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Climate change advances with the using up of fossil fuel resources. The process powers a growth economy that works because it uses up whatever resource with financed investments to make profit, which in turn increases social inequality. So far so good, for some perhaps, but our present order is not a very durable utopia. Once more we bump into questions of purpose. The present essay is more precisely about the purpose, the IDEAL in design, and how such idealism relates to architecture and development. This was the topic of Manfredo Tafuri’s epoch-making [Architecture and Utopia – Design and Capitalist Development]. Tafuri’s critique on the ideology of architecture was comprehensive, substantial and so convincing that many architects reacted in irritation. Tafuri had proposed the ultimate and final end, the ‘death’ of architecture. Tafuri’s book is a compact, condensed and complex text, not easy reading, as his arguments are far-reaching, profound, and sometimes just difficult to grasp. The many figures that illustrate his point however, clarify a lot. This essay follows the course of the book and explains the main historical point of departure; it also gives a few of Tafuri’s key illustrations in better print. Finally, it is explained why Tafuri's critical analysis is still relevant today. (Published in the Journal of Environmental Studies, Vol.65 (2020) : 39-58).
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환경논총 제 65권
Architecture and Utopia
Climate change advanceswith the using up of fossil fuel resources.The
processpowersagrowtheconomy that works becauseit uses up whatever
resourcewith financed investmentsto makeprofit,which in turn increases
social inequality. So far so good,for some perhaps,but our presentorderis
notaverydurableutopia. Oncemorewe bumpinto questionsof purpose.
The presentessay is morepreciselyabout the purpose, the
in design,
and howsuch idealism relatesto well-being,architectureand development.
This wasthe topic of Tafuri’sepoch-making analysisof the 1970s. Manfredo
Tafuri(1935-1994) wasan Italian universityprofessormostactivesince
the 1960s when studentmovementsbegancriticizing the established
orderof capitalism. Tafuri’scritique on the ideology of architecturewas
comprehensive,substantialand so convincing that many architectsreacted
in irritation1).Tafurihad proposedthe ultimate and final end, the ‘death’ of
architecture.[Fig. 1]
Fig.1 ManfredoTafuriassassinated
archi t e cture. Draw i n g
Archi t ettura
by Aldo Rossi,February27,
1974 (
, 2013 july)
(Dept.of LandscapeArchitecture
GraduateSchoolof EnvironmentalStudies
Seoul National University)
Wybe Kuitert
Architecture and Utopia
(환경논총 / 環境論叢 65)
ISSN 1226-9000 (print) / 2288-548X (digital)
Journal of Environmental Studies
65 (2020) : 39-58
40 41
환경논총 제 65권
According to Tafuri the driving force that leads to the rise of something
called architecture, is the money economy and its growth, while cities are
expanding. Tafuri sees the development and organization of society as being
determined to a high degree by such material foundations of that society,
such as technology, and (industrial) production including the production
of architecture and urban planning. The strength of this basically Marxist
approach is that Tafuri is able to reconstruct the history of architecture
viewed from the outside – although he is an architect himself and can judge
from within. Histories of architecture of the time were written by art or
architecture historians that viewed architecture as a movement in itself.
Hitchcock, Benevolo, or Scully for example saw the history of constructed
buildings as a series of experiments and successes in the design practice,
so that prospective designers could study it to find hints and inspirations
With growing population in Europe of the eighteenth century, the
disorderly and uncontrolled growth of cities became more and more important
Architectureand Utopia Designand CapitalistDevelopment
published in Italian in 1973 with an English translationof 1976 is amost
precisereportof his ideas2).It is acompact,condensed and complextext,
noteasyreading,as his argumentsarefar-reaching,profound,and sometimes
justdifficult to grasp.The many figuresthat illustratehis point however,clarify
alot.This essay roughlyfollowsthe courseof the bookthat has ahistorical
point of departureand givesafewof Tafuri’skeyillustrationsin betterprint.
