1906-1992) of whom so much I learned, that being he managing permissions in the offices of control of the municipality of The Jolla, California, where Salk Institute should construct by Louis I. Kahn(1901-1974), building of whose structure had been a person in charge, had to face the doubtful attitude of the engineers post, those who were not convincing completely the technical reasons that Komendant was giving, particularly the relative ones to his beginning of the “elasticity controlled” with which was solving the seismic, very demanding solicitations in this zone of the United States. The engineers were saying to him that the building was not in conformity with the procedure and that they were not finding justifications adapted in any consulted book. Before which Komendant answered them and the one who does write the books? Are not they perhaps the persons? With which it was actually inviting them to apply his knowledge, his capacity of reasoning, opposite to what they heard of his speaker, who obtained the permission and had to verify succeeded of his technical approach in San Fernando’s earthquake of 1971 in which the building did not suffer any hurt.

What I want to remember with both anecdotes it is true and very forgotten: that not everything must be in the books in order that it is constituted in a point of view capable of being supported and expressed. And that young woman does not import cuan one could be or cuan inadequate be opposite to people of major lights, to support a point of view what is needed is common sense and capacity of argumentation, something that certainly is fed by the readings and the knowledge in general but that does not have why to be suppressed though certainly there is imposed, since in everything, the obligation to be coherent.

I insist that what I say is elementary and own of ceremony of graduation of baccalaureate but the hipocresías of the academic life underline the importance of reasoning from the common sense and a minimal interior energy to support a point of view and make me doubt the trend to repeat well-read matters here and there that are accumulated as obligatory appointments on a psychic more or less arid scene. And though it is true that the academic world demands as requirement that what is said or writing rests on bibliographical sufficiently pondered references, also it is true that the academic world is often an environment lacking in freshness, besieged, precisely, by the requirements and the regulations.

And all that comes to the case about the critique, because as I say it in the today note, during the first times of the postmodernism it seemed to be impossible to question the suppositions that were circulating throughout because they had not written to themselves the books (and they never wrote each other, it seems to me) that were saying what many people wanted to say. So, I say it in the note, it seemed to me already in the first ones eighty that the book I had to write it though I had very few readers.

So I started looking for the necessary food to sustain what he was thinking. In other words, it knew what it wanted to say (of there the previous anecdotes) and I looked for intellectual sustenance dividing of there. The deep, passionate conviction, without support it can end up by being the spur to penetrate into the knowledge.

I read very much in consequence. Initially in an untid way, then a reading took other one to me and eventually, was not easy, I could have to the hand foundations that any more would never separate of my conscience. In these times and in the immediately previous ones, almost thirty years ago, it was that I met the conception of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, his thought in general, which I had approached, I it have written several times, a simple comment in a forum of the Faculty of Architecture of the colleague architect and teacher of History, Manuel Lopez. I was interested so much that took me towards this exceptional man, whom I see today as one of the most significant thinkers of the century twenty. It liberated us of many unnecessary loads that opened field for a new way of philosophizing, centred us on the essential thing, it might be said.

And since then I could place more comfortably, without the previous anxiety, before the Critique and the critics of architecture. I could differ better. To separate the verbiage of the most essential thing.

It is what led me to writing the text to which I said in my note that I called “Critique and Architecture, Company of Limited Responsibility” In him, apart from defining better my points of view on some topics that were discussed at any one time in the Latin-American environment, as that of the Identity, I wrote a central chapter in which I could place better the different apparels of the critical activity. I it concluded with a series of comments in form aforística that were searching they were illustrating my points of view on different topics seen from the architecture.

And I confess that I felt liberated. Writing was the instrument.

And among other things, already I can decide with more freedom when the critique is an authentic thought and when it is, simply, that to ignore her.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, november 2012,
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero


He was saying last week that some years ago, almost twenty, moved by the inconvenience before the course that was taking the discussion about architecture, I wrote a text that he was claiming increpar to the world of the critique and the critics beyond the specialized visions. To speak from out seeking to affect in a debate that seemed to myself ensimismado. But an interpellation from a more or less dark place of the cultural world since it is ours, which in addition is characterized by a strong stagnation, has very slight consequences. Which does not want to say that the inconvenience before the drift of the architectural thought that received form in the final years of the decade of the seventies was not present in the spirit of many.

In any place where one was scratching a bit, in the central countries as in the peripheral ones, in the opulence as in the shortage, one was feeling the inconvenience. But it was not managing to express because it was a time of transition, of traffic towards a new perspective. Close to a necessary review of certain suppositions of the modernity one incurred too many simplifications, old idols were restored, and, especially, something like new beginning wanted to be postulated forzadamente. It was a very mighty river that called to yes the same postmodernism.

