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Architectural History

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A History of Anti-Perspective

For more than half a century, Erwin Panofsky’s Perspective as Symbolic Form has dominated studies of visual representation. Despite the hegemony of central projection, or perspective, other equally important methods of representation have much to tell us. Parallel projection can be found on classical Greek vases, in Pompeiian frescoes, in Byzantine mosaics; it returned in works of the historical avant-garde, and remains the dominant form of representation in China. In Oblique Drawing, Massimo Scolari investigates “anti-perspective” visual representation over two thousand years, finding in the course of his investigation that visual and conceptual representations are manifestations of the ideological and philosophical orientations of different cultures. Images prove to be not just a form of art but a form of thought, a projection of a way of life.

Scolari’s generously illustrated studies show that illusionistic perspective is not the only, or even the best, representation of objects in history; parallel projection, for example, preserves in scale the actual measurements of objects it represents, avoiding the distortions of one-point perspective. Scolari analyzes the use of nonperspectival representations in pre-Renaissance images of machines and military hardware, architectural models and drawings, and illustrations of geometrical solids. He challenges Panofsky’s theory of Pompeiian perspective and explains the difficulties encountered by the Chinese when they viewed Jesuit missionaries’ perspectival religious images.

Scolari vividly demonstrates the diversity of representational forms devised through the centuries, and shows how each one reveals something that is lacking in the others.

Architecture and War in Tel Aviv and Jaffa

The history of Tel Aviv, presented for a moment as an architectural history, can be seen as a part of a wider process in which the physical shaping of Tel Aviv and its political and cultural construction are intertwined, and plays a decisive role in the construction of the case, the alibi, and the apologetics of the Jewish settlement across the country.
White City, Black City

In 2004, the city of Tel Aviv was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site, an exemplar of modernism in architecture and town planning. Today, the Hebrew city of Tel Aviv gleams white against the desert sky, its Bauhaus-inspired architecture betraying few traces of what came before it: the Arab city of Jaffa. In White City, Black City, the Israeli architect and author Sharon Rotbard offers two intertwining narratives, that of colonized and colonizer. It is also a story of a decades-long campaign of architectural and cultural historical revision that cast Tel Aviv as a modernist “white city” emerging fully formed from the dunes while ignoring its real foundation—the obliteration of Jaffa. Rotbard shows that Tel Aviv was not, as a famous poem has it, built “from sea foam and clouds” but born in Jaffa and shaped according to its relation to Jaffa. His account is not only about architecture but also about war, destruction, Zionist agendas, erasure, and the erasure of the erasure.

Rotbard tells how Tel Aviv has seen Jaffa as an inverted reflection of itself—not shining and white but nocturnal, criminal, dirty: a “black city.” Jaffa lost its language, its history, and its architecture; Tel Aviv constructed its creation myth. White City, Black City—hailed upon its publication in Israel as ”path-breaking,” “brilliant,” and “a masterpiece”—promises to become the central text on Tel Aviv.

Matter, Measure, and the Misadventures of Precision

When architects draw even brick walls to six decimal places with software designed to cut lenses, it is clear that the logic that once organized relations between precision and material error in construction has unraveled. Precision, already a promiscuous term, seems now to have been uncoupled from its contract with truthfulness. Meanwhile error, and the always-political space of its dissent, has reconfigured itself.

In The Architecture of Error Francesca Hughes argues that behind the architect’s acute fetishization of redundant precision lies a special fear of physical error. What if we were to consider the pivotal cultural and technological transformations of modernism to have been driven not so much by the causes its narratives declare, she asks, as by an unspoken horror of loss of control over error, material life, and everything that matter stands for? Hughes traces the rising intolerance of material vagaries—from the removal of ornament to digitalized fabrication—that produced the blind rejection of organic materials, the proliferation of material testing, and the rhetorical obstacles that blighted cybernetics. Why is it, she asks, that the more we cornered physical error, the more we feared it?

Hughes’s analysis of redundant precision exposes an architecture of fear whose politics must be called into question. Proposing error as a new category for architectural thought, Hughes draws on other disciplines and practices that have interrogated precision and failure, citing the work of scientists Nancy Cartwright and Evelyn Fox Keller and visual artists Gordon Matta-Clark, Barbara Hepworth, Rachel Whiteread, and others. These non-architect practitioners, she argues, show that error need not be excluded and precision can be made accountable.

Encounters between Art and Architecture

Expansion, convergence, adjacency, projection, rapport, and intersection are a few of the terms used to redraw the boundaries between art and architecture during the last thirty-five years. If modernists invented the model of an ostensible “synthesis of the arts,” their postmodern progeny promoted the semblance of pluralist fusion. In 1979, reacting against contemporary art’s transformation of modernist medium-specificity into postmodernist medium multiplicity, the art historian Rosalind Krauss published an essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” that laid out in a precise diagram the structural parameters of sculpture, architecture, and landscape art. Krauss tried to clarify what these art practices were, what they were not, and what they could become if logically combined. The essay soon assumed a canonical status and affected subsequent developments in all three fields. Retracing the Expanded Field revisits Krauss’s hugely influential text and maps the ensuing interactions between art and architecture.