1) Koolhaas in an interviewwith Hans vanDijk in 1978: “I have astrongimpressionthatTafuriand his
,Guis. Laterza&Figli, Bari, 1973 with itsEnglish translation:Tafuri,Manfredo,(1976),
Architectureand UtopiaDesign and CapitalistDevelopment
,MIT Press,Cambridge,Mass.; London,
Availableonline as PDF: https://modernistarchitecture.󽗉
for their ownfutureprojects3).Tafurithough does notgetinto such analysis
but defines awider conceptof ‘design’
in Tafuri’sItalian), and
explainshowthe eighteenth century Enlightenment and Reason setthis
design freefromthe classical traditionto servethe bourgeoisie,and howthis
wasrepeatedin the 1920s-1930s and once morein the 1960s. This cyclical
antagonisticprocessbetweencapitalism and design provesthe failureof
idealism in avant-gardearchitecture,design, and evenphilosophy.
coversthis wider field. The cycleis repeatedagain in our dayswherethe only
ideal for an architectis designing an out-of-the-boxiconic design spectacle
and philosophersdazzle their adherentswith spectacularphraseswithout
leavingany substantiallegacy. Tafuri’sconclusivepoint of viewis that the
moneyeconomy has strippedthe architectof his utopian task, locating
the failureof such utopian ideals the idealism of intellectuals,architects,
designers,or philosophersin the historicalstreamof capitalistdevelopment
that requiredan urban planning and an architecturethat should be non-
ideological and focused on function.Let’ssee in moredetailhowthis general
conclusion is framed.
3) Hitchcock,Henry-Russell,
Architecture:Nineteenthand TwentiethCenturies
(Historyof Modern Architecture),Editori
Scully, Vincent,
Modern Architecture-The Architectureof Democracy
42 43
환경논총 제 65권
5) Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728 – 1799), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736 – 1806), Jean-Nicolas-Louis
Durand (1760 – 1834)
London and Westminster improvements
proposed in the 1770s as monumental
insertions in a chaotic urban plan
(Plan by John Gwynn, London Royal
Collection trust)
Fig.3 Monumental insertions in the chaotic
urban plan of Paris
(Pierre Patte,
Monumens e
s en France
la gloire de Louis XV
... Paris, 1767, p.286.
Fig 4 The shocking chaos of architecture
without order was proposed by Piranesi
Le Carceri d'Invenzione
second edition
1761, no.11. From
, May 2017)
architecture by Ledoux, Boulle
e, Durand5), or the imaginations of Giovanni
Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). [Fig. 4]
These artists and authors introduced the idea that architecture or the city
can be something without structure and without one greater meaning and that
it may generate a whole complex of coexisting meanings exactly because
to economy so that the city tookarepresentativerolefor the nation as a
whole. Unbridled capitalism in the metropolis,the big city, broughtabsolute
alienation and did notleaveavant-gardistsany roomto dreamabout ideals.
