The Philadelphia School, deterritorialized


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Manfredo Tafuri

"L'Architecture dans le Boudoir: The language of criticism and..."

2005.05.05 11:08
Koolhaas versus the Actor
...just did a very quick scan of l'architecture dans le boudoir, and it seems a very good reference point, and a very good point of departure for further investigation regarding architecture and reenactment. (Thanks very much for making the contribution.) Now, taking l'architecture dans le boudoir and the non-Tafuri reading of the Campo Marzio plan may indeed deliver heretofore unexpected fruitful results in terms of understanding all the mid-late 20th architecture that Tafuri writes about.
Now I have to thoroughly re-read the essay, plus go through the A+U on De Feo in Quondam's collection, plus look closely at the Designs for the Bicentennial by Venturi and Rauch, plus republish those "Stirling's Legacy" essays that used to be at Quondam, and who knows what else.

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.



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