Panta Rei – Is Architecture changing?

“Architecture is not art; it is public. Art is the private affair of the artist.

Adolf Loss


“Starting from this quote of Adolf Loos, one of the most famous exponent of modernism movement, is clear that Art and Architecture are defenitely two autonomous disciplines, one considered on the public sphere, while the other one seen as a “private affair” – something intimate, personal, not necessarly to be shared and understood by others.

Kant defines art as a “kind of representation that is purposive in itself and, through without an end, nevertheless promotes the cultivation of the mental powers for sociable communication” (Kant, Critique of Judgemnt).
Referring to what stated, is possible to infer from Kant’s words that even if artists always are requested to answer theoretical questions of relevance in their work they don’t have to care about the efficiency or the utilitary of their masterpiece – it is a starting point for a theoretical discussion, so the main objective is to create new inputs and reflections to push the debate.

Architecture, on the other hand, can be seen as one of the disciplines concerning overall two main subjects: space and human being.
If space can be seen as the raw material of the architectural practice, man is the final beneficiary of this spatial manipulation, so a strong weight has to be given also to the idea of praticality and usefulness: the value of a building will always be calibrated taking in account not just the subjective perceptions of the observer of the architect’s work, but also the clearness of technical solutions and the comfort of all the different functions that it is supposed to host.

Are Art and Architecture changing today?
Where can be seen an overlap of the disciplines? Why?

The projectual crisis of present day derives from the atmosphere of unsureness that is characterizing the post-modern view of the world and that compromised the traditional role of Architecture – based on the effort to formalize well defined hypotheses to be implemented as strict rules.

When in Manifesto of Futurist Architecture (1914) Antonio Sant’Elia stated: “Things will endure less than us” he aimed to explain how the sense of monumentalism, stillness and heaviness is definitively lost. Now, our sensibility should be directed to the new principles of lightness, dynamism and velocity – the constant renewal of the architectonic environment will be caracterized by caducity.

Sant'Elia, La città nuova, 1914

Sant’Elia, La città nuova, 1914

In this wide context, the architect has to become aware of a reality where he creates and shapes the matter, like a contemporary platonic Demiurgo, knowing that the final result will have a short life.

One contemporary example of this new way to approach the discipline are ephemeral architectural installations.

The spatial concept at the base of the dynamism of architecture arises from the constant interaction between space and men, where the new idea of space is characterized from instable elements, able to create different suggestions depending on the visual angle.

An historical premise of this architectural– or art – movement can be seen in the works of architects that changed the basis of the discipline. Just think at the intellectual invention of Parc de la Villette planned by Bernard Tschumi or at the Fun Palace designed by Cedric Price. The changing notion of architectural space is now intended as an “organization of spaces and events”, where movement and subjective perceptions become the main compositional elements – the idea of architecture as a static entity is now overcomed. Indeed, the architect has to create new stimuli fo the users, allowing them to be the main actors of the mutation and transformation of reality.

Bernard Tschumi, K-Series, 1985

Bernard Tschumi, K-Series, 1985

But what about the functionalism of architecture?

According to Tschumi, the short half-life of function and the impossibility to know beforehand how people will use a building or place are chief examples of “disorder, collisions and unpredictabilities entering the field of architecture”. He stated: “I would therefore suggest that there has never been any reason to doubt the necessity of architecture, for the necessity of architecture is its non-necessity. It is useless, but radically so. Its radicalism constitutes its very strength in a society where profit is prevalent”. The purpose of this new architecture is to give a new meaning to the cultural message given from the practice. It is a separation from reality that allows to reconstruct new values inside itself.

Coming back to the theme of the ephemeral architectural installation – can they be considered architecture or are they just art? Artists like Cristo, Tiago Barros, Kas Oosterhuis, Tomas Saraceno, Otto Frey and Anish Kapour give shape to space and make lots of reflection on the interaction between man and space, space and emotions, emotions and architecture, architecture and movement but can their work be considered architecture?

Arata Isozaki, Anish Kapoor, Ark Nova, 2012

Arata Isozaki, Anish Kapoor, Ark Nova, 2012

Personally, I think that the limit is really thin and mutable – even if the substantial difference between artists’ and architects’ spaces is that the second ones have an utility and some contents,

Furthermore, about the philosophical concepts of autonomy and heteronomy art is autonomous while architecture, urban planning and all the different aspects of the design discipline are heteronomous, even if is possible to change rapidly from one to the other.

Nowadays, is necessary to face the evolution of architecture and to re-define the relationship between project and time: that is somehow one of the main point of ephemeral installations. The challenge has to be seen in the interdependence of shape, project and time.
First of all the designer should take in account the direction that the project should follow. This foundamental element is given by a mix of various knowledges, that allow the contemprary architect to undersand the continous renewal of Architecture.

To design is like to built a brige connecting past and future, expressing every time new and different meanings. If architecture is the mirror of society and society is always changing, the projectual process has to be inserted in this dynamic of transformation and innovation. It is necessary to keep alive the critic attention without forgetting the path already crossed, in order to improve the one that we still have to follow.


Author: Laura Zura Puntaroni

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