Forthe Enlightenment the questionrosethereforehowarchitectureas a
searchfor ordercould be understoodwithin acity with its inherenttendency
to formlessness. Avant-gardistsbeganto constructamediating rolethat
could mitigate the social and economic negativeeffectsthat resultfrom
capitalism. To be able to graspthe purpose of such arolethe industrial
processesthat generatecity and architecturehad to be understood
precisely.If understoodpreciselythe anguish that the metropolisinflictsto
the bourgeoisiepsychologycould be wardedoff. Thereforeavant-gardists
to understandand imagine these processesand from
deconstructionre-designedagain. Againstthe artificial and conventional
architecturallanguage of his time that wasin searchof classical order,Marc-
Antoine Laugier(1713 1769) deconstructedarchitectureas built from
naturallogs of trees.The city in his vision becamea‘forestwhereincreasing
variety,abundance,contrastand disorderin composition, generatedmore
‘piquant and delicious’ beauty4).Plans for the improvementof Londonor
Paris,dating fromthe 1770s illustratethe same idea of disorderand orderin
deconstruction.[Fig. 2] [Fig. 3]
4) MarcAntoineLaugier,
Essai sur l’architecture
(éd. originale 1755), EditionsMardaga,Bruxelles,1979
que Nationale de France
In the English gardenof this periodwe see asimilar loss of classic
conventionin the chaoticstylesof follies. These areon purpose shocking;
it is notarchitecturewith agrandmessage. Laugier'scity toonegated the
axis and symmetryof baroquecity planning, basically theold styleof kings
and emperors.Similar design after deconstructionis seen with experimental
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환경논총 제 65권
of being chaotic. In processes towards Enlightenment such deconstruction
was required: it was taking reality apart to be able to reconstruct a new
bourgeoisie ideal that did away with classical ideals of beauty. We can
see this epitomized in the Crescent in Bath (UK), an apartment housing
development that ignores the ugliness of the city and seems like a giant, out-
of-scale folly set in a landscape garden. [Fig. 5]
Fig. 5 Apartment development as landscape
garden folly: Lansdown Crescent, Bath, UK
Tafuri sees this as a necessary historical mechanism where architecture
has to be inserted into a bourgeoisie practice, so that the architect comes to
take up the role of a social innovator, someone who sees ugly society a little
bit from a distance and in the end, as mediator can develop a program. The
program’s ideals are utility, salubrity, well-being, and good order of civil life.
Architecture according to such a program is precisely what the bourgeoisie
likes and needs. So art and architecture took two opposite roads in Europe.
On the one hand there was a search deeply into reality to expose its misery
and values by means of deconstruction (Laugier, Piranesi); on the other
hand there was the road beyond the existing to invent new realities serving
bourgeois architecture production6). In America the old European values were
Fig 6 Early Washington was an anti-urban
endeavor to organize the meaning of public
buildings within an Arcadian setting
(William James Bennett 1843, View of
The Thinking Housewife
re-inventedto takeathirddirectionin betweenthese tworoads.Jefferson
proposedthe institutionaland pedagogicalvaluesof architectureand urban
planning. He proposedReason of the Enlightenment as afoundationto
organizecultureand to design public buildings and newcities. In building a
societyhe wasutopian in so far that he foundedhis ideas on agrarianand
anti-urban politics. This wasbasically out of fear for the old Europeancity
with its unbridledcapitalism that led to filthy labourersquartersand an
urban proletariat.This fear made for an ambiguous conscience of American
intellectualsacknowledgingthe foundationsof democracybut ignoring the
concretemanifestationsof capitalism. In otherwords,it is the contradiction
of the freedomand libertyof the
that is neverthelesscontrolledby
that votes.It readsin the planning scheme of Washington
that followsEuropeanBaroqueabsolutistideals making the city into one
comprehensivearchitecturalstatement,seen in contrastwith the grid
planning of NewYork.WhereasWashingtonbecameaJeffersoniananti-
urban city of monuments,in NewYorkarchitectureand urban planning were
completelyseparatedefforts, becauseof the grid plan of blocks.NewYork
thus allowedfor freeand capitalistexplorationof architecturewithin the grid
as an exponentof free-tradepolitics. [Fig. 6] [Fig. 7]
6) Tafuripointsto Antoine-Chrysostome Quatremèrede Quincy(1755 –1849) and his
historiquede l'Architecture
published in 1832-33, to illustratethe latterposition
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환경논총 제 65권
