Discussion on modern and contemporary architectural media
As mediums of disciplinary claims, manifestos can be said to be a shifting spectrum within our field of communicative apparatus with pronouns pointing in direction of the place and time of utterance and objects of concerns.
This particular essay attempts to critically analyse the modern and contemporary architectural media with a prior attention to the print media and journals. It reveals how the particular conventions and techniques of representation in architectural journals, across image and text and in their interrelationship, frame and construct a discourse about architecture. The possibilities and limitations of these journals have been explored in this essay. I explore the possibilities and limitations of the journals as platforms for critical discussion and documentary practice within the sphere of architecture, and provide an alternative theoretical framework through which to assess their value as objects of architectural history. The core aim of the essay is, however, to rethink the journal page as a site of complexity, as ambiguous representation, poised between the editorial determinations and discursive limits of profession, institution and commerce on the one hand, and the creative and critical strategies, and architectural desires of ‘independent’ contributors on the other hand different view points of the authors are dicussed elaborately in order to get the hold of their stance on the contemporary architecture of their contemporary time.
With the modern development and rapid spread of technology as a medium for media, architectural publications particularly the print media of architectural journals have allowed architectural theorist and scholars to develop their manifestos. Today the architectural manifesto has lost its relevance to the architects but it is important for the architects to remember the debate that emerges from a few polemical views of those manifestoes. Although according to few experts the manifesto has indeed suffered an unavoidable fate because it has unable to embrace the multitudinous difficulties which the architects are facing today, the manifesto in its very essence indicates an uncompromising upcoming change. It offers a platform that can help in isolating the challenges and possible procedures to deal with them.
In my essay I Examine manifestoes the different journal mediations referred to in each the manifestos and how they have shaped the writers conceptions and contribution to the development of architectural theory over time.
This is evident pre-1968 in Antonio Sant’Elia’s ‘Futurist Architecture’, and post 1968 in bothKarstenHarries’s ‘The ethical function of architecture’ and Deborah Berke’s ‘Thoughts on the Everyday’ each of the texts utilizing differnet mechanisms to present their philosophies that were essential for the conception of the current period. The following manifestos utilize different mechanisms and techniques to convey their notions. It is important for us to understand these manifestos perhaps because it is relevantly helpful in understanding the changing trend in the arena of architecture. The journals from different period of time helps to view the architectural background from different perspective and helps to identify the undergoing changes which is relevant in this area of study.
Antonio Sant’Elia/ Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Futurist Architecture– 1914
Futurist architecture is a new approach towards the development of the history of architecture. Futuristic approach originated from a tendency that rejects the traditional establishment present in the earlier aesthetic. Futurist architecture introduced new methods based on two issues of optimal importance that are motion and machine(Giacomelli,Godoli& Pelosi, 2017). For five years the Futurists chided on anachronism of the museum cities before they encountered an architect who realized the dimension of their vision. Sant’Elia is considered to be one of the visionaries of the futurist architecture. His projects were purely visionary and theoretical as no evidence of futurist building was ever found(Giacomelli,Godoli& Pelosi, 2017). The futurist movement was among the cultural excitement which focuses on acquiring all artistic areas of production.
This manifesto was originally published in May 1914 by Sant’Elia as a short ‘Messaggio’ in the catalogue of an exhibition of his drawings Città Nuova. It only became a manifesto when Marinetti republished it as a ‘Manifesto of Futurist Architecture’ in late July of the same year, after expanding and re-editing Sant’Elias text (Buckley, 2014). The 1914 Manifesto of Futurist Movement elevated the status of Antonio Sant’Elia who is the illustrator and author of the manifesto(Yuan & Xing, 2014). After two years of his tragic death in World War I, he was promoted as the pioneering figure of Futurist Architecture by F.T Marinetti who was the founding figure of the Italian Futurists. Marinneti’s claim can not be considered to be entirely accurate though it is partially true.
Sant’Elia“ …not by foolishly adhering to the rules of Vitruvius”
Marrinetti concludes the manifesto with a collection of Sant’Eliasillustrations of what he aspired a futurist city to look like. The drawings become a medium that provided the readers the opportunity to have the vision that Marinetti had and functions to conciliate between the textual debate and the imagination of the readers. The language and the picturesque description of the audience are urged to equate the drawings of the futurist city with the manifestos claims and declarations, thus enriching their visualization of Sant’Elia’s futurist vision. Although none of Sant’Elias futurist buildings were built, the dissemination of his drawings was enough to make a profound effect on the architectural discoursethroughout the twentieth century, its influence exceeded the architectural discipline to reach the film industry inspiring films such as Metropolis. The manifesto has provided a scope for the media to have the vision of a futurist city that is to a certain extent removed from the reality as the film is set against the background of a highly stylied Futuristic city and the metaphorical connotation of this modernist city is that this cultured utopia is established upon a bleak underworld which is populated by the mistreated workers.
