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Modern Architecture

The Poetics of Construction in Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Architecture

Kenneth Frampton's long-awaited follow-up to his classic A Critical History of Modern Architecture is certain to influence any future debate on the evolution of modern architecture.

Studies in Tectonic Culture is nothing less than a rethinking of the entire modern architectural tradition. The notion of tectonics as employed by Frampton—the focus on architecture as a constructional craft—constitutes a direct challenge to current mainstream thinking on the artistic limits of postmodernism, and suggests a convincing alternative. Indeed, Frampton argues, modern architecture is invariably as much about structure and construction as it is about space and abstract form.

Composed of ten essays and an epilogue that trace the history of contemporary form as an evolving poetic of structure and construction, the book's analytical framework rests on Frampton's close readings of key French and German, and English sources from the eighteenth century to the present. He clarifies the various turns that structural engineering and tectonic imagination have taken in the work of such architects as Perret, Wright, Kahn, Scarpa, and Mies, and shows how both constructional form and material character were integral to an evolving architectural expression of their work. Frampton also demonstrates that the way in which these elements are articulated from one work to the next provides a basis upon which to evaluate the works as a whole. This is especially evident in his consideration of the work of Perret, Mies, and Kahn and the continuities in their thought and attitudes that linked them to the past.

Frampton considers the conscious cultivation of the tectonic tradition in architecture as an essential element in the future development of architectural form, casting a critical new light on the entire issue of modernity and on the place of much work that has passed as "avant-garde."

Studies in Tectonic Culture is a copublication of the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies and The MIT Press.

Edited by K. Michael Hays


In the discussion of architecture, the prevailing sentiment of the past three decades has been that cultural production can no longer be understood to arise spontaneously, as a matter of social course, but is constructed through ever more self-conscious theoretical procedures. The development of interpretive modes of various stripes—poststructuralist, Marxian, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, as well as others dissenting or eccentric—has given scholars a range of tools for rethinking architecture in relation to other fields and for reasserting architecture's general importance in intellectual discourse.

This long-awaited anthology is in some sense a sequel to Joan Ockman's Architecture Culture 1943-1968, A Documentary Anthology (1993). It presents forty-seven of the primary texts of contemporary architecture theory, introducing each by detailing the concepts and categories necessary for its understanding and evaluation. It also presents twelve documents of projects or events that had major theoretical repercussions for the period. Several of the essays appear here in English for the first time.


The Search for Modernism in the American Landscape


Invisible Gardens is a composite history of the individuals and firms that defined the field of landscape architecture in America from 1925 to 1975, a period that spawned a significant body of work combining social ideas of enduring value with landscapes and gardens that forged a modern aesthetic. The major protagonists include Thomas Church, Roberto Burle Marx, Isamu Noguchi, Luis Barragan, Daniel Urban Kiley, Stanley White, Hideo Sasaki, Ian McHarg, Lawrence Halprin, and Garrett Eckbo.

They were the pioneers of a new profession in America, the first to offer alternatives to the historic landscape and the park tradition, as well as to the suburban sprawl and other unplanned developments of twentieth-century cities and institutions. The work is described against the backdrop of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the postwar recovery, American corporate expansion, and the environmental revolution.

The authors look at unbuilt schemes as well as actual gardens, ranging from tiny backyards and play spaces to urban plazas and corporate villas. Some of the projects discussed already occupy a canonical position in modern landscape architecture; others deserve a similar place but are less well known. The result is a record of landscape architecture's cultural contribution - as distinctly different in history, intent, and procedure from its sister fields of architecture and planning - during the years when it was acquiring professional status and struggling to define a modernist aesthetic out of the startling changes in postwar America.

Essays in the Modern Unhomely

The Architectural Uncanny presents an engaging and original series of meditations on issues and figures that are at the heart of the most pressing debates surrounding architecture today. Anthony Vidler interprets contemporary buildings and projects in light of the resurgent interest in the uncanny as a metaphor for a fundamentally "unhomely" modern condition. The essays are at once historical and theoretical, opening up the complex and difficult relationships between politics, social thought, and architectural design in an era when the reality of homelessness and the idealism of the neo-avant-garde have never seemed so far apart.

How America Rebuilds Cities

Our cities are on the move again. Pioneering observers of the urban landscape Bernard Frieden and Lynn Sagalyn delve into the inner workings of the new public entrepreneurship and public private partnerships that have revitalized the downtowns of such cities as Boston, San Diego, Seattle, St. Paul, and Pasadena. They bring a unique combination of political and economic expertise to their analysis of this hot new marketplace, depicting a generation of mayors and administrators who differ in style from their predecessors and who have a more informed relationship with developers.

Downtown Inc. is a progress report on what has happened to our cities in the second half of this century, documenting new directions and more productive strategies for rebuilding downtown. Frieden and Sagalyn take a close look at the retail industry and illustrate how, in cities across the country, maverick developers and enterprising mayors found creative solutions to the problems presented by conservative lenders, political controversy, and shrinking Federal subsidies.

Substantial studies of four big city malls - Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston, Town Square in St. Paul, the Pike Place Market in Seattle, and Horton Plaza in San Diego - show in detail what it takes to succeed: a free wheeling entrepreneurial style, flexible deals, financing on the go, and design plans that change as needed. They also highlight the inventive designs that fit these projects into crowded downtowns, attracting record crowds to their doors, and show conversely how conflicts over Columbus Circle, Times Square, and Bryant Park in New York embody the problems that cities must overcome when they try to combine private profit with civic purpose.

Downtown Inc. surveys the results to date to see if there is a real agenda for downtown in the mix of convention centers, malls, stadiums, hotels, and promotional events. Besides the obvious successes of bringing in money and reversing decay in urban centers, Frieden and Sagalyn document the emergence of new downtown economies in New York, Pittsburgh, and other cities as major job centers for a broad cross section of people.

