metaphysical & metaphorical musings : art, architecture, and arithmetic

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Space Policy

The International Style of architecture emerged in the formative decades of the Modern movement in architecture.  The International school believed that architecture is a matter of aesthetics rather than politics.

The failure here is to see the political dimension of aesthetics.  Modern architecture may not be socially political, but it still participates in a politics of knowledge.  We can see this in

Modern architecture's foundation in the derivation of form from the intended functionality and the inherent expressiveness of the constitutive materials.  Ornamentation is either drawn out of the essential form (constrained by function and material) or else eliminated from design, simplifying form and eliminating unnecessary (accidental) details.  As a result, Modern architecture embraces a machine aesthetic of functionality, laid out rationally according to horizontal and vertical lines.

Modern architecture wears its Platonic metaphysics on its sleeve: it seeks the essential and the functional.  It goes about it in a fashion exemplified by

Le Corbusier’s architectural theory, which is undergirded by the idea of the plan, a telos that guides an architecture’s entelechy according to the intended function and the medial constraints imposed by construction materials.  The architect must become engineer, embrace simplicity and functionality.  This new aesthetic is founded on mathematical calculation of pleasing geometric form, and the use of regulating lines to rationally delimit and indicate the features of a building.

The architect becomes engineer; mathematics and science masquerade as art.

A lesson from Pruitt-Igoe: eliminate the accident in design, it will express itself in function.

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