- continued -


ARCHITECTURAL WARS

Many an architectural 'laic' may be fascinated with this type of gigantomanic heroism expressed in architectural visions. And, it is true, the modern architectural office, with its drawing boards and models as a nerve centre of outer building processes has much in common with a commander's table of great wars in process: outside the armies, air, ground, sea, roaring with their gigantic machines; they all move according to the figures set on the strategic plans in the strategic nerve centre. Have you never seen them, their territories in YOUR city? Gigantic destruction. Gigantic construction. The architectural office is doubtless apt to suggest such virtualities. Whole new worlds are built on a drawing board (or in CAD today)! Model-making! Whole mega cities are wiped out on a drawing board! No people, no human lives, no blood! Just models. The model-concept occupies their brains. All the rest is just accessory.

OUTDATED STRATEGIES: THE POTENTIAL OF DEFEAT

Evidently, there is another side of the coin in this analogy with the commander table. The commander may loose his channels to factual reality, may use entirely wrong strategies, the war might be lost (So many movies about that!). In this sense, Botta's 'declarations' can be taken as a declaration of defeat. Liberation day! Postmodern 'occupation' of our historical cities is stopped.

But, this immediately raises another question: why did architects recently start to 'loose' their 'world-war' every 20 years?

The answer is simple: their 'strategies' are hopelessly outdated. You can not win the present global war of decently housing 4.5 billions of peoples (Habitat II, Istanbul) with simply some dusty dug-out sentences of Vitruvius, some Renaissance ideas of geometry and proportions and leave the rest to technology. Theories produce nonsense, if man and culture are kept out. And, as the Botta-case shows: one can not just design one's own nice little projects, set them in some nice landscape. Suddenly the global perspective is there, any smallest action has its global implications. Little Ticino-treasureboxes become absurd, even in the case of Godfather Botta.

ARCHITECTURE TODAY: A POST-MEDIEVAL MYTH

In fact, the 'strategy' of the architect today is a post-medieval myth, namely, the 'Renaissance myth of the profanised creator genius'! Paradoxically this strategy always loses the war, when it finally managed to occupy any territory. With a certain density of territorial occupation, the human deficit of the forms arouses the inhabitants. The 'laic' consumers en masse reject the product. Pruitt-Igoe! Doesn't work. We dynamite it! Now again, with Botta's new global 'Pruitt-Igoe'. Quickly architecture will offer new styles (Bottaism?). New aesthetic illusions for a post-postmodern architecture are 'created'. This may go on, until the humane deficit manifests itself again. Is that how it should go on and on with this postmedieval aesthetic cult system? A gigantic, globally performed 1 : 1 experiment. Think! It is absurd: building up a global architectural army programmed from its beginnings to crash! Why not do research beforehand?

WHAT CHANGED BOTTA'S MIND?

The interview does not convey how Botta changed his mind. But, there must have been strong impacts on his architectural 'soul'. How otherwise could a 'creator' of these dimensions become a 'destroyer' of global dimensions? Maybe it was the experience of trips to Tokyo, Shanghai, Jakarta, Hongkong, Seoul etc. that made the mature Mario Botta aware of what postmodernism - his daily bread - really produced on this megascale: "colossal" destruction of human environments! Consequently, conclusion (maybe sincere?): postmodernism is at its end. Turin, Rome, Hongkong, Seoul, etc. all these "colossal megalopolises" should be torn down. All "poisonous", "the epidemy" of postmodernism.

Some people might become uneasy with such continuous talkings about megascales of construction and destruction, particularly if they had personal experiences. Therefore let us leave the halls, let us go extra-mural, extra-architectural, out of this professional domain in perennial crisis.

10 'LAIC' CHECKPOINTS FOR A NEO-HUMANIST ARCHITECTURE

How does architecture look from the 'other side', from the sides of the 'laics', the non-architects? Let us ask some questions!

ARCHITECTURAL CONCLUSION

Adolf Loos might say today: 'Postmodernism was a crime!'

Consequently, what if laics would use the 10 checkpoints listed above to distinguish between 'criminal' and 'non-criminal' elements in present architectural theory? They would 'evaluate' architects and architectural schools like the following:

On the level of individual architects:

On the level of architectural education:

ANTHROPOLOGICAL CONCLUSION

Evidently the deficit of this 'theoretical defeat' is very clearly related to the terms 'man' and 'culture'. Anthropologists should therefore increasingly become aware that in the very near future, architecture and urbanism will have to do away with their own theoretical bricolage. They will have to support a scientific anthropological base which provides theoretical continuity. In other words, architecture and urbanism will soon be one of the rewarding domains for specialists of 'applied anthropology' with some formation in the anthropology of the human habitat.


NOTES

1
Note, by the way, that the contents of Mario Botta's attack are strikingly similar to those heard in the sixties, when the 'architectural crisis' was declared. Radical rejection of the cancerous growths of the outer city belts! Evidently, we arrived at the same point now, as we were thirty years earlier! 'Postmodernism', a waste of time. And, even worse: a gigantic new 'waste'-problem for the coming generations! Botta dixit!

2
We only cited strings that were explicitly marked ("...") by the interviewer. Expressions reported, but not marked by citation signs, were not particularly characterised. They were used in the present text with the corresponding meaning.


Continue
Back to discussion list
Back to homepage