The Grey of the Sky
Since time immemorial, images have been an elemental component of architectural knowledge. Not only the processes of designing, but also the legitimation, storage, and transmission of historical and theoretical information are based on particular pictorial practices. No less recurring, since Vitruvius canonized the fuzzy terminology of scaenographia as an essential form of representation, have been the debates on the permissibility, in architectural practice, of perspectival and realistic images. With the appearance of digital tools, visualizations of planned architecture have not only attained an unheard-of realism, but are also expanding the possibilities of manipulation and leading to new forms of aesthetic expression. Not least with respect to the academic interest in the self-contained logic and function of images (iconic turn), these tools and the digital aesthetic that they generate give cause for interrogating the new architectural imagery.
Cue-Giver Hermann Czech
Mobilize the cues. They get discussions going and raise the temperature. Cues provide no hard-and-fast definitions. Where they turn up, there is a need for clarification. In the context of a series of events at the Faculty of Architecture RWTH-Aachen University, the Viennese architect Hermann Czech took on the role the role of “cue-giver.” Czech is one of the leading architectural theoreticians of the age. Writing and building, he has, since the mid-nineteen-sixties, been circumnavigating architecture’s space of possibilities. In his Aachen lecture, Czech explained the concrete relationships of concepts and buildings in his own work. The lecture by Hermann Czech became the foundation for further invitations. In three follow-up events, Ernst Hubeli, Ullrich Schwarz, Urs Füssler, Jörg Leeser, Wilfried Kuehn, and Marcel Meili picked up on Czech’s cues in order to develop them further and transform them. A report.
The intrigue surrounding Aldo Rossi’s appointment at the ETH Zurich and the media debate concerning Jörn Janssen’s experimental seminar there were not only decisive episodes that set the course of political events at the institution in the early 1970s. The scandal also stands for a paradigm shift in European architectural discourse, moving the idea of architecture’s core meaning from the realm of the social to the realm of culture. In the course of this paradigm shift, the university administration sought to refocus the core competence of the architectural discipline on design, and—by means of a corresponding interpretation of Aldo Rossi’s concept of autonomy—to detach the societal relevance of the architectural project from explicitly political questions. Forty years later, two protagonists of the 1972 events met in Paris. Jörn Janssen and Bruno Reichlin, the latter a former assistant to Aldo Rossi, discuss the background of the controversy, recalling the expectations of reform, the realism and the disillusionment of the post-1968 period, and elucidating the political motivations and theoretical foundations of their actions at the time. Their conversation highlights points of contact between the attitudes—generally regarded as irreconcilable—of empirical social critique and architectural autonomy.
In the Garden of Time.
In an implicit reference to points of Japanese art theory and aesthetics, particularly the perception of time and the aging of artifacts, this conversation between architect Murielle Hladik and artists Anne and Patrick Poirier revolves around the figure of the ruin in the context of contemporary art. Construction, destruction and reconstruction, event and history, memory and oblivion, nature and artifact are notions that both art and architecture invite us to ponder and reflect on. A conversation ensues about the intimacy of personal impressions and their consequences; about material substance and the fragility of forms. The conversation took place in Paris on October 18, 2011.
Tangent 1: Maillart Serra.
The author launches his critical archaeology of postwar avant-garde ideology by making an initial incision at the site of sculptor Richard Serra’s “extension” of a nineteenth-century Swiss viaduct modified by engineer Robert Maillart in the 1920s. Contra the prevailing orthodoxy which reads Serra’s sculptures “phenomenologically,” as radically abstract interventions into the embodied viewer’s perceptual space, Maillart Extended is interpreted here as an “allegorical” work—or as a dialectical image which embodies the radical incommensurability of two opposed ideological, aesthetic, and material paradigms.
The Flower Shop in Oberbarmen.
In the winter semester 2008/2009, Jörg Leeser, interim professor at the Department for Bauen im Bestand (Building within existing structures) at the University of Wuppertal, and architect Urs Füssler organized a studio they called “Dramatyp” and a seminar called “Findlinge”. In conversation with Candide, Leeser and Füssler explain their teaching approach and how they used Wuppertal’s existing buildings as the primary material for elaborating new architecture. A central question in their approach is: How can the design of individual buildings influence the totality of the city? Bachelor and masters students designed buildings for a shrinking, post-industrial city based on scenarios they themselves developed. The article documents a selection of these projects.
Arnold Walz and Axel Kilian discuss how digital computing and script writing have affected their respective work as architects. Walz looks back on the legacy his teacher, planning theorist Horst Rittel, in how he constructs digital parametric models for the resolution of complex building geometries. Kilian outlines his concept of design exploration as a method to externalize a project’s key constraints in the process of form finding. Both agree that the knowledge attained through the realization of complex building geometries since the 1990s must now be applied to architecture in general.
“How come there’s a window in our wall?”
Post-colonial development in Mozambique has led to a diminished interface between the general knowledge and the technical knowledge required to maintain a society that functions along the lines of modern statehood.This interface conditions society as a whole, but also impacts the applicability of specific knowledge, such as that of architecture. As the profession’s tools regarding the management of resources often fail to correlate with cultural patterns regarding the organization of space, architects must engage with processes that seemingly contradict the terms of their work. By looking at vernacular architecture in post-colonial Mozambique, the author describes a process whereby formal and informal modes of production influence each other, resulting not only in a panoply of formal options, but also in a mode of knowledge production that is leading to a renewed rapprochement of general and technical knowledge.
Saint George and The Dragon, or the Urban Planner as Storyteller.
At the end of the second edition of his Storia dell’architettura italiana, Manfredo Tafuri declares that “one book assumes a crucial relevance” in finding a way out of the endemic crisis of modern architecture in the 1980s: Il racconto urbanistico. The publication of this work by the Italian urban planner Bernardo Secchi in 1984 constitutes a unique event in recent European architecture — an event that still has not been appropriately described or analyzed. Matteo D’Ambros and Roberto Zancan met with the author to discuss the circumstances of the book’s publication. In a world of short memory, revisiting the possible contribution of literary studies to architecture and urban planning promises to shed light on the contemporary understanding of the disciplines.