- continued -
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OUTDATED STRATEGIES: THE POTENTIAL OF DEFEAT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The answer is simple: their 'strategies' are hopelessly outdated.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!
1. What if architectural 'laics' would become aware that they are part of a poorly studied megaproject? What if they would call it SVS ('socio-cultural vivi-section')?
2. What if 'laics' discover that man has no place in the essentially aesthetic theories of this profession, consequently architects and urbanists would obviously be forced to experiment 'in vitro' with the 'unknown object' for which they build. Evidently this megalomanic experiment shows the trend to be falsified in increasingly shorter terms.
3. What if 'laics' realise that the pages related to the term 'man' are practically empty in the architectural and urbanistic encyclopedias. How can these 'professionals' build for man, if they have no idea how architecture relates to man?
4. What if 'laics' discover that there is nearly nothing about culture (except architecture) in the architects' books, let alone about all those many cultures of the world? How can architects build houses (today even criss-crossing cultures) if they have not the least idea about what culture - in regard to architecture - is?
5. What if 'laics' realise that the architects have not even studied one of their absolutely basic topics, the medium in which they work: space?
6. What if 'laics' would invent some special brain scanner for architects? Testing them they - rather horrified - would just find some faded pictures of pyramids, temples and cathedrals, in addition, some platonic speculations about aesthetics and, to the largest part, hugely oversized egos?
7. What if using another scanner program 'laics' would realise that the architect's worldview is like that of a zoologist who only knows beautiful animals. Butterflies for instance. They would then detect that the architect in fact cultivates 'laic' illusions with a world of architectural butterflies?
8. What if 'laics' realise that, in architectural books there are thousands of 'theories of architecture' all based on aesthetic fantasies, but practically not one reliable theory of 'man AND architecture'? Imagine! These architects build mega-megalopolises with just a little bit of art and aesthetics!
9. What if 'laics' start to ask: are we the architecturo-urbanistic guinea-pigs of some crazy healers who believe in 'good forms' performing their orgiastic design rites based on outdated post-medieval-myths right in our cities?
10. What if 'laics' start to ask: how can we take them seriously? How dare they come about every 20 years, tears in their eyes, telling us that all their cherished 'architectural theories' turned out to be rubbish, that what they had built was all a mistake - worldwide - and that they would like to dynamite the whole thing - worldwide?
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:
( - ) A vain production of a new type of architectural 'waste' for future generations.
On the level of architectural education:
( + ) Neo-Humanist groups of architects who do or refer to extensive research into the humane aspects of the field, before they start to 'design'.
( - ) Architectural schools continuing starcult and maintaining theoretical rubbish 'Postmodern style'.
( + ) Architectural educational institutions increasingly favouring scientific research into the humane and environmental conditions of architecture and urbanism on a universal, anthropological level.
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.
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!
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.
Back to discussion list
Back to homepage