The written message of 1914 was further presented clearly as a set of propositions that was incorporated into the 1920s manifesto. Futurist architecture can be considered to be architecture of calculation consisting of both simplistic and audacious temerity and it facilitates the possibility of flexibility and lightness and it negates traditional and classical approach of architecture(Alexander, 2014). This architecture remains to be an art of expression and synthesis and the decoration value of this form highly depends on the utilization of the raw materials and the arrangement of the bare and violently colored materials. The elliptic and oblique lines go through a change which provides a powerful motion which is stronger when compared to perpendiculars and horizontals.
The architecture of style and the preservation attitude gets disapproved by the futuristic approach. One must ask, if Marinetti hadn’t published Sant’Elias manifesto, had it gained the recognition it did? It can be said that Marinetti not only published Sant'Elia's manifesto he also incorporated his own ideas to the futuristic approach that Sant'Elia generated in his manifesto. In this manifesto the vivid and robust language have the picturesqueness that helps to understand different architectural designs that he describes. The language has been used in such a manner that it can outline the different aspect of the architectural trends relevant throughout the ages. At the end of the discussion a drawing is found which depicts the idea of the Futuristic city that Marinetti transcribed in the manifesto. Through the drawing Marinetti opportunes the readers to have the vision of the modern futurist city which is very different from the tradtional structural design of classical architecture.
KarstenHarries ,The Ethical Function of Architecture –1975
Similarly, KarstenHarries utilisesmultiple media platforms to disseminate histheories, developing it over the years. Initially, he publishes the essay / Manifesto in 1975 where he uses an array of persuasive language techniques to help deliver his idea that Architecture’s ethical function is to enunciate the moral purpose to allow humans to live. Later in 1984, a longer journal article with the same title was published, where he expanding his initial ideas in the 1975 article. over the course of time he expanded and developed the philosophical ideas associated with Architecture and finally in 1997 published his book.
Looking into the manifesto itself, one can see a thread of network of ideas, sequenced into a critique of what was the current state of the architectural discipline.
In "Sphere and Cross" Harries elaborates the practical or rather impractical idea of spherical houses that originated in the works of Claude Nicolas Ledoux's experimental designs of the spherical house. Harries' philosophical overview of life and human beings as ephimeral beings, free of tyranny of place and being capable of flying accross is justified by the utopian spherical designs which is metaphorical to the fact that Pantheon's spherical souls is not limited to the earthbound body rather it achieves freedom from the body through mobility.
Man has developed architecture as a means to create an environment which structures human’s everyday activity. Architecturedetermines how man is to live on this planet
- Architecture is a product of human activity, yet it helps to create the setting which shapes mans activities. To build is to help decide how man is to dwell on the earth
- The mobility of the era has influenced the writer as he consistently talks about the mobile houses and he also visualises the future archtecture in the movable or portable vans that is represented in the manner of a house. The language used in this manifesto has poetic quality. Words like "ephimeral" helps the readers to understand the mobility of the houses that Karsten Harries is trying to portray.
- At the end of the manifesto, Harries places two contrasting photographs at the end of the article. Both of the photographs are taken by Douglas Ballon, one is the photo of The University of Stockholm and the other one is the photograph of Mark twain house. These two contrasting photographs portray his overall philosophical argument in a nutshell. The first photograph represents the idea of the nechanized building which is the byproduct of progressive civilization and the next one represents the internal aspect or what can be considered to be “home” or abode or dwelling.
He argues that can architecture be helpful in finding our place and way in this complex world. Philosopher Karsten Harries states that architecture needs to serve a common ethos and in order to do so it needs to free itself from the dogma of the formalistic approach and go beyond the notion of its purpose to create endless variation of several decorations(Alexander, 2014). With the help of a series of balanced and concrete arguments, he enquires the basic premises on which the theories of architectures are based. The canonical premises which are the major contributors in the identity crisis of the current architects are directly questioned by him. Firstly, he attacks the aesthetic approach of architecture criticizing the ornamentation and decoration existing in this field.
He then goes on and turns to the language which is used in architecture. He questions if the primary task of architecture is to speak then what is it speaking about. Harries expands on the former ideas possessed by Heideggar and relates the idea of building with the idea and meaning of residence or dwelling. According to his observation, architecture has a responsibility to the community. In spite of the prevailing responsibility ethical and political function is also relevant(Buckley, 2014).
