In 1997, Deborah Berke, Yale’s teacher publishes the text Thoughts on the Everyday inside the book Architecture of the Everyday,1 edited one by Steven Harris and her itself. The text is an allegation against the influence of the media in the architecture, the usurpation of the daily advertising in our lives and for extension, the emergency of architects / brands and of buildings signed by them. Basically it develops a positioning against what little later we would call the star-architects.
As contraposition to these architectural products of advertising profile, Berke advoca for an architecture of day after day, implied in the telluric realities of the discipline, that is to say, one I raise of the architecture based on his occupants, for the route to consider principally the program and the materiality. A return to the essences, for this way saying it.
Berke is peeling in the text a series of categories of what he understands for an architecture of day after day, since it are the generic thing, the vulgar thing, or the common thing. In relation to the common thing, a concept that has re-arisen in different areas of the architectural reflection lately, Berke says…
An architecture of every day, it must be banal or common. No distinction must look in trying to be extraordinary, that in most cases he turns out to be a falsification or a substitute of the really extraordinary thing. In exchange for the fact of which this architecture rejects to say “look at me”, at least he does not say to you what you have to think. It allows to provide you with his own meanings.
In the bedroom of Berke’s text, there does not stop sounding the echo of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown and his prayer for an ugly architecture and ordinary.2 That is to say, a torpedo direccionado in both cases to the line of flotation of the pontiffs of the beauty, the aesthetics and the trend in the shape of critics, commissioners and drunk architects of yes same. If the architecture must find the common thing, it can be simply ordinary and even ugly, already it is neither anything to indicate, nor that to outline on the part of the system.
Nevertheless there is a substantial difference between Berke’s text and the texts of the saga Venturi/Scott Brown. In case of the second ones, as previously in the texts of Alison and Peter Smithson a decade before, the inspiration to glimpse an active and critical reflection of the company was coming from the fascination for the popular culture, principally for the paper of the advertising, already totally integrated to she. That is to say, the way and the way of acceding to the essential records of the company of them 60’s and 70’s was across the advertising means, due to the belief, that these were framing perfectly the spirit and the desires of the company of the moment. By contrast, Berke, rejects flatly the equity inherent in the previous positioning of which marqueting of success, it is equivalent to popular culture.
Beker rebels against the galloping establishment of the architectural megalomania and the dimension increasingly rampant of the cultural commercial one. Equally there is felt that it moves away deliberately from the dimension of the architect as artist, as guru or as Messiah.
In a sense Beker’s written offer might be summarized as an attempt of raising the architectural fact without will of transcendency, centring what might be called an attitude of service. That is to say, to clear the architecture of all his redeeming load and on centering in the best conditions in order that the architecture serves the people.
Undoubtedly, I raise, departing that the text answers to a genuine worry of the authoress, it is interesting, but it opens a series of questions of immediate form.
What does happen with the aesthetic dimension of the architectural thing? Does this reflection incorporate the emotional dimension of the architecture? Can architecture be defined from a direct confrontation by concepts as “generic thing”, “common thing”, “banal thing”, “ordinary thing”, “anonymous thing”, “raw thing”, “vulgar and visceral thing”, “the sensual thing”?
Probably I raise of the authoress it stops finally unsatisfied, because actually there does not contribute big solutions, which was of waiting. I would dare to say, that the architecture of every day, it does not solve precisely the binomial between transcendency and insignificance, and his bet for strictly to discipline, it does not allow to approach this topic, to my to seem to be, so central.
At best, and I dress with the current perspective, the importance of Thoughts on the everyday, it resides in showing, or better, in demonstrating that the dimensions that we might call more emotional or atmospheric of the architecture, and equally the transcendent vectors that necessarily coexist with the fact of projecting architecture, cannot be left aside. I refer that in the local European context, of deep crisis and it distils, even deeper, many voices are crying out for a certain re-discipline of the architecture.
Since it was aiming previously, so much in the motto of 13 at edition of the Biennale of Venice of architecture, Common Ground, since in the motto of the last congress of the Fundación Arquitectura y Sociedad, the common thing, there is guessed this will to return to the basic thing. Hitherto nothing to object. Nevertheless, I think that it would be also interesting, to re-explore new aesthetic dimensions in the architecture, once us is waste of the commercial and selling dirt that there seemed to be colmatado all the aspirations of the architect and the architecture happens.
I want to say, for example, that for pure law of the pendulum, we should not be going to do of the austerity a new moral category ado. The architecture, thankfully or unfortunately, is much more complex than an idea, that a concept or that a cultural movement. It is opened, unlike, multifactorial and constant eager for new inputs and outputs. This one is a reality that it is necessary to know ecualizar at all time and in his measured joust, to avoid positionings cortoplacistas.
The architecture is trying to be sought again, to look for his multiple facets, his exciting challenges, a few times tacking voluptuous offers, because the nature of the order like that it needs, others, probably today a great majority, working on budgetary minimums. But let’s confuse the voluptuousness neither with the irresponsibility, nor the budgetary minimums with minimal ambitions.
It is necessary to return to trust that the architects, doing architecture every day from a good understood ambition, manage to realize this architecture of every day, which Beker seems to invoke.
Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, september 2012
1 BERKE, Deborah, Thoughts on the Everyday, del libro Architecture of the Everyday, Steve Harris, Deborah Beker ed., Princeton Architectural Press, Nueva York, 1997
2 VENTURI, Robert, SCOTT BROWN, Denise, IZENOUR, Steven, Learning from la Vegas, MIT Press, Cambridge, 1977