3LSZVJA9     Mon, Aug 17, 2009  Permanent link
It's also interesting to read the "1958 Mould manifesto against rationalism in arquitecture" by Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

I'm currently living in a city less than 60 years old where rationalism in arquitecture met with real state speculation.

The result is just what Hundertwasser would call "planned mass murder by premeditated sterilisation".

And why not continue quoting:

Today’s architecture is criminally sterile. For unfortunately, all building activity ceases at the very moment when man "takes up quarters", but normally building activity should not begin until man moves in. We are outrageously robbed of our humanity by defiling dictates and criminally forced not to make any changes or additions to façades, the layout or interiors, either in colour, structure, or masonry. Even tenant-owned dwellings are subject to censorship (see building-inspection regulations and lease statutes). The characteristic thing about prisons, cages or pens is the prefabricated "a-priori" structure, the definitive termination of building activity prior to the prisoner’s or animal’s moving in to a structure which is innately incompatible to him or it, coupled with the categorical restriction that the inmate may change nothing in this "his" housing, which has been imposed upon him.
For true architecture grows out of normal building activity, and this normal building activity is the organic development of a shell around a group of people. Such building growth is like the growth of a child and of man. Absolute completion of building construction is tolerable, if at all, only in monuments and uninhabited architecture.
But if a structure is intended to house people inside it, the discontinuation of construction prior to habitation must be seen as an unnatural sterilisation of the growing process and as such as a criminal act which should be punished.
The architect as we know him today is only entitled to construct uninhabitable architecture, if he is indeed capable of doing so. Habitable architecture is not his responsibility, and he must be vehemently denied the right, just as society does not leave a notorious poisoner or a mass murderer free to his devices.

To give just an idea of some exemplary, healthful contemporary architecture, and this list is, unfortunately, shamefully short:

1.The Gaudí buildings in Barcelona.
2.Certain Art Nouveau buildings.
3.The Watts Tower by Simon Rodia, in a residential section of Los Angeles.
4.Le Palais Du Facteur Cheval in the Département de la Drôme, France.
5.The slum sections of cities, the so-called "urban blemish" ("taudis" in French, sections in "salubres").
6.Homes of peasants and primitives, whenever still handmade, as earlier.
7.Old Austrian and German "schrebergärten" (workers’ allotment-garden houses).
8.Illegally built American self-made houses.
9.Dutch and Sausalito houseboats.
10.Buildings by the architects Christian Hunziker, Lucien Kroll and a few others.

In 1964 he added:

The architect’s only function should be that of technical advisor, i.e., answering questions regarding materials, stability, etc. The architect should be subordinate to the occupant (tenant, owner, lodger) or at least to the occupant’s wishes.
All occupants must be free to create their "outer skins" – they must be free to determine and transform the outward shell of their domicile facing the street.
rene     Tue, Aug 18, 2009  Permanent link

Thanks for the great rant by Hundertwasser whose interventions in the appearance of existing buildings are without precedent. One of his radical notions was that

"a person in a rented apartment must be able to lean out of his window and scrape off the masonry within arm's reach. And he must be allowed to take a long brush and paint everything outside within arm's reach. So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door."

A while back I wrote a piece for a book about pioneer of generative architecture Greg Lynn, the introduction of which struck me as appropriate in this context:

"Besides an occasional landmark building, the cities in which we live aren’t all that different from the urban environments we’ve had to contend with since the day we were born. Perhaps the only change you might remark on is that there is more of the city today than there once was. But for those of us who engage with culture as an ever-changing expression of the Zeitgeist, it can be frustrating to live in a time capsule that exhibits the frozen relics of an otherwise long-forgotten past. There are, of course, many reasons for this—among them the various demands and requirements of clients, politicians, urban planners, contractors, etc.—but the most fundamental is architecture’s inherent immutability. Once erected, a building’s walls rigidly maintain the status quo, whereas culture at large constantly reinvents itself."

3LSZVJA9     Tue, Aug 18, 2009  Permanent link
At the point where architecture meets with politics and economics, it becomes easy to recognize the tendency to ignore the human factor.
Giorgio Agamben points out that there used to be two different words to talk about life: Bios, wich included political, human life) and Zoos, wich only considered survival and functional life.

