In Casabella 754, Souto de Moura elaborates an interesting analysis of the completion of the Madrid Banco de España isle, by Rafael Moneo.
The analysis is interesting non merely for the theme of restoration/renewal, which, as the same Souto de Moura states, has never gone much farer than what Ruskin and Viollet-Le Duc had been debating about; it is rather the hint – so faintly dared to seem possibly unconscious – to the conceptual size of the workas an inquity about the postmodern question.
What Moneo does, shortly, is someway the overtaking and the synthesis of the sterility of both the extreme positions: neither a fake-antique remake of the artisanal splendour of plasters and molded stone of the late 800’s, nor the violence of a renounce, publicly defended in the name of futures, no matter they being next, or far.
I confess that giving a judgment to this work costed me hours of mental elaboration. Much of the trouble was caused by the comparison that Souto de Moura made between the new facade decoration of the building and Duchamp’s Nude going downstairs: if in those sculpture he (maybe) found the same dignity of the avant-gardist signs of the cubist allusion, I saw (almost) only a step backwards from detailed to rough, probably inspired more by money saving than by declarative intentions, or at least some sort of banal rasterizing, an out-of-scale low resolution rendering of antiquity; in other words something to easily get out of the muddle. Somewhat I still believe it, but I admit that the work is not lacking on the conceptual side; Souto de Moura itself, indeed, can’t bypass Aldo Rossi’s contribute (particularly, Schützenstrasse isle), that, maybe reasonably but mostly for an acquired consuetude, seems to be biuniquely linked with all that Italy produced postmodern in architecture.
But, at this point, the difference: «a completely different position from the one took in Berlin by Rossi, for whom the meaning came from the simulation of historicized architectonic elements, out of scale, reproduced in plastics – but, actually, we were at the top of post-modern…», says Souto de Moura about Moneo, someway unequivocally declaring that the postmodern era has ended and that another one has started, the postcontemporary one, as somebody calls it. Then, how about the theory of the end of theories? The postmodern should have been the last of all the ages, we could say, and last infinitely; it is clear that something happened and destroyed the exactness of this auto-postulation that, even if apparently plausible (and, after all, reassuring in its lapidary will of destabilization), reveals itself as inesorably false, just as in Anselmo d’Aosta’s demonstration. So, Moneo can get through that bit of so 90’s bad taste that – let’s admit it – Rossi and someone of his contemporaries suffered after, and synthesize antiquity and this future-longing present with a certain grace and no more reverential fear.
Did the multimedia panacea rebuild the meta-language that the wall fall had destroyed? Or did it maybe accelerate its ruin, giving man such an immense power that it changed reality and art into ineffability? Can the post-modernity overcoming (considering that era as ended) ever be a step towards, existentialistically speaking?

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.

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