In the same year, 1971, Manfredo Tafuri presented the first in a series of even more idiosyncratic studies of the Carceri, seen as a "negative utopia." He is still pursuing this theme, not greatly regarded by scholars, though greatly admired by architects of intellectual pretension. Another field of investigation that has now become something of a cult is the analysis of masonic themes in Piranesi's work.
Robin Middleton, 1982.
It is not aleatory then that the already outworn images of Archigram, or the artificial and willful ironies of Robert Venturi or of Hans Hollein simultaneously amplify and restrict the field of intervention of architecture. They amplify it insofar as they understand that space solely as a network of superstructures.
There is, however, a result to this which emerges in projects such as that by Venturi and Rauch for the American Bicentennial Celebration* in Philadelphia. Here, there is no longer a desire to communicate; the architecture is dissolved into an unstructured system of ephemeral signals. Instead of communication, there is a flux of information; instead of an architecture as language, there is an attempt to reduce it to a mass-medium, without any ideological residue; instead of an anxious effort to restructure the urban system, there is a disenchanted acceptance of reality, becoming an excess of purest cynicism. (Excess, after all, always carries a critical connotation.) In this fashion, Venturi, placing himself within an exclusively linguistic framework, has reached a radical devaluation of the language itself. The meaning of the Plakatwelt, of the world of publicity, is closed in on itself. He thereby achieves the symmetrically opposed result of that metaphysical retrieval of a "being" of architecture, extracted from the flux of existence. For Venturi, it is the non-utilization of language itself, having discovered that its intrinsic ambiguity, once having made contact with reality, makes illusory any and all pretexts of autonomy.
Manfredo Tafuri, "L'Architecture dans le Boudoir: The language of criticism and the criticism of language" (1974).
*The Venturi & Rauch project used to illustrate Tafuri's point is the International Bicentennial Exposition Master Plan (1971). Tafuri's words, however, seem to relate to both the International Bicentennial Exposition Master Plan and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway Celebration for 1976 (1972)--two distinct projects each for a different site in Philadelphia. Tafuri references the "American Bicentennial Celebration" to a feature of what is actually both Venturi & Rauch projects within a 1973 issue of L'architecture d'aujourd'hui magazine where it is easy to mistake the two projects as one single work. It's interesting then that Tafuri's salient point about an architecture "dissolved into an unstructured system of ephemeral signals" is based upon two distinct projects misperceived as one.
"To fabricate a house is to make an illusion," writes Hejduk in the margins of one of his 1973 studies for the Bye House. And, by way of explaining his Wall Houses, he states: "The wall is the most present condition possible. Life has to do with walls; we are continuously going in and out, back and forth, and through them; a wall is the 'quickest,' the 'thinnest,' the thing we are always transgressing, and that is why I see it as the present, the most surface, condition."
In fact, the protagonist of the Bye House is the wall which separates the residential block from the elongated storage area and curvilinear studio: it is one of the themes of House 10 rooted in turn in the hypothesis set forth with the first Wall House. Yet a word of caution: that wall--the most unreal part of the composition, the most dreamlike if only because it is free from any function--is the opposite of what it has been in the Renaissance--the perspective plane. Once again, and this time explicitly, Hejduk relies on the movie screen, which also serves as a painter's canvas for a spatial "counter-relief." Starting with the wall, from its very "unreality," everything is now possible: forms are set free from it but cannot help but be projected back onto it. No longer elementary geometries, but complex ones; yet, the articulation of the objects seems constrained, tied into the "empty field" of a bare and disquieting rectangle. The wall is the protagonist in as much as it is the element to be violated. Everything is forced back onto it, be it the thrust of the parallelepiped which is surrealistically suspended above ground, or be it the three superimposed residential blocks connected directly to the merciless wall. Three blocks, with three curved edges, clearly of Purist inspiration, and each one of different shape have holes cut into them that are more complex the simpler the volumes: in the rectangle, with rounded corners in the first-floor bedroom, the windows follow an organic contour; in the amoeba-like block of the dining room on the second floor, the rectangular windows are cut in a random fashion; in the upper living room block, a single long window sharply divides the volume. The independence of the forms may recall some of the Constructivists' work, such as the 1923 competition for the Leningradskaia Pravda building by Melnikov. But Hejduk's work does not tend toward the same kinetic exaggeration as does that of Melnikov. The forms which detach themselves from the wall challenge the obsessive presence of the wall itself. The Bye House heightens the sadist theorems of previous designs: the "transgression," which ought to liberate the forms, has as its only function the chaining of these forms to the same hallucinating sign which generates them.
