Really, today it’s dull to discuss the matter of the topic declared by the organizers, let them not take offence at the author, — “Architect’s Death” (what a nightmare!). It’s dull foremost because the surrounding reality is far from whatever crisis of architecture as profession. But, on the other hand, it’s interesting (not tedious) to consider why this theme persistently returns on pages of scientific articles and into conference halls for already more than a hundred of years/ «Burials of Architecture» started, if it doesn’t slip my memory, from the early Art Nouveau epoch, i.e. from the sources of what was called the «Contemporary moving» a quarter of the century later.
The beginning of the outgoing century was imbued with eschatological mood. The ХХ century as if had a presentiment of the shock of the future world wars and social overturns, death of millions of people and of enormous cultural values. It will be more right to say, that on the boundary of ages social philosophy and art had founded a whole series of destructive projects, as if clearing the territory beforehand for the future raging of social elements. Russian «nihilism», social Darwinism in the English speaking countries, Marxism and Nietscheanism in Germany, though originating from diverse foundations, did, in essence, one and the same thing: they gave sanctions to the activity of individuals, movements and parties, transgressing the generally accepted civilized norms. Most frequently all such activity assumed the shape of “revolution”. Those revolutions took place in the social life (national liberation in the former colonies, bourgeois-democratic, fascist, communist — in the former imperial mother countries).
It is unlikely to be casual, that shifts in art culture served as the background for the largest “revolutionary” social shocks of the century. And what is more, frequently the changes in culture went ahead of social revolution and made the society mentally ready for the civil disorders. It’s difficult to deny an intrinsic tie between futurism and the early Italian fascism (its preparation and partly inspiration) or, on the contrary, the contribution of the Russian constructivism to the forming of ideology and social practice of soviet communism.
Perhaps, the most effective method of traditional cultural forms burial was their scientific research (“disobjectivization”, after Karl Marx) and the resulting desacralization of the corresponding public institutions. The private property and state Marx and Engels had buried as far as in the previous, XIX century, on the pages of communist manifestoes, and in the ХХ-th century their inconsequent followers, Russian bolsheviks, seriously old world ” at first on the 1/6 of the globe, and then — all aver the globe began to bury “the. The book of Friedrich Engels, Marx’s culture-philosophical alter ego, “The origins of the family, private property and state» was also directed by its ideological point to extermination of the private property. But, so to say, at the same time it became a theoretical foundation of the attacks on bourgeois love and family, which untwisted from the end of the XIX century up to the sexual revolution of the 60-ies.
In the ХХ century were undertaken the attempts to “bury” almost all the constituents of traditional culture, first of all — it’s most complicated and perfect forms. Russian modernists reached herein the Pillars of Hercules during the ten years, precedent to the October political coup of 1917.
The age was burying poetry and novel — in Russia Burlyuk and Kruchenych went as far as to denial of not only the old poetic form, but of the very substance of the literature — the language, trying to create “zaum”, an over-clever language of the new art. Their great associate Vladimir Mayakovski, already in the soviet time, demanded that “Pushkin should be thrown off the steamer of the present”:
You’ve placed the cannons along a forest border,
You’re deaf to White Guard caress.
And why up to now Pushkin isn’t attacked
As also other generals of classics?
Before Moris Deni had time to see the specific character of painting in that, that it is «a flat surface, covered by paints, laid down in a definite order», Malevich’s «Black Square» appears, the “last picture in the history of painting”.
Experiments of the great reformers of European theatre, such as Gordon Craig, seem to be perhaps conservative — in comparison with Vsevolod Meyerhold’s biomechanics or the majestic utopia of mass theatrical action. For its realization in Kharkov, the capital of the Soviet Ukraine, a grandiose theatre had to be erected and even a world competition was carried out on his project. But even such encroachments on the traditional theatre seemed insufficiently radical to the leader of the younger generation of constructivists, Ivan Leonidov. In his famous project-conception of a working club the place of auditorium is occupued by “a scientific theatre” — planetarium. But why talk about the theatre, when the Russian architects-“disurbanists”, carried away by the romanticism of social reconstruction, seriously prophesied the quick death of the cities as the dominating form of settling.
