About the last teacher | Oscar Tenreiro Degwitz

Sinagoga Mikveh, Israel
Mikveh Synagogue, Israel

After my comments of the previous weeks I clarify that I am not in any way establishing direct kinships between architects as Louis I. Kahn (1901-1974) and Oscar Niemeyer (1907-2012), who, being contemporary, followed antagonistic courses. What yes I have said is that both, together with others, and each one with his specificity, are examples of the effort for extending and to reinterpret the modern tradition.

And his legacy is dissimilar, an aspect that does not admit comparison. Kahn’s contribution to the thought on architecture is only. His contributions with regard to the organization of the building and the foundations of the design, which are technical (as it of the served spaces and servants, the meetings, the value of the natural light, the primacy of the structure like origin of the form) because they can be used as shared knowledge; his elaborations of philosophical cut on his aesthetic universe; his constructed and proposed work; his educational labor, they form a corpus that took to our conscience aspects that were sleeping in the tradition. Whereas Niemeyer is an architect who looks towards yes same, for whom the work is a strictly personal experience, without it is important to give this one foundations capable of being assumed by others. In a sense, if we abide by the phrase of Him Ours Corbusier “nothing is transmissible but the thought“, of Kantian root, which we can apprehend to appropriate it of an architect as Niemeyer is not what he said but what his work shows. And the showed depends on the observer, on the one that thinks what it sees; and in the same measure it can be called subjectively, intimately, personally. Not knowledge.

Kahn treated always of trasmitir the reasons that were orientating it. It did it revistiéndolas of a poetical – philosophical very coherent aura with his personality that he handled with enormous success. His speech was extraordinarily attractive and of fact it turned, in these times of strong auto-questions of the North American company (emergence of the spirit hippie), into a figure that in certain way was opposed also to the status of the architectural world of the moment. It arose as pioneer of an approximation to the least dogmatic, more tolerant architecture more opened for motives and impulses that he was including in the word inspiration and that they had been kept buried by the racionalist modesty. It captured the imagination and also a type of adhesion that had politicallly active features on the part of many that saw it as interpreter of the disenchantment with the inflexibilities of the modernity. Disenchantment that from the seventies of the century twenty in forward took very diverse riverbeds that in some cases they led to a species of restoration of the flags of the nineteenth-century Academy. The post-modernist revisionism became strong and there proliferated in an extraordinary way critical texts that they laid the foundations for a more mature vision of the urban topic (for example those of Aldo Rossi) and an opening towards the diversity that was coming to be like a fresh wind that was dismantling prejudices that, more that modern, I have written it in another part, owed to the expansion of a practical vision, that though it was a part of the set of ideas that defined the new approximation to the architecture, it was based in beginning that were simplified interesadamente to the benefit of the quantitative aspects of the production of the building.

Since compensation of this process of simplification was making to him intense the desire to extend the references that were governing the work of the architects, to expand his vision and to make her more opened the complexity. Kahn’s work matures in this scene, where already they had done his appearance manners of seeing that they were indicating a more diverse development.

Kahn is raising in his work of an original way a new way of assuming the geometric arrangement of the building. The plants of the Medical Towers, of the Baths of Trenton or of Rochester’s Unitary Church, very associated with his conception of the spaces of service and servants, had a decisive impact because they were the origin of a formal born synthesis of the order of the building and not of the expressive caprice. Of there in forward were steadying themselves in him born worries of the desire to control the solar light (in the Preliminary design of EUA’s Embassy in Angola) raising openly the topic of the control of the dazzle (glare in English), matter not solved by the quiebrasoles of Le Corbusier, besides the impact in the warming of the surface of ceiling, an aspect of the same project that was very publicized.

His contributions were adding in addition in the use of the materials, the essential value of the natural light, which already I mentioned, the rejection to the use of soffits to mask (one of the major absurdities that today infect the architecture of the spectacle) all beginning with direct consequences in the building that they can be called ethical because they act as containment, as delimiting with regard to what it can be done.

And also purely expressive elements were appearing in his work, for example a certain obsession with the circle, the arch, the traditional lintel; the blind, massive wall; the experimentation with geometric forms that intersectan as in the plants of walled enclosures. Special interest in the old ruins looking for formal keys that I compare those who fascinated the French painter Hubert Robert (1733-1808) called by his contemporary ones “Robert des ruines“. Interest that motivated searches on the constructive traditions moved, reinterpreting them, to his late architecture, particularly in his experiences of India and Bangladesh.

We will continue with the topic.

Óscar Tenreiro Degwitz, Architect.
Venezuela, july 2014,
Entre lo Cierto y lo Verdadero


The photographies that semuestran first it departs from the front of the Institute of Ahmedabad’s Management, India (1962-74), from Luis Kahn, and immediately Hubert Robert’s picture that turns out to be useful to illustrate what I say on Kahn’s fascination with the ruins. Later, I include Kahn’s drawing that already I published previously (September 11, 2008) that can be compared with the following photo, of Internet, which shows the set of Albi’s Cathedral and the Palace of the Berbie (today Museum Toulouse Lautrec) from the same point from which Kahn did his drawing in 1959. Albi is not a ruin but yes, to a certain extent a fortification (this it was one of the origins of the configuration of the set), and as fortification it has a presence that he sends to basic architectures. Albi’s drawings (there remain several that have been published) connect us with Kahn’s interest for the massive forms of the construction of masonry of brick, interest that is opened towards central matters of the human psyche that it tried to understand seeking to incorporate them into his architecture.

In Albi the law of the material, brick, it demonstrates in a round way defining an aesthetics that apart from being only in the medieval architecture of cathedrals emparenta with these previous architectures that were an important part of the world of references that Kahn was evoking.

It is worth a sorrow making notice that the drawing is of 1959, when Kahn already was a 58-year-old mature man. It is possible to say so that these notes show an interest that was coming being in preparation without expressing directly in the architectures that he constructed. Nevertheless, in the preparatory schemes of these architectures, as well as in the projects of middle of the sixties in forward, fingerprints of the search can observe backward in the time that it fed his language.

Follows photos of the project (drawings and model) of the Synagogue Mikveh Israel of 1962, which take us to the “figure” of Robert’s Hem, and to the fragment of front of the Institute of Management. The penultimate one (14) in the series of images is that of the first schemes of this Institute, which date back to 1968-69, and they are developers of the process of ripeness that should express as baroque, exuberant language, in the Assembly of Dacca, of which they go (last photo) a few schemes. With this luck of formal explosion in Dacca I will deal in successive income.

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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