Before this situation it was very small what could be done. Me there comes to the memory the first thing that I read in my Carl Gustav Jung,’s life, already too much time ago. A test dedicated to the promulgation by the Pope Pio XII, in 1950, of the dogma of the Asuncion of the Virgin Mary, a reading of great interest that marked me very much, very young I. In the introduction to the test, he was speaking Jung of the Spirit of the Times (in German the zeitgeist, word that was used up to the excess between the Anglo-Saxon critics of architecture up to making it deposit to the dictionary English) making notice that it was inadvisable to speak to cross-current with him. And that because of it same, Jung was avoiding to do it.

In these times of boiling posmodernista what was prevailing was the interest for the words – concepts with appearance of innovations. It was a slope above to persist in the most direct use of a language, less recharged with rhetoric and especially free of prejudices opposite to the modern inheritance. The discussion on architecture did to a great extent without the constructed architecture and the values that justify it to give step to the purely formal speculation, to the vision of the building as object, to the speculative drawing as substitution of the construction, to the recovery of the style. Some of these powders should bring good part of the current muds did the world of the critique sense beforehand it?

In some cases yes. I remember very well when Kenneth Frampton before a group of my students here in Caracas began a conversation saying that the postmodernism was a tiger of paper. Of him I heard for the first time the names of the Spanish architects who in certain way were resisting. Or those of the Portuguese Alvaro Siza y Fernando Távora. This capture of position cost him to Frampton many difficulties. That maybe have a paper in his adoption of a certain ambiguity that was preventing him two things: to be clear in his rejections and to show the architecture in that he was interested. He it was afflicting other one of the weaknesses of the critic: the precision reduces market.

And also there is William Curtis‘s case, who had the merit of Corbusier defended the most timeless values in the legacy of Him, apart from his clear rejection to the common places of the fashionable speech in the eighties, which also incited him, since to Frampton the antipathy of those who were presuming to be a day. A case very opposite to that of the famous one of then, Charles Jencks, who after had written a good book on the old man Le Corbusier that was very well-read and commented, there happened to turn into acquaintance publicist of the postmodern one and minter of another favorite label of these times: slow – modern, classification ad-hoc to become discredited to the most routine.

And it is legitimate to say that the most superficial definition of the postmodernism is an ideological foundation of the populism. Is not it the motto “any voucher” a typically populist concept? Let’s see: an aesthetic canon is not favoured (that is the same thing that a moral canon) but it is appealed to many as be convenient, the models scorn for exclusive and many people are accepted, still being contradictory, there is no a preferential direction for the march of the things but very diverse still at the risk of being regressive, there are styles and there is chosen the one that wears shoes in my taste or my schemes, there is no the culture but the cultures (it is what has been answered, for example, to Vargas Llosa’s worries) and both the fall and the altacultura can be compared. And we might continue. The populism is the disposition to accept what it takes pleasure or be convenient to the opportunity or to the taste of the majorities. The populism is the kingdom of the ephemeral thing that well can be false as the famous Plaza of Italy of Charles Willard Moore (1925-1993). And the populist excellent city is Las Vegas, symbol of the American uncultivated and anxious to reproduce scenes not to have the inconvenience to travel and to express in another language. And it is not a chance that Robert Venturi, the architect who came to be like the herald of the postmodernism has been the author of the book “Learning of Las Vegas” that was not another thing that a desire to raise the evil I please and the paroxysm of fake of this place of the world at the level of cultural such a worthy expression of own right of admiration as any thousand-year-old European city.

From there it had not but a short step to come to many of the current distortions. The false thing put (and still it is) fashionable. And I do not give examples for several reasons, between them for it of the spirit of the times.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Es un arquitecto venezolano, nacido en 1939, Premio Nacional de Arquitectura de su país en 2002-2003, profesor de Diseño Arquitectónico por más de treinta años en la Universidad Central de Venezuela, quien paralelamente con su ejercicio ha mantenido ya por años presencia en la prensa de su país en un esfuerzo de comunicación hacia la gente en general de los puntos de vista del arquitecto acerca de los más diversos temas, entre los cuales figuran los agudos problemas políticos de una sociedad como la venezolana. Tenreiro practica así lo que el llama el “pensamiento desde y hacia la arquitectura”, insistiendo en que lo hace como arquitecto en ejercicio, para escapar de los estereotipos y cautelas propios de la “crítica arquitectónica”. Respecto a la cual no oculta su desconfianza, que explica recurriendo al aforismo de Nietzsche sobre el crítico de arte “que ve el arte desde cerca sin llegar a tocarlo nunca”.

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