Fig 7 New York allowed for free exploration
by avant-garde architects; they considered
assemblage, an industrialized construction
process, as fundamental to a technical and social
(E.R. Graham, Equitable Life Insurance Building,
New York, 1913-1915. From
From tradition, Western philosophers were always aloof of society with
ideals intended to favor, improve, or legitimize society from a distance. But in
the early twentieth century a different approach, that of ‘value-free’ thinking
became popular. Philosophers like Pareto, Weber, Scheler, and Mannheim
desacralized the workings of the intellectual mind and denounced the
traditional responsibility of the philosopher as society’s critic7). They rather
proposed themselves as being without any bias and without any feelings of
restriction – calling it ‘value-free’. In reality this meant being in service of
the rationalizing world of (capitalist) production and the control that society
should have over it. In the same line of historical denouncing, Dadaism and
Futurism also desacralized traditional values, which in itself was thought
to be a new universally ‘true’ value for all art. Ball and Tzara of the Dada
movement radicalized the old values of the bourgeoisie to liberate new
energy of the same bourgeoisie, or rather a renewed bourgeoisie that could
question its own realities, overcome its anguish and could fully accept the
existing craze of today as an explosive, revolutionary vitality that strives for
change and the unimaginable8). In bright insight Tafuri sees the analogy with
the deconstructionists of the Enlightenment: Dada comes to be on equal foot
with Piranesi. [Fig. 8]
7) Vilfredo Pareto (1848 – 1923), Maximilian Karl Emil Weber (1864 – 1920), Max Ferdinand Scheler (1874
– 1928), Karl Mannheim (1893 – 1947)
8) Hugo Ball (1886 – 1927), Tristan Tzara (1896 – 1963)
9) Antonio Sant'Elia (1888 1916), Vladimir Tatlin (1885 – 1953), The Vesnin brothers: Leonid Vesnin
(1880–1933), Victor Vesnin (1882–1950) and Alexander Vesnin (1883–1959)
Fig. 8 The chaos of the metropolis sketched by
George Grosz
Friedrichstraße from Ecce Homo
, 1922-1923.
Katalog Lempertz
, May 2015)
Futurism comes to line up in the same historical movement. Futurists
like Antonio Sant’ Elia were after energy, speed, or even violence to counter
the existing narrow-minded bourgeoisie values, whereas constructivists like
Tatlin or the Vesnin brothers glorified communist ideals of equality through
spectacular and futuristic construction9). All of the above movements made
48 49
환경논총 제 65권
use of their understanding of utopia to propose tendentious models to extract
consensus of the consumer-masses and accordingly sell their products.
Fordism in economy and urban planning were born.
Similar to art and design, also architecture and urban planning were
engaged for purposes of capitalist production. Tafuri illustrates the result of
this historic achievement with examples from constructivist architecture, and
techniques and approaches of social-democrat city administrators with their
utopia-like urban planning of the 1930s in central Europe. In between the two
world wars, urban planning, done by architects and planners, was not so much
the planning of buildings or apartment complexes, but rather the planning of
production and consumption of daily bourgeois living. Van Eesteren’s Plan
for Amsterdam was about organizing the city according to a set of regulated
functions that could be assigned by understanding humans as part of the
production-consumption cycle. [Fig. 9]
Fig. 9 Urban planning of Amsterdam
separated functions in: garden towns (red),
working (beige/brown), recreation (green),
and traffic (yellow)
AUP Amsterdam
(1929) by Cornelis
van Eesteren and others. Van Eesteren
it possible to acceptthe destructionof traditionalvaluesgeneratinganew
bourgeoisenergyto becomeliberatedfromlabour throughcontrolof the
future.This becamean architecturalideology that should be seen as a
strategytowardsan all-encompassing end-model in the future:autopia.
Be that as it may, in realitytherewasno need for whateverutopia as
strategiesfor planning and capitalist(architectural)productiontookoverafter
the crashof the late 1920s. Problemsof societybecametechnical problems
that could be solvedby strategyand money,likethe NewDealin the US, or
the social democraturban planning projectsin Germany, bothin the 1930s.
Avant-gardearchitectscoming togetherin such movementsas the CIAM,
Neue Sachlichkeit
,or Bauhaus had as agoal to bring production-consumption
architectureto perfection;the capitalistproductionmethodof housing and
things likefurniturewasnowestablished.Avant-gardethus confirmed and
contributed to aworking-classbourgeoisie,demonstratingits ownfailure
towardsthe establishingof alabour-freeutopia.