A History of Feminist Designs For American Homes, Neighborhoods, and Cities

Long before Betty Friedan wrote about "the problem that had no name" in The Feminine Mystique, a group of American feminists whose leaders included Melusina Fay Peirce, Mary Livermore, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman campaigned against women's isolation in the home and confinement to domestic life as the basic cause of their unequal position in society.

The Grand Domestic Revolution reveals the innovative plans and visionary strategies of these persistent women, who developed the theory and practice of what Hayden calls "material feminism" in pursuit of economic independence and social equality. The material feminists' ambitious goals of socialized housework and child care meant revolutionizing the American home and creating community services. They raised fundamental questions about the relationship of men, women, and children in industrial society. Hayden analyzes the utopian and pragmatic sources of the feminists' programs for domestic reorganization and the conflicts over class, race, and gender they encountered.

This history of a little-known intellectual tradition challenging patriarchal notions of "women's place" and "women's work" offers a new interpretation of the history of American feminism and a new interpretation of the history of American housing and urban design. Hayden shows how the material feminists' political ideology led them to design physical space to create housewives' cooperatives, kitchenless houses, day-care centers, public kitchens, and community dining halls. In their insistence that women be paid for domestic labor, the material feminists won the support of many suffragists and of novelists such as Edward Bellamy and William Dean Howells, who helped popularize their cause. Ebenezer Howard, Rudolph Schindler, and Lewis Mumford were among the many progressive architects and planners who promoted the reorganization of housing and neighborhoods around the needs of employed women.

In reevaluating these early feminist plans for the environmental and economic transformation of American society and in recording the vigorous and many-sided arguments that evolved around the issues they raised, Hayden brings to light basic economic and spacial contradictions which outdated forms of housing and inadequate community services still create for American women and for their families.

The Modern Movement

Let it be said at once that the format of this work is richly handsome: it is a two-volume boxed set comprising 844 pages and well over 1,000 high-quality illustrations, and it reflects throughout its publisher's conviction that good design is an essential, not superficial, part of bookmaking.

Beyond that, it should be emphasized that this work is not another facile cultural tour of modern architecture. It is a serious and original study of the beginnings and development of modernism in which the pictorial aspects are designed to aid in the communication of the author's closely reasoned formulations, rather than to gloss over a lack of substantive content.

The book is a translation of the third Italian edition, published in 1966. Benevolo, who is on the faculty of architecture in Venice, has earned an international reputation as a historian of architecture and town planning, and his publications embrace the span of time from the Renaissance to the foreseeable future. One such publication, The Origins of Modern Town Planning (The MIT Press, 1967), may be read as a prelude to the present work as well as an independent contribution. Perhaps more than any other architectural historian in our time, Benevolo has made a determined effort to place developments in design and planning in their proper social and political settings.

Indeed, the author argues that the development of the modern movement in architecture was determined, not by aesthetic formalisms, but largely by the social changes that have occurred since about 1760: "After the middle of the eighteenth century, without the continuity of formal activity being in any way broken, indeed while architectural language seems to be acquiring a particular coherence, the relations between architect and society began to change radically.... New material and spiritual needs, new ideas and modes of procedure arise both within and beyond the traditional limits, and finally they run together to form a new architectural synthesis that is completely different from the old one. In this way it is possible to explain the birth of modern architecture, which otherwise would seem completely incomprehensible...."

This second volume is concerned with the modern movement proper, from 1914 to 1966. The author emphasizes the unity of the movement, rejecting the usual treatment that allots to the individual architects separate and unconnected biographical accounts.

Benevolo remarks at one point, "When one talks about modern architecture one must bear in mind the fact that it implies not only a new range of forms, but also a new way of thinking, whose consequences have not yet all been calculated." His main concern is to provide a more exact calculation of those consequences.

The present volume offers eloquent testimony that many of the master builders of this century have held passionate convictions regarding the philosophic and social basis of their art. Nearly every important development in the modern architectural movement began with the proclamation of these convictions in the form of a program or manifesto. The most influential of these are collected here in chronological order from 1903 to 1963. Taken together, they constitute a subjective history of modern architecture; compared with one another, their great diversity of style reveals in many cases the basic differences of attitude and temperament that produced a corresponding divergence in architectural style. In point of view, the book covers the aesthetic spectrum from right to left; from programs that rigidly generate designs down to the smallest detail to revolutionary manifestoes that call for anarchy in building form and town plan. The documents, placed in context by the editor, are also international in their range: among them are the seminal and prophetic statements of Henry van de Velde, Adolf Loos, and Bruno Taut from the early years of the century; Frank Lloyd Wright's 1910 annunciation of Organic Architecture; Gropius's original program for the Bauhaus, founded in Weimar in 1919; "Towards a New Architecture, Guiding Principles" by Le Corbusier; the formulation by Naum Gabo and Antoine Pevsner of the basic principles of Constructivism; and articles by R. Buckminster Fuller on universal architecture and the architect as world planner. Other pronouncements, some in flamboyant style, including those of Erich Mendelsohn, Hannes Meyer, Theo van Doesburg, Oskar Schlemmer, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, El Lissitzky, and Louis I. Kahn. There are also a number of collective or group statements, issued in the name of movements such as CIAM, De Stijl, ABC, the Situationists, and GEAM.Since the dramatic effectiveness of the manifesto form is usually heightened by brevity and conciseness, it has been possible to reproduce most of the documents in their entirety; only a few have been excerpted.

This collection of an important architectural theorist's essays considers and compares designs by Palladio and Le Corbusier, discusses mannerism and modern architecture, architectural vocabulary in the 19th century, the architecture of Chicago, neoclassicism and modern architecture, and the architecture of utopia.