Manfredo Tafuri, ""European Graffiti." Five x Five = Twenty-five" in Oppositions 5 (1976), p. 45.
Manfredo Tafuri, Architecture and Utopia - Design and Capitalist Development (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1976).
Manfredo Tafuri, Theories and History of Architecture (New York: Harper & Row, 1976).
Manfredi Tafuri, "Giuseppe Terragni: Subject and "Mask"" in Oppositions 11, 1978.
Manfredo Tafuri, "The Dialectics of the Avant-Garde: Piranesi and Eisenstein" in Oppositions 11, 1978.
Manfredo Tafuri, "Discordant Harmony: Alberti to Zuccari" in Architectural Design vol. 49 no. 5/6, 1979.
Manfredo Tafuri, "The 'Historical' Project" in in Oppositions 17, 1980.
Manfredo Tafuri, "The Uncertainties of Formalism: Victor Sklovskij and the Denuding of Art" in Architectural Design vol. 51 no. 5/7, 1981.
Tomas Liorens, "Manfredo Tafuri: Neo-Avant-Garde and History" in Architectural Design vol. 51 no. 5/7, 1981.
Manfredo Tafuri and Georges Teyssot, "Classical Meloncholies" in Architectural Design vol. 52 no. 5/6, 1982.
Manfredo Tafuri, "Architecture and 'Poverty'" in Architectural Design vol. 52 no. 7/8, 1982.
It is immediately apparent that this structure is composed of a formless heap of fragments colliding one against the other. The whole area between the Tiber, the Campidoglio, the Quirinale, and the Pincio is represented according to a method of arbitrary association (even though Piranesi accepts the suggestions of the Forma urbis), whose principles of organization exclude any organic unity.
Manfredo Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth - Avant-Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1987), p. 34.
Stanley Allen, "Piranesi's Campo Marzio: An Experimental Design" in Assemblage 10 (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, December 1989).
Robert Maxwell, "Manfredo Tafuri: The Role of Ideology" in Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1993), pp. 131-6.
from Jennifer Bloomer, Architecture and the text: the (s)crypts of Joyce and Piranesi (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993):
p.36: Benjamin's treatise is an "exasperated articulation of a theme [allegory] originally taken as an absolute," a critical experimentalism of Tafuri's type "E," the classification of "Piranesi's Iconographia Campi Martii, of many 'critical restorations' by Albini and Scarpa, of Kahn's last work. (Tafuri, Theories and History, 111).
Luca Galofara, Digital Eisenman : an office of the electronic era (Basel: Birkhäuser, 1999). pp. 18-23.
Fasolo, Vincenzo; architectural historian; b. July 5, 1885; d. November 6, 1969.
At the Sapienza University of Rome, where Tafuri studied, Vincenzo Fasolo (1885-1969) was a prominent architectural historian. He was the director of the Istituto di Storia dell'architettura of the Sapienza University and instigated the so-called 'Roman School of Architectural History'. Fasolo was an advocate of the conservative academic circles in Rome which were marked by a proverbial aversion to modernity. For example, the first Italian translations of the historical surveys composed by Pevsner and Giedion were con- sidered inappropriate reading material by most professors of architecture in Rome. However, while his teaching methods were severely criticized by Bruno Zevi, for example, Fasolo paradoxically saw himself as an innovator and a prophet of the modern. He did not stand for the 'false' modernity advocated by Giedion, Pevsner and some of his students, but for the truly modern presented in the great buildings of antiquity. For Fasolo, these buildings set the standard for a meta-historical canon. Every now and then, architects recognized the value of this and designed their buildings in accordance with the meta-historical canon. Fasolo claimed that only these exceptional buildings deserved the label 'modern'.
For Piranesi, Imagination Trumps Classical Boundaries
But the etchings help forge a broader philosophical argument. Piranesi's eccentric fantasies were intended as a challenge to the inflexible formal and social hierarchies embraced by most architects of his time. In his world the irrational and the arbitrary triumph over rational order. Architecture becomes a tool for visualizing a world filled with contradictions, not for resolving them.
That vision is summed up in his "Campo Marzio dell'Antica Roma," a series of plates in which he creates an imaginary map of Rome. The map is a virtual catalog of architectural styles and forms. There is no logic to it over all, only a collection of seemingly unrelated fragments. The imagination is unleashed on the city with terrifying force, with the few real temples, like the Pantheon and Colosseum, swallowed up in the anarchic disorder.