Responding to Krauss and revisiting the milieu from which her text emerged, artists, architects, and art historians of different generations offer their perspectives on the legacy of “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” Krauss herself takes part in a roundtable discussion (moderated by Hal Foster). A selection of historical documents, including Krauss’s essay, presented as it appeared in October, accompany the main text. Neither eulogy nor hagiography, Retracing the Expanded Field documents the groundbreaking nature of Krauss’s authoritative text and reveals the complex interchanges between art and architecture that increasingly shape both fields.

Contributors
Stan Allen, George Baker, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, Beatriz Colomina, Penelope Curtis, Sam Durant, Edward Eigen, Kurt W. Forster, Hal Foster, Kenneth Frampton, Branden W. Joseph, Rosalind Krauss, Miwon Kwon, Sylvia Lavin, Sandro Marpillero, Josiah McElheny, Eve Meltzer, Michael Meredith, Mary Miss, Sarah Oppenheimer, Matthew Ritchie, Julia Robinson, Joe Scanlan, Emily Eliza Scott, Irene Small, Philip Ursprung, Anthony Vidler

Architecture on the Wireless, 1927-1945

In the years between the world wars, millions of people heard the world through a box on the dresser. In Britain, radio listeners relied on the British Broadcasting Corporation for information on everything from interior decoration to Hitler’s rise to power. One subject covered regularly on the wireless was architecture and the built environment. Between 1927 and 1945, the BBC aired more than six hundred programs on this topic, published a similar number of articles in its magazine, The Listener, and sponsored several traveling exhibitions. In this book, Shundana Yusaf examines the ways that broadcasting placed architecture at the heart of debates on democracy.

Undaunted by the challenge of talking about space and place in disembodied voices over a nonvisual medium, designers and critics turned the wireless into an arena for debates about the definitions of the architect and architecture, the difficulties of town and country planning after the breakup of large country estates, the financing of the luxury market, the expansion of local governing power, and tourism. Yusaf argues that while broadcast technology made a decisive break with the Victorian world, these broadcasts reflected the BBC’s desire to continue the legacy of Victorian institutions dedicated to the production of a cultivated polity. Under the leadership of John Reith, the BBC introduced listeners to the higher pleasures of life hoping to deepen their respect for tradition, the authority of the state, and national interests. These ambitions influenced the way architecture was portrayed on the air. Yusaf finds that the wireless evoked historic architecture only in travelogues and contemporary design mainly in shopping advice. The BBC’s architectural programming, she argues, offered a paradoxical interface between the placelessness of radio and the situatedness of architecture, between the mechanical or nonhumanistic impulses of technology and the humanist conception of architecture.

Disappointment and Failure in Architecture

The usual history of architecture is a grand narrative of soaring monuments and heroic makers. But it is also a false narrative in many ways, rarely acknowledging the personal failures and disappointments of architects. In Bleak Houses, Timothy Brittain-Catlin investigates the underside of architecture, the stories of losers and unfulfillment often ignored by an architectural criticism that values novelty, fame, and virility over fallibility and rejection. Brittain-Catlin tells us about Cecil Corwin, for example, Frank Lloyd Wright’s friend and professional partner, who was so overwhelmed by Wright’s genius that he had to stop designing; about architects whose surviving buildings are marooned and mutilated; and about others who suffered variously from bad temper, exile, lack of talent, lack of documentation, the wrong friends, or being out of fashion.

As architectural criticism promotes increasingly narrow values, dismissing certain styles wholesale and subjecting buildings to a Victorian litmus test of “real” versus “fake,” Brittain-Catlin explains the effect that this superficial criticality has had not only on architectural discourse but on the quality of buildings. The fact that most buildings receive no critical scrutiny at all has resulted in vast stretches of ugly modern housing and a pervasive public illiteracy about architecture.

Architecture critics, Brittain-Catlin suggests, could learn something from novelists about how to write about buildings. Alan Hollinghurst in The Stranger’s Child, for example, and Elizabeth Bowen in Eva Trout vividly evoke memorable houses. Thinking like novelists, critics would see what architectural losers offer: episodic, sentimental ways of looking at buildings that relate to our own experience, lessons learned from bad examples that could make buildings better.

Manfredo Tafuri and Contemporary Architecture

The influential Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–1994) invoked the productive possibilities of crisis, writing that history is a “project of crisis” (progetto di crisi). In this entry in the Writing Architecture series, Marco Biraghi explores Tafuri’s multifaceted and often knotty oeuvre, using the historian’s concept of a project of crisis as a lens through which to examine his historical construction of contemporary architecture.