Forintellectualworkit meant adivision into the ones that technically
producedsocietyand the ones who controlledits dynamics. Alargegroup
of artistsin the twentiesand thirties could viewtheir workas autonomous,
as alabour that wasabout the worktheyproducedthemselves,without
externalideal, value-freeso to say; surrealistsrathersaw their workas
pureideology, akind of political intervention.Such art and literaturebecame
‘purethat is to say without directworkingstowardsplanning, but in control
of intellectualworkin its institutions,likeuniversities,while city planning
wasseparatedfromintellectualworkand becameplanning of consumption
and production.Capitalistic-industrialutopians, likefor exampleHenry Ford
or FrederickLawOlmsted,managed to bridge this gap. Artistscould enter
this worldof labor and productionmechanisms, exactlybecauseof the
deconstructionof traditionalvalues,so that Fordand Olmstedcould make
50 51
환경논총 제 65권
Necessarily the architect / designer became an organizer of functions in
space, and the city with its housing units had to become machines for living,
as was demonstrated to the extreme by Hilbersheimer. [Fig. 10]
Fig 11 Le Corbusier in his Plan Obus invited the inhabitants to consume, that is to fill
in the structural shell with their own living requirements
, 2018 October)
Fig. 10 Amostextremevision of the city
as productivemachine as seen in Ludwig
(Art InstituteChicago)
The systemkitchen’ epitomizeshowmuch the inhabitant had becomea
cog wheel in the machine, with all the house wivescookingfor their working
husbands in the same standardkitchen. But quite afewarchitectsrefusedto
becomesuch asimple organizerand wantedto retainsome fragilebalance,
and continued to try and introduceidealism in housing developmentor city
planning. Such intellectualarchitects,foundon the left-wing of the political
range,could developatrust-relationshipwith advancedcapitalistdemocratic
municipalities;this is clear fromexperimentalprojectsin Berlin, for example.
But the incompatible problemis clear: building settlementsas sausages from
asausage machine has notverymuch to do with ideals of architectureor
beauty:acosmeticexpressionismis the result.The city, in itself achaotic
and uncontrollableprocessis notapseudo-village likethe Berlin experiments
.Atotalreorganizationof the city by enlightened
city governorsand architectsprovedto be afiction,idealism failed. The
Second WorldWarbrokeout.
The failureof idealism is illustratedfromanotherangle by Tafuriwhen
he turns to the roleof the architectLe Corbusier(1887 1965) who wasa
mostconsistenttheorizeron architecture.ForLe Corbusiercivilizationas a
whole becameamachine that only had to be organizedby the architect.
The strengthof Le Corbusier’stheoreticalapproachis that he breaksthrough
the constructivistidea of the city as beingcomposed of neighborhoods,and
neighborhoodscomposed of individual homes. His city planning and designing
becomesrevolutionaryas bothareintended to educate the commissioner
the users.His city-for-3-million-inhabitants project,for exampledoes not
see the city as somethingthat comes about fromproductiononly, but also
fromprocessesof distributionand consumption.The consumerhas aright
of say.Le Corbusieralwaystried to involvecaptainsof industry,politicians,
and architectsin his projects,leading to the ultimate proposalfor Algiers,
aprojectfromthe early 1930s. Here,mostextreme,the whole landscape,
, in French)is availablefor Le Corbusier’sproject.In the end,
the inhabitants themselveshavearole;theyparticipate in the design as
consumer,assigning to architecturethe roleof atotalintegrator.[Fig. 11]
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Fig 12 The typewriter socialized as
art, promising liberation: epoch-making
advertisement for a new portable
typewriter (1969) designed by Sottsass
and Perry A. King (
Modern Design Interior
September 2014)
Today we only have to think about the smart phone in front of us that
seems to give social liberty, but sends a continuous and steady flow of money
to the phone company and hems us in in an ever narrowing filter bubble.