For the architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri these engravings offer a "painful journey into the labyrinth of history." Generations of architects followed Piranesi on that trip. While Sir John Soane, for one, may have warned his colleagues about the dangers of Piranesian excesses, his 1800 drawing of the vaulted chambers of his Bank of England building--heavy, somber, serious--owes much to Piranesi's influence.
The best is Mr. Eisenman, because his perspective seems the freshest and his reading of Piranesi is less literal. Rather than dwell on history, he snaps Piranesi into the present by focusing on his desire to break down the classical notion that the architectural parts must somehow add up to a cohesive whole. Some 250 years after Piranesi's engravings and sketches, it's remarkable how close his sensibility seems to that of Mr. Eisenman's contemporaries, who also struggled to break free of orthodoxies--in their case, Modernism and postmodernist classicism.
Today many architects seem trapped in another cage: the pull of international fame, wealthy clients and ever bigger commissions. Piranesi shows us that fantasy can have a more lasting impact than a concrete monument to the ego.
"In 1914, he (Le Corbusier) was polemically antinaturalistic in the design for the Dom-ino house, a model structure for low cost housing projects in reinforced concrete that is constructed from easily reproducible components and assures its occupants total independence. The Dom-ino house was both a conceptual simplification and a manifesto whose program Le Corbusier reworked over and over again, experimenting with its possibilities on an urban scale in the residential complex at Légé (1924)."
Tafuri and Del Co, Modern Architecture, New York: Henry N. Abrams, Inc., 1979, p. 133.
manifesto 1 obs : DEMONSTRATION, EVIDENCE 2 : a public declaration of intentions, motives, or views : a public statement of policy or opinion
"In the face of the machine. Le Corbusier experienced the same intoxication as the avant-garde, but without their bewilderment and disorientation. When he exalted the aesthetic of the engineers or the functional purism of industrial silos, it was for his own purposes. Where Perret and Garnier stopped, his meditation on spontanéité moderne began; where the Vienna Werkstätte left off in their experimentation with form, the poetic eagerness of Le Corbusier founded a language free of all fiction. His strong feeling for "sincerity" exploited the antiornament polemic of Loos for his own ends: to liberate architecture from the renunciations of Loos, but also to dispel the anxieties of the avant-garde in the face of the machine universe, these were the complementary aims of his personal utopia. The machine à habiter was the trail balloon announcing the poetic, allegorical, liberarian relationship the Le Corbusier was instituting with the modern nightmares."
Tafuri and Del Co, op cited, p. 136.
"The purist polemic took its stance on a basic hypothesis: the necessity for overcoming the tautologies of the Cubist experience by a return to "classical" models.
Tafuri and Del Co, op cited, p. 136.
"In the Villa Stein in Garches (1927), the play of the juxtopositions is set into a initary volume and rationalized by the pointed structure of the uprights and the cylinders of the staircases; but plastically autonomous sections detach themselves from the elementary main structure. The tension generated by the dialectic between the regular outlines and such oneric exceptions makes one perceive the interior spaces of the villa as a sucesssion of events: entire portions unexpectedly enter into dialogue with the green area around the house and with forms that cancel out any discontinuity between the real and the unreal.
Such petrification of artifice reached its climax in the Savoye house in Poissy, built between 1929 and 1931. As total object it has something of the completeness of a piece of sculpture. The sighs characteristic of Purist composition here take on material consistency. The white structure, furrowed by horizontal bands of windows, is separated off from nature by being raised on IpilotisI (slender columns), but the seemingly compact closed square box of the exterior is a fiction; the interior is slached through by a continuous ramp winding upward to the variously shaped structures on the upper terrace. But the ramp also makes clear the continuity of the spaces it fragmants: dividing their form but connecting their signs, it is the symbolic locus of an initiatory ritual and is to be disciphered by reconstructing intellectually the dialetic that erodes in the nature-as-sculpture of the sun deck. An uninterrupted succession of surprising spaces, the Villa Savoye shocks the habitual thinking of the spectator. In every possible way it strives to appropriate to itself an artificial universe of signs capable of absorbing unconscious pultions. And it is precisely a luxurous object of contemplation that the villa assumes the presence of a public as an integral part of its own landscape, though not to arouse its reactions but only to make it aware of its own destiny as object among objects. This then is the form of the machinist civilization, the sole natural condition possible."
Tafuri and Del Co, op cited, p. 140.