Olena     Thu, Aug 27, 2009  Permanent link
As a NY apartment-dweller, I couldn't agree more with these sentiments from your comments:

"We are outrageously robbed of our humanity by defiling dictates and criminally forced not to make any changes or additions to façades, the layout or interiors, either in colour, structure, or masonry."

The Hundertwasser quote ("...So that it will be visible from afar to everyone in the street that someone lives there who is different from the imprisoned, enslaved, standardised man who lives next door.") is especially beautiful.

I've often had the thought, while walking around in the city, that from early childhood we're taught not to touch anything - and so we don't. It's our city, isn't it? Our world? But it's criminal to "deface" it. Like, "Child don't color on the walls." Because that's offensive to someone's standardized preference for a clean white? And how is that more criminal than all the polluting we do? And personally I would rather look at someone's creative, personal, legal-copy-less vision on my street than have ugly advertisements thrust into my view at all times.

But never mind even coloring, or graffiti, or even changing the environment; getting back to just touching anything - even if not literally (ok, it is dirty). I just mean the idea of treating it as your own world instead of feeling like you're just being transported through your environment on a conveyor belt, as an unengaged viewer.

Wouldn't it be lovely to "make yourself at home"? Wouldn't that inspire creativity?

P.S. I really enjoyed reading this post & actually learning something new. Especially, the "scenius" concept - something to think about. Thanks.
HelloAlexCL     Thu, Oct 8, 2009  Permanent link
First of all, this is really great stuff, Rene. After taking two courses in architecture I was thoroughly fed up with the presumptuousness of the architectural manifesto and the "starchitect." Koolhaas was excluded from this fed-upness, in part. The whole idea of the retroactive manifesto really puts the starchitect in his place, although, as you observed, he is somewhat elevated by it. Lets leave this paradox aside, though. Here, the starchitect is no architect. He is emptied of authorship. The illusory starchitect stands as a placeholder for an impossible authorship. There is no identifiable author, and surely not an individual author. The author is the process itself, which is to say there is not author. Manuel De Landa, a big fan of (dynamical) processes, describes the birth of the skyscraper as part of a process:

New York and Chicago in particular experienced an intense electrification and metallization, which resulted in the birth of the skyscraper, an original urban form unique to the United States…The iron frame, which allowed masonry walls to be replaced with glass, had been pioneered in European cities such as London and Paris. But it was in America that this metallic endoskeleton evolved into the skyscraper. Electric motors in turn allowed elevators to transport people vertically through these huge towers. Chicago pioneered the use of steel and electricity in the construction industry, catalyzed by the great fire of 1871, which destroyed the city’s commercial center and literally cleared the way for innovative building techniques to be applied. By the 1890s, Chicago was the world capital of the skyscraper, with New York a close second. (A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History 91)

To think a fire had a bigger part in creating the vertical city than Le Corbusier’s grand ideas… The skyscraper is a "delirious" synergy between the steel endoskeleton, which provided structural stability, and the electric motor, which allowed the vertical rapid transport of people and material information throughout the structure.

The architectonic form is topologically derived within the world of materials and energy, where it is constrained and channelled through concepts, which are ultimately nondeterministic. The retroactive manifesto thus superposes conscious intention over natural process. Most importantly, it is only readable after-the-fact. What is the genotype without the phenotype? What is DNA without the organism it participates in creating? DNA achieves its iterability, the privileged position of language, only through the relation between genotype and phenotype. One might even say it is this relation.

As Koolhaas observes, the result that is Manhattan occurred spontaneously and naturally. New York, as Le Corbusier observed decades earlier, is “hot jazz in stone and steel.”
rene     Fri, Oct 9, 2009  Permanent link
Thanks HelloAlexCL.Your comment perfectly complements the post. I really like this notion:

To think a fire had a bigger part in creating the vertical city than Le Corbusier’s grand ideas…
klaitner     Mon, Jan 18, 2010  Permanent link
perhaps gladwell's Outliers has something to add here too, that we are a product of our interactions with our environment and the opportunities presented. I would go further in keeping with the spirit of this post and say that even the concept of "opportunities" is revisionist history. the seething, writhing present cares little for our ambitions