Through such impediments the explosive contradictions of the metropolitan
city – sublimated and subjected to a cathartic irony – enter into private life and
empty it of dreams and ideals. And architecture, to be able to sustain itself
within the metropolis is bound to become a mute form of static emptiness, or
to be a singular-iconic formal distortion, which soon turns into a mute form
when all surrounding buildings are also built to be iconic10). [Fig. 13] [Fig. 14]
Subjectof architectureis no longer the building materials, but the larger
public itself, that is invited to creativelyparticipate. The industrialavant-garde,
governmentbodies, andusersof the city getinvolvedinto the projectthat
is called the city. As such Le Corbusierproposedthe mostadvanced,most
elevatedform of revolutionaryarchitecturefit for bourgeoisculture.Anguish
waswardedoff by absorbing its causes. It brings us back to the eighteenth
century architectslikeLaugier,Ledoux,and Piranesi.Theytoowantedto
elevatearchitectureto apolitical levelin orderto recognizeand organize,
givestructureto the mechanisms of our industrial,technological civilization.
The nineteentwentiesand thirties continue and conclude the resultsof these
eighteenth century experiments.This revolutionaryarchitecture,in theory,
broughtorderand coherenceby shaping an ideological climate intended to
understanddesign on all levelsand integrateit into aplan with an objective
goal to reorganizeproduction,
.The experiments
of Le Corbusierareamostadvancedidea about this granderplan. So, why
wereLe Corbusier’splans notexecuted?Apart fromminor reasons,likethe
architect’sownposition, Tafurigivesalargerand fundamentalanswerto this
question.HowevergrandLe Corbusier'svision was,it wassoon,in factafter
the 1929 crashof the financial markets,notrelevantany longer to the large
capital fundinginstitutions.Internationally speakingbanking systemswere
re-organized, systemsof planning becameanti-cyclical,while in the Soviet
Union the firstfive-yearplans came up. Architecturethat had createdarole
for itself ceased to be the organizerof idealism towardsthe city and became
subservient to the largerindustrialand economic systemsas asimple
economic factoror actor.Architectureas ideology of the plan wasswept
awayby the veryrealityof the plan, to put it in otherwords.Largeindustrial
capital had put aside ideologies and utopias.
So wheredo we find the libertyand the freedomthe Le Corbusier
to be providedby art and design producedby modern
technology, which followshumanimagination freely,so that the prospective
aestheticof asocializedart becomesthe vehicleof mans greatesthope:
collectiveliberation.Environmentalspace is organizedin viewof mass
communicationand inserts the individual environmentin the collective
space of urban well-being.To illustratethis idea,Tafuriintroducesfree
hippy communities,or enticingly-individual industrialdesign projects,likethe
typewriterof EttoreSottsass(1917 2007). [Fig. 12]
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환경논총 제 65권
Fig 13 Formal and static emptiness in the
metropolis: Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s
Federal Center in Chicago
(1959-1964, photo by Hedrich-Blessing,
Chicago history Museum)
Fig 14 Reduction of the ghastly experience
of the metropolis to a deliberate formal
emptiness: James Rosenquist,
Morning Sun
(1963, M. L. Rosenquist Collection, New
Fig. 15 Constructivist idealism once inserted
into mechanisms of production, led to loss of
meaning: House of State Industry designed 1928
by Sergei Serafimov, Samuel Kravets, and Mark
Felger in Kharkiv, Ukraine (photo Dzerzhinsky
Square, May 1942, История ВОВ в фотография
Fig. 16 Spectacular art drawing proposed
socialist ideals as cosmetic decoration to
the constructivist architecture of Konstantin
Mel’nikov for the Commissariat of Heavy Industry
in Moscow
(1934, with participation of V.M. Lebedev, Nikolai
Trankvilitsky, and Nikolai Khryakov)
10)In Tafuri’s book this leads to a chapter on semantics in architecture which was a hot topic in the
1970s, but is now no longer relevant
Architecture often continues to rely on semiology and formalism
proposing freedom for the user. Signs and the meaning these have towards
form simply had to be analyzed by Tafuri. In the 1970s he was quite aware
of the power of a digital age in the making. He predicted that computers will
finally fully dominate the capitalist production cycle of architecture, where
signs become without meaning, just like Dada denounced any pretense to art
as a ‘political’ expression of protest. Keeping a similar distance from reality
also constructivists could work on permanent and programmed innovation.
