ARCHITECTURE IS STILL STRUCTURED LIKE A MYTH


16

ARCHITECTURE AS POST-MEDIEVAL MYTH OF THE PROFANISED CREATOR-GENIUS

Due to this domination of architecture and urbanism by the art historian's deductive aesthetics, which can be used at will, architecture and urbanism - essential for anyone's daily life, still function like a post-medieval myth.

In this analogy the art historian 'evaluates' the creation, distinguishing 'high' values and 'low' values and explains the merits to the the laics, at the same time proselitysing them to live a life with 'beautiful form'.

Note that in this analogy the architect-genius is considered somehow 'omniscient', expressing his own ideas of the world in his own creations of styles and forms (in the same context, he is also not responsible for his 'creations': like God!)

To be fair: there is a trend at certain architectural schools (e. g. in Scandinavia, see Dunin-Woyseth 1996) to introduce elements of scientific academism into the curriculum of architectural education. Unfortunately, in such reports like the one mentioned, the proposals remain in a rather narrow circle drawn by art historians around architecture. The real potential of architectural research is not perceived. But still, welcoming science as a method into ones's own house is already a great progress in architecture.

17

ARCHITECTURE, A VERY TENACIOUS MYTH: THE IMPERIALIST INGREDIENT IN THE ARCHITECT'S ROLE IN SOCIETY

Why is this myth of the "divine creator genious" so tenaciously dogged and durable, surviving very different politicial systems from Renaissance times until today?

Evidently this 'imperialistic' trait of the architect's role in society has to do with the coincidence of the historical definition of architecture as the 'art of building' (Baukunst; pyramids, temples, cathedrals and palaces) and the fact that monumentality played an important role in early empires. And, naturally these 'monuments' provide ample proof of their high cultural level.

But, the forms of these temples and cathedrals tells us something quite different. Anthropologically, this 'imperialistic trait' of the architect has its origins in predynastic and prehistorical village cultures where it was not yet so glorious. A modern architect would consider it a kind of 'folklore' (-> settlement core complex):

This intersection between "low" ephemeral materiality and "high" monumental materiality on one hand and high environmental values, e. g. how they are filtered through script, or how they expand with increasing empires and their extended perception and organisation of space is one of the most fascinating processes within the domain of Euro-Mediterranean cultures.

18

SPIRO KOSTOF'S EGYPTIAN ARCHITECT

In the first chapter of his rather tendentious book "The Architect" (1977), which he edited, Spiro Kostof maintains that not only in Classical Greece, but already in Ancient Egypt, the architect had a very dominant role in society.

Critical question: Particularly in Ancient Egypt, this role cannot have been as heroic as Kostof paints it. Architects functioned rather as what we call engineers today. Spiro Kostof's "architect as a design innovator" is thus a modern retroprojection on Ancient Egypt.

The concept of the architect as a "creator of the ever new" is a much later thing. It was created as a myth during Renaissance (-> The postmedieval myth of the profanised world creator genius).

But the 'imperialistic' structure of the architect's role, which Kostof in fact describes in Ancient Egyptian culture, is a product of its predynastic past. In predynastic districts and villages, architecture included technologically primitive structures of highest ontological values, or what the history of religion calls 'Deities' or 'Gods'. (See Kees 1956; -> Ishtar-sign; Djed; predynastic cult-boats; -> 'Semantic architecture'; -> Critical review of Spiro Kostof's 'glorious architect' of Ancient Egypt)

What really counted in Egyptian temple architecture was 'monumentality'. Perennially renewed fibroconstructive signs and symbols of predynastic cults had to be trans-substantiated into something entirely new: durability (eternity) of architectural form. But this was essentially an engineering question, not one of "design" in the sense of the modern architect. The same is valid for the plan: this was cleary defined by the cult and its ontological value system (-> value focussed axis).


20 PROBLEMS (continued)
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