But there was a lot of the same bolsheviks-grave-diggers of the old world outside Russia as well. In Germany the international team of radicals gathered in Bauhaus for the sake of realization of the revolution in spatial arts, abolished the very art history.
The architects, disposed to Vanguard, not only began to work for the victorious regime. They fully sincerely, so as a considerable part of artistic and especially technical intelligentsia, fell under the charm of reconstructive pathos of bolshevics’s doctrine. So far as ”intelligentsia’s shifting to the left” was far from being only a Russian phenomenon, and absorbed all the developed countries, the causes of this phenomenon became the subject of a special sociological and politological analysis. Here I’d venture to give a vast quotation from Friedrich Hayek’s book «Pernicious conceit», containing such an analysis.
Hayek, in particular, notices: «Primary shock attached to disclosure of the fact, that people of intellectual professions are mostly socialists, passes over as one realize that, as a rule these people are disposed to overestimate the intellect and to suppose, that all the advantages and possibilities, given to us by civilization, we must owe to deliberate conception, and not to following the traditional ways of conduct. Just as well they are inclined to suppose, that we are able, using our mind, to eliminate any remaining undesirable phenomena by means of getting deeper into thinking reflexion, by more expedient designs and by more «rational co-ordination» of undertaken actions. This disposes to favourable acceptance of centralized economic planning and control, which form the core of socialism» [hayek, c.95].
Hayek’s rightfulness is proved by the fact, that even decades later, when the essence of communism became fully evidently apparent, a destructive charm of socialistic doctrine and its influence on western intelligentsia had not diminished. Here is a fragment from Indro Montanelly’s interview, dated 1993, two year after the USSR disintegration and four years after the destruction of Berlin wall: “The Communists influenced the western intelligentsia beyond any belief, just incredibly. The University chairs are still full of former marxists, who are manufacturing the similar ones. The problem of Italian intelligentsia — and, I think, of Russian too — is to get out from this exclusive circle”.
Towards the end of the century, under the influence of new upheaval in Russia, the world history was also hardly not buried by R. Fukuyama. Evidently, both beyond and besides communist or socialistic ideology the aspiration for radical renovation through the next burial of generally accepted values remains almost an instinctive constituent of contemporary humanitarian thinking.
As it is seen from the already cited examples, architecture was by no means an exception in general aspiration to bury the past. All that is called Modernism and has jolly well pestered. Modernists are burying architecture and, accordingly, an architect, for already more than a century, beginning with Sullivan’s refusal from architecture in favour of engineering. Louis H. Sullivan enthusiastically greeted the achievements of building technique, sharply feeling the opening new aesthetic possibilities. This brought him to the wrong conclusion, that an architect became excessive, and could be substituted by an engineer-constructor.
But architecture turned out to be a very hard essence. During the whole century it didn’t allow neither to abolish, nor to dissolve itself in other kinds of activity, whatever “contemporary” and technically equipped they could be. The Modernists achieved success only in one attitude. Histories of Contemporary architecture, composed by them, beginning with Nikolaus Pevzner and Zigfried Gidion and up to «cult» Cenneth Frempton’s book, sharply distorted an authentic face of the century.
It’s natural, that modernistic history disproportionally over-stressed the significance of technicist school in the first half of the century. This was done to the detriment of Art Deco architecture, which, at least quantitatively, undoubtedly prevailed at this period in Europe, not to mention the United States. These histories either ignore at all the architecture of the soviet so called «socialistic realism», which is already quite incompatible with modernistic doctrine, or consider it as insignificant and annoying episode.
But in the post-war period, when modernism achieved its complete domination on a global scale and its doctrine became the foundation of professional training, it nevertheless still remained architectural modernism. The art of Architecture met the technological challenge of the century. It turned impossible to replace an architect by an engineer. An example of Pier Luigi Nervi remained in history as a brilliant exclusion, confirming the general regulation: each technology development coil was successfully assimilated by architectural aesthetics.
Piano and Rogers’s technological grotesque, as well as Calatrava’s constructive calligraphy, could be born only in the heads of the architects, brought up by the whole history of fine arts.