Their idealist architecture however, once inserted into mechanisms of the
universe of production, lost its experimental character so that it also lost
meaning. [Fig. 15]
Mel’nikov, for example, demonstrated the unproductiveness of language
in architecture with spectacular art drawing for buildings that were never
realized. [Fig. 16]Though architects like him tried to bring the role of meaning
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환경논총 제 65권
Tafuri’s concluding and last chapter is partly a reaction to the 1970s
fashion among architects to discover ‘languages’ of form, or apply
communication theories to design (semantics, semiology, etc.). This must be
valued as an effort to regain the role of the avant-gardist for the architect,
as seen in projects of Aldo Rossi for example. But architects were (and are)
unable to understand the road they historically traveled and only rebelled
against the processes they had set in motion themselves. The architect
proposing an ‘ethical’ re-launching of modern architecture is basically fooling
himself; so called post-modernist architecture, or de-constructivism that
came up in the decades after Tafuri, demonstrated this position. The truth
is that the entire cycle of modern architecture came into being as the last
attempt by bourgeois idealists to ‘solve’ the contradictions and imbalances
characteristic of the capitalist reorganization of the world market. Bauhaus
is product design for cheap mass production. The fate of capitalist society
matches perfectly with architectural design: the ideology of design is
essential to the integration of the money economy in all the structures of
human existence. Even the illusion that one may counteract it with rebellious
anti-design is integrated into the same economy. A class-specific architecture
– for example housing for the labourers – cannot be invented, only a labourers’
criticism of the city itself can be constructed. So in Tafuri’s Marxist view it
was historically inevitable that modern architecture became the bearer of
ideals of rationalization and only indirectly affected the working class. For this
reason it is useless to propose purely architectural alternatives to ‘liberate’
the oppressed. Tafuri's critical approach to avant-garde in any period of
history also clearly worked for the 1970s and it is not difficult to see that his
analysis holds true for today as well. To give an example: relief-architecture
for disaster victims, once invented and built, precludes the victims without
such invented shelter and only enlarges imbalances in society. Idealism
towards alleviating imbalances in our capitalistic world is bound to fail11).
The so called nature-based solutions - for example the ones of the European
Union - promise growth economy relying on depletion of resources, mostly
taken from less developed regions of our world. Good for the well-being of
the Europeans, but bad for the others.
Tafuri developed his theory in politically left-wing frames of thinking which
might not be everybody’s appetite. However, time has shown that one does
not have to be a Marxist to realize that his analysis is correct. It is like the
climate change activism that seemed a left-wing story, but is now backed-
up with scientific data demonstrating that critical understanding leads to new
paradigms in academics.
11) Wybe Kuitert, ‘Use and Abuse of Design and Narratives for the Milano Expo 2015’ 환경논총 / Journal
of Environmental Studies 64 (2019): 51-91
in architectureback throughsemiology, the languages of the plan or the
ideologies of planning wereonly artificial. If one wantsto criticizeideology
in the frameof today’s urban development,the only thing one can possibly
towardsthe developingcity and the characteristics
that makeit useful.
환경논총 제 65권
Tafuri leaves us with a fundamental, theoretical framework to understand
and criticize the existing, and hopefully develop other, more meaningful
idealism. Things like local identity, local-scale, small-scale, adapted, long-
term, diverse, not-generalized, cyclical, ecological, sustainable should be key
points for departure in architecture and design.
Personally, I feel that for landscape architecture it is easier to escape
the problem of architecture, because our works are not about end-planning,
but grow autonomously because of natural processes. Sowing an acorn to
grow an oak tree can be done for free and by anyone who wishes to do so.
And when this is inserted into a global understanding of ecology, it could be
an ideal that works, be it more on an essential rather than a utopian level.
Understanding is the key, rather than design.
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