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Avant Garde Studies
Crisis: Late Middle English denoting the turning point of a disease; medical Latin from Greek krisis ‘decision’, from krinein ‘decide’; the general sense ‘decisive point’ dates from the early 17th century - Oxford Dictionary........ This paper proposes and discusses an architectural ‘avant-garde’ agency model causing, deriving from, thus entangled with enacted crisis narrations, narratives that cut apart pastfuture towards imaginary prospects within/from the architectural discipline. The first section concentrates in the architectural ‘avant-garde’ agency idea through a selected matrix of classic (English written and translated) Western European architectural histories and theories, and specifically Italian ones of the nineteen-sixties and seventies (Benevolo 1960/1971; Branzi 1972/2013; Tafuri 1968/1980, 1969/1998, 1973/1976, 1976/1979). It elaborates their pastfuture crisis driven ontology and their political source of reflections, objectives and character, that stands separate to language-formal driven ones as well as to the architectural ‘avant-garde’ empty signifier of the slipshod framework in which the term appears in architectural literature. The second section elaborates a deriving from the above architectural ‘avant-garde’ agency model as intra-active crisis narration. Through Barad's axes of diffraction and spacetimemattering, it aims at creating a genealogical and a navigational tool of insights to the architectural ‘avant-garde’, the politically driven one, within the Italian context of the period, offering insight about the way in which such agency offers a generalizing model for the architectural ‘avant-garde’. The paper aims within its limited space at an outline of an architectural ‘avant-garde’ intra-active agency that is based and enabled by a selected terminological historiography of architectural ‘avant-gardes,’ and is supported by the agential model.
In the context of 'The Idea of the Avant Garde - And What It Means Today' of the edited volume, this essay considers the role that professionals play or could play to a polycentric rearrangement of values and power positions. To these ends, it discusses the question of autonomy understood in political and professional terms and elaborates the open interventional network of professionals of exigency and forums of commonality as framework in which probable change of energies can occur, along with the nuances and limitations pertaining to it.
This paper elaborates a key issue within the interdisciplinary discursive field of the avant-garde, namely, progress, through the way it unfolds, and the forms it takes in conceptions and avant-garde theories in culture, and in architectural culture. With the chronological unfolding of selected avant-garde theoretical postulates of the two fields, and by discussing the types of progress they enable, it aims at creating a genealogical and a navigational tool of correlations, open questions or insights to 'smart' progress. The first section concentrates in the cultural avant-garde discourse so as to discuss progress, map its six spheres of activity, and argue about the way they inform three main theories of the avant-garde. It summarizes their main attributes, and extends them over to current cultural conceptions of technological and scientific progress. The second section focuses on architectural culture, specifically, history, theory, criticism. While the architectural avant-garde has not been sufficiently examined, and fundamental elusiveness pervades its understanding, it elaborates its main nature as empty signifier. Then it summarizes the few literatures that elaborate the avant-garde, and discusses two of them, in the way they relate to the six spheres of progress and to the cultural avant-garde's attributes. First, the work of Manfredo Tafuri, and mainly the 1973 Architecture and Utopia, as a fragmentary concept of the architectural avant-garde; and second, the 2011 Autopoiesis of Schumacher, as a first architectural avant-garde theory. The final section summarizes the key aspects of the above sections as an interrelation of avant-garde theories in culture, of architectural avant-garde theories, and of the spheres of progress, in such a manner so as to allow creative speculations on the development of 'smartness.'
Architecture competitions can, as experimental processes, be seen as epistemic spaces for the production of disciplinary knowledge. Building on the model developed by philosopher of science Bruno Latour, highlighting the transfers of power between the scientific laboratory and the world, architecture competitions can be used as political levers enabling work within the laboratory to expand beyond its walls in order to transform the world. This essay examines the architectural competitions projects understood as 'avant-garde' in a corpus of architectural writings published from 1932 to 2012, and highlights those critical aspects that allow their ideological and cultural function unfold towards the transformative powers of the discipline and of its becoming as political lever.
From the early twentieth century, the avant-garde forms an important cultural and interdisciplinary subsystem with a strong impact on architecture. However, it is mainly in the sixties that the term 'avant-garde' starts describing architects, groups, and material and immaterial productions of the latter-simultaneously associated with and distant from wide cultural avant-garde circles of their time. While not underestimating the ambivalence that the question ‘what is the avant-garde’ still has in the arts and the literary field today, if it is a historic category or an ongoing project, and if so, what defines this project, a respective straightforward enquiry did not yet amply preoccupy the architectural field. Even so, the sixties mark a shift. It is the period when the term enters into architectural history books and writings of theory and criticism. A disciplinary consciousness of the phenomenon is now manifest along with the term's appropriation as endogenous architectural quality. A terminological approach to the avant-garde of the sixties provides tools for detecting its patterns of formation and ideological constructions, and for uncovering how these may even shape avant-garde's understanding up to the present.