Enamel above nothing

June 18, 2008

Gehry - Hotel de Riscal

A short reflection after reading Casabella 752.
I was very interested in Dal Co’s article, with the title of Lo smalto sul nulla [“Enamel above nothing”], about the controversial (just to be clement) Hotel Marqués de Riscal, by Gehry, and the nihilism which can be said to philosophically found deconstructivism – or any other architectonic theory characterizing the work of the Canadian architect who wisely rejects to declare himself for anyone of them.
Reading Benevolo, I was once stroke by the simple but sensible observation that architecture is the most slowly evolving art; for obvious technical and institutional reasons, it definitely carries a delay. Nothing wiser, in my modest opinion. It is true indeed that every age corresponds to its architecture, but the fundamental evolutions however come with the delay of almost a century; particularly from the 700’s, when the world started to accelerate all its vital cycles. It is not a case that Lightening produces definitely ancient régime architectures, Decadence takes to romantic buildings, Pirandello’s ‘900 loiters upon safe positivistic positions: maybe it is just now that Heisemberg starts to move the architect’s hand towards complete indetermination.
But nothing can justify Gehry for the de Riscal eyesore. A metallic-plate-shaped auto-quotationism covers, maybe for lightening shyness, a whole architectonic nothing. Is this the state of art?
Luckily, there are Isozaki and a newly discovered Carlo Scarpa giving a hope to this issue. Jean Nouvel makes his part too, while this time Mrs. Hadid seems to have not much to say.

In memory of

June 15, 2008


«If I should turn to the new generations, I’d say the following things:
1. Avoid to attend university, by now institutionalized and bureaucratized. Architecture cannot but be outside the academies.
2. Suspect anyone talking about “project culture”. It’s an evasive alibi. The only valid culture is architectonics.
3. Distrust not only dogmas and idols, but also pseudo-super-structural philosophizings, that characterize most of the time wasting chattering made in the project courses.
4. Aim to the language, high, low and middle. For clarity: high, Frank Lloyd Wright; low, Frank O. Gehry; middle, Günther Behnish. Poetic communication, slang communication and modern literary communication.
5. Trust the new, the risky modernity, modernity that “makes value out of crisis”. Then stop underlining how much old there is in new, and recognize how much there is of authentically new instead. Our culture is full of “suspended” values, virtual, not yet developed, to be affirmed and to let live.
6. Try to draw as few as possible. Space cannot be drawn, and that’s the only important thing in architecture.
7. Reject any deductive method, which university research is based on. Einstein and Popper taught: without deducing, inventing and verifying. Maybe to falsify.
8. Reference points: William Morris and the theory of the contents and functions list; Art Nouveau and Bauhaus for asymmetry and dissonance; Expressionism (from Häring to Scharoun) for the anti-perspective three-dimensionality; Theo van Doesburg and De Stijl, the quadric-dimensional scomposition (today reprised by decostructivists); Fuller, Morandi, Musmeci for the structural involvement in architecture; Wright for the flowing space; the most advanced landscape studies for the continuum between building, city and territory. Seven invariants, or principles, or features not only in the language of modern architecture, but in the modern language of architecture.
9. Banish every talk about “autonomy of architecture”. Architecture is splendidly free because structurally involved.

That’s all. I hope my absence makes you happy.

With every cordiality,

Bruno Zevi»

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