Mindful of Tafuri’s statement that there is no such thing as criticism, only history, Biraghi carefully maps the influences on Tafuri’s writing—Walter Benjamin, Karl Krauss, Massimo Cacciari, and the architect Ludovico Quaroni, among others—in order to create a portrait of one of the most complex minds in twentieth-century architecture and architectural history. Tracing an arc from Tafuri’s first articles in the magazine Contropiano to the idea of contradiction at the center of the project of crisis, Biraghi cites Tafuri’s writing on some of his contemporaries, including Louis Kahn, Le Corbusier, Robert Venturi, Aldo Rossi, and the “Five Architects” (Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier). Tafuri’s historical construction of the contemporary, Biraghi explains, is based on the idea that the past is open, providing the present with ever-changing and indeterminate form. There is no contradiction between Tafuri the historian and Tafuri the contemporary critic, only the greatest possible integration. The importance of Tafuri’s interpretation of architecture goes beyond mere academic or historiographic interest, Biraghi argues; Tafuri’s notion of the project of crisis is fundamentally important in understanding our present-day architectural condition

The Urban Utopia in France, 1960–1970

Amid the cultural and political ferment of 1960s France, a group of avant-garde architects, artists, writers, theorists, and critics known as "spatial urbanists" envisioned a series of urban utopias, phantom cities of a possible future. The utopian "spatial" city most often took the form of a massive grid or mesh suspended above the ground, all of its parts (and inhabitants) circulating in a smooth, synchronous rhythm, its streets and buildings constituting a gigantic work of plastic art or interactive machine. In this new urban world, technology and automation were positive forces, providing for material needs as well as time and space for leisure.

In this first study of the French avant-garde tendency known as spatial urbanism, Larry Busbea analyzes projects by artists and architects (including the most famous spatial practitioner, Yona Friedman) and explores texts (many of which have never before been translated from the French) by Michel Ragon, the influential founder of the Groupe International d'Architecture Prospective (GIAP), Victor Vasarely, and others.

The projects of the spatial urbanists were in large part a response to the government’s planning policies, its Kafka-esque bureaucracy, and its outdated institutions, which they considered the first obstacles to the implementation of their radical urban designs. But even though the spatial city was conceived as progressive, by the end of the 1960s some critics had begun to question its ideological foundations.

Topologies maps the literal and metaphorical topologies of spatial urbanism, describing and documenting its projects and locating it within an international network of experimental architectural practice that also included the Situationist International, Archigram, the Metabolists, Architecture Principe, Superstudio, and others.

Even at its most fanciful, Busbea argues, the French urban utopia provided an image for social transformations that were only beginning to be described by cultural theorists and sociologists. The designs of spatial urbanism anticipated the ambivalence that would greet the arrival in France of capitalist modernity and globalization, marking both the apex and the end of the technological optimism of the postwar years.

Three Centuries of Educating Architects in North America
Edited by Joan Ockman

Rooted in the British apprenticeship system, the French Beaux-Arts, and the German polytechnical schools, architecture education in North America has had a unique history spanning almost three hundred years. Although architects in the United States and Canada began to identify themselves as professionals by the late eighteenth century, it was not until nearly a century later that North American universities began to offer formal architectural training; the first program was established at MIT in 1865. Today most architects receive their training within an academic setting that draws on the humanities, fine arts, applied science, and public service for its philosophy and methodology. This book, published in conjunction with the centennial of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), provides the first comprehensive history of North American architecture education.

Architecture School opens with six chronological essays, each devoted to a major period of development: before 1860; 1860–1920; 1920–1940; 1940–1968; 1968–1990; and 1990 to the present. This overview is followed by a “lexicon” containing shorter articles on more than two dozen topics that have figured centrally in architecture education’s history, from competitions and design pedagogy to research, structures, studio culture, and travel.

Texts and Projects, 1967–1978

The short-lived grouping of architects, sociologists, and urbanists known as Utopie, active in Paris from 1967 to 1978, was the product of several factors: the student protests for the reform of architectural education, the unprecedented expansion and replanning of the Parisian urban fabric carried out by the government of Charles de Gaulle, and the domestication of military and industrial technologies by an emerging consumer society. The group’s collaborative publications included the work of Jean Aubert, Isabelle Auricoste, Jean Baudrillard, Catherine Cot, Charles Goldblum, Jean-Paul Jungmann, Henri Lefebvre, Rene Lourau, Antoine Stinco, and Hubert Tonka. Offering a militant alternative to professional urban planning journals, these writers not only formulated a critique of the technocratic and administrative rule over a disabled and alienated urban society but also projected an ephemeral urban poetics.

With ties to the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts (ENSBA) in central Paris and to the sociology department established by Henri Lefebvre at the suburban campus of Nanterre, the group challenged postwar modernization and urban planning and questioned the roles into which architects, sociologists, and urban planners had been cast. Utopie makes the group’s diverse body of theoretical work accessible in English for the first time, offering translations of more than twenty key texts. Designed in a facsimile format that follows the innovative graphic layouts of the journals, pamphlets, posters, and articles produced by Utopie, the volume not only provides the first thorough overview of the group’s activities but also seeks to capture Utopie’s linkage of architectural and urban theory to radical publication strategies.

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