In the ХХ-th century architecture assimilated not only the technologies of building production — the possibilities of metal, reinforced concrete, prefabricated constructions — but also the expressive possibilities of means of transport, electronics, and, at the end of the century — the newest information technologies, all of them opened by industrial design. Being an ancient handicraft, it managed to become one of the most prestigeous contemporary professions, along with Haute Couture, journalism, model business or PR-technologies. And nevertheless quite reasonable people, and among them — highly educated Germans, many of whom I know personally, are discussing again the possibility of its funeral.
The point evidently is, that architecture in the ХХ-th century, like Protheus, has taken different looks, throwing itself in turn from aesthetic utopia of Art Nouveau and mysticism of Gläserne Kette to constructivists' pathos of social reorganization, from revolutionism of Bauhaus to “Communities Architecture” conservatism and to post-modernism cankerous irony. (Apropos, architectural Post-modernism, in defiance of the widespread opinion, did not at all put an end to nihilistic attitude toward tradition. Post-modern “pastiche” is nothing but another method of epatage burial of Architecture, — only not in modernistic crematorium, but in compost pit.)
This created for many people an illusion, that architecture has lost its own matter. Nothing could go farther from the truth, and the truth, I believe, lies in a platitude, perpendicular to the platitude of relations between architecture and technology.
The author shares the opinion of Karl Solger, who connected the nature of architecture with the diffusion of divine authority in a profane world: “This art aspires to give a dwelling of peculiar look to That One, Who has no need for it <…>. The highest and most general destiny of architecture <…> is to rise a temple in God’s glory”. Therefore histories of architecture, deriving it from the primitive “utilitarian” needs, are false. Technicist negation of architecture as art is related just to this reductional view of its history. Here I’m forced to cite vast quotations.
This view look was called in question almost simultaneously with its appearance. Polemizing with it, Solger writes: “<…> you assert, that this art appeared from the necessity and expediency, and many divide this opinion. Even if architecture serves to hourly wants in shelter and defense, is it possible to unconditionally affirm on that basis, that it grew up from this want? And may be, the fact, that it elevates a soul so infinitely, is the evidence of the counter, and it’s quite not at all obligatory that what is necessary for the construction and even decoration of dwellings, is a true and lofty art of architecture?»
Empiricism of architectural history, if you look at it impartially, confirms the solidity of these doubts. Before the beginnings of society, i.e. before the institutionalization of state and religion, construction has nothing in common with art. Architecture in the true sense of this word is conceived in temple building and only then very and very slowly spreads to the life of state, society and only in the last turn — to people’s private life.
I’ll continue the quotation, beginning the final part of the article: “Tough the highest and most general destination of architecture remains invariable — to raise a temple in God’s glory — however this task bifurcates into many peculiar manifestations of the idea idea in the state and even further, up to бюргерства life. However a practical need must never become deciding. And only then art may fully carry out its mission, if it could surround our actual life with such divine dwelling, which would far and wide show us a look of harmony and beauty. However, this just proves, that art of architecture is fully deprived of its dignity. When It is used only for decorating of dwelling houses, whereas churches and state buildings are built with lesser attention, than human dwellings. Our ancestors thought otherwise, they considered it to be natural that ages are needed to erect of a cathedral”.
I think, this idealistic point of view is not only essentially correct and noble, but also very practical. Architecture thus understood evidently can’t be either annihilated, nor even exposed to doubt. Georgy Shchedrovitski, one of the most sagacious Russian social philosophers of this century, considered architecture as applied methodology, because contemporary architecture comes along with any organized human activity. If Solger is right, that architectural creativity must carry the appearance of God in Truth, Blessing and Beauty to every individual existence, then an architect is unremovable from the life of free people.
That’s because the sense of architecture is not in the functional analysis, not in the formally calculated aesthetic quality and not in the engineering computation. The heart of architecture is in alive and exact understanding by an architect of how a customer (client, consumer, etc.) actually feels Beauty and Blessing. Just therefore, when in the USSR in the 60-80-th a private customer was fully substituted by a social mechanisms, Russian architecture has degraded abruptly and rapidly.
But till the freedom and the property are alive, Architecture, having once originated, remains one of the fundamental institutions, constituting society as such.
Bouryak A. Dull to Listen // Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, 2/2000