Karsten Harries predominantly relates architecture with philosophy and desires to particularize every construction as a subset of architecture in order to apprehend that the impulse of destruction can also advocate an architectural entity(Buckley, 2014).
Deborah Berke, Thought on the Everyday– 1997
Deborah Berke’sThoughts on the everydaywhich is extracted from her published book ‘Architecture of the Everyday’, explores concern over branded architecture and the effect of advertising on individuals lives. Much like many manifesto’s she makes multiple references to reinforce her ideas. Although the book was published in 1997, the journal articles and architectural publications some dating back 1966, have allowed the progression of her Post modernist approach of Architectural designs.
Berke uses analogies and jargon to voice her concern over branded architecture and the effect of advertising on individuals lives. She makes references to Venturis ‘Learning from Las Vegas’. The impulse of this book catches the spirit of post modernism and Berke through her analogies provides a view of the Post-modernistic approach of architecture that is mundane and "everyday". She criticies the idea of the pompous and robust architecture that is relevant in this age of artificiality. This manifesto sheds light on the fact that adverstisment and media that manipulates the idea of the heroism and how fame is valued. In a critical and sarcastic tone she argues that due to such nature of Advertising the architects of today are also requires to be celebrities in order to build. Use of simple and prosaic language is evident in this manifesto. The language is devoid of any kind of ornamentation just like the Post modern architecture of everyday that is precisely "banal" or "common".
In ‘thoughts on Everyday” she lends her voice in order to indicate her concern over “the usurpation of the everyday by advertising”. Berke comments that the trend of ‘signature building’ is gradually increasing and it is resulting the architecture to be “high profile celebrity products”. According to Berke architecture is far removed from being ‘name brands’ and architecture of everyday strongly sustains the practical realities of this discipline. This privileges the occupants through the consideration of materiality and program. In the article she noticeably points out the possible characteristics of an everyday architecture and that includes “generic”, “common” and “vulgar” terms which reminds the readers of Robert Venturi and D.S Brown’s urge for the everyday architecture which is deliberately “ugly and ordinary architecture”( Berke, 1997). But it is evident Berke’s views quite dramatically differs from that of Venturi and Brown and their respective approaches to popular culture. Brown identified advertisement to be a source of information about what people desire. However, Berke refuses to identify “successful marketing” with “popular culture” which can considered to be questioningthe relationship between everyday culture and mass culture(Berke, 1997).
“Thoughts on the Everyday” can be conceived partially a manifesto and partially as a journal entry and it echoes the candor of the past without any pretension of the latter. It also critics the “paper architecture” that existed in previous decades and also the evident theoretical musings on architecture which are entirely conceptual. Berke meticulously remarked that architecture of everyday can be “banal”, “crude” as well as “visceral” and according to her such architecture “is functional”( Berke, 1997).
An architecture of everyday can be attractive but it lies in the rejection of the star architecture and aggressive mainstream culture. Apart from the apparent generalities, everyday architecture is also very much problematic because the difficulty lies in defining the architecture. It is difficult to outline the definition of architecture of everyday through prescriptive codes of architecture. The ambiguity lies in the fact that the readers ponders upon the fact “what, indeed, is an architecture of the everyday?” Architecture of everyday can be quite common and be “quite ordinary” which helps it to belong entirely “of its moment”( Berke, 1997). In spite of being influenced by the contemporary market trends it restricts the definition. She argues that every aspect of reality is some way or the other being mediated by several hindrances and the architects need to absorb the vitality of the art and the aspects of everyday life which are not necessarily pompous or grand need to reflect in the architecture of everyday. Another important fact which requires attention is that she identifies that this type of architecture can not be considered as “naïve” and such assumption can be as vague as to “confuse it with a sugary and debased notion of vernacular”( Berke, 1997).
Manifestos have been a key Mechanism by which architects articulate claims upon the discipline but also upon society more broadly. However, one may observe that none of these manifestos are autonomous and independent of other literatures. Whether critiquing, or reinforcing another philosophy, manifestos are produced by a network of relations.
In conclusion, one must pose the question, what is the future of architectural publication?
Initially, it needs to be addressed that without the pertinent archive of the literature (and the journals discussed here was one of the cardinal components of that), one cannot fathom the impulse of architecture and subsequent publication of those. However, the trend that the scholars have exhibited pertain an embedded intent to blame our basic amenity of comfortable living as smug and purposive.
Though it has been evidently identified that the décor that the scholars are critically obsessed about bears no enmity with the notion of comfortable living. In the advent of this study, the evolution of architectural trends has been evaluated against the flagrant shift of philosophical trends as well. Furthermore, this study also wish to reflect the sheer imperativeness of these critical analyses in order to anticipate or procure an insight about the upcoming architectural textures.