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[T]he fate of capitalist society is not at all extraneous to architectural design. The ideology of design is just as essential to the integration of modern capitalism in all the structures and suprastructures of human existence, as is the illusion of being able to oppose that design with instruments of a different type of designing, or of a radical “antidesign.”

Tafuri, M. (1976). Architecture and utopia: Design and capitalist development (B.L. La Penta, trans.), p. 179

Tafuri, M. (1976). Architecture and utopia: Design and capitalist development (B.L. La Penta, trans.)

Modern architecture has marked the paths of its own destiny by becoming the bearer of ideals of progress and rationalization to which the working class is extraneous, or in which it is included only in a social democratic perspective. One might well recognize the historical inevitability of this phenomenon; yet having done so, one may no longer hide the ultimate reality that makes the choices of “leftist” architects so uselessly anguished.
Uselessly anguished because it is useless to struggle when one is trapped inside a capsule with no exit. The crisis of modern architecture does not issue from “weariness” or “dissipation.” Rather, it is a crisis of the ideological functions of architecture. The “fall” of modern art is the ultimate testimony of bourgeois ambiguity, poised as it is between “positive” goals -the reconciliation of contradictions- and the merciless exploration of its own objective commodification. There is no more “salvation” to be found within: neither by wandering restlessly through “labyrinths” of images so polyvalent that they remain mute, nor by shutting oneself up in the sullen silence of geometries content with their own perfection.
This is why there can be no proposals of architectural “anti-spaces”: any search for an alternative within the structures determining the mystification of planning is an obvious contradiction in terms.
Reflection on architecture, as a critique of the concrete ideology “realized” by architecture itself, can only push further, and strive for a specifically concrete dimension in which the systematic destruction of the mythologies sustaining its development is only one of the objectives. But only the future conditions of the class struggle will tell us whether the task we are setting ourselves is that of an avant-garde or a rearguard.

Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968, pp.32-3.

It is interesting to look at how modern historians have attempted to explain the crisis of modern architecture. They place the beginnings of the crisis in the years around 1930, and generally consider its exacerbation to continue to this day. Nearly all the initial “blame” for the crisis they lay at the feet of the Fascisms of Europe on the one hand, and Stalinism on the other. In so doing, they systematically ignore the introduction, throughout the world, immediately after the economic crisis of 1929, of a new and decisive factor: international reorganization of capital and the establishment of anti-cyclical planning systems

Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968, p.28

Not having at its disposal a mature substratum of production techniques corresponding to the new conditions of bourgeois ideology and laissez-faire economics, architecture was forced to channel its self-critical efforts in two directions: First of all, for polemical reasons, it tended to glorify everything that might assume an anti-European significance. …Secondly, even while bracketing its own formative role in regard to the city, architecture presented an alternative to the nihilistic prospect… renouncing a symbolic role, at least in the traditional sense, architecture -in order to avoid destroying itself- discovered its scientific vocation. On the one hand it could become an instrument of social equilibrium; in which case it would have to confront the question of types head on…on the other hand it could become a science of sensations…architecture now accepted the task of ‘politicizing’ its own handiwork. As agents of politics, architects had to take up the challenge of continuously inventing advanced solutions at the most generally applicable levels.

Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968, p.9

Architecture…insofar as it was directly linked to the reality of production, was not only the first discipline to accept, with rigorous lucidity, the consequences of its already realized commodification. Starting from problems specific to itself, modern architecture, as a whole, was able to create, even before the mechanisms and theories of Political Economy had created, the instruments for it, an ideological climate for fully integrating design, at all levels, into a comprehensive Project aimed at the reorganization of production, distribution and consumption within the capitalist city.


Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968, p.15

To dispel anxiety by understanding and internalizing its causes: this would seem to be one of the principal ethical imperatives of bourgeois art. It matters little whether the conflicts, contradictions and torments that create anxiety are absorbed into a comprehensive mechanism capable of reconciling those differences, or whether catharsis is achieved through contemplative sublimation. We recognize in any case the “necessity’ of the bourgeois intellectual in the imperative significance his ‘social’ mission assumes: in other words, there exists, between the avant-gardes of capital and the intellectual avant-gardes, a kind of tacit understanding, so tacit indeed that any attempt to bring it into the light elicits a chorus of indignant protest.
If we are to confront the subject of the ideology of architecture from this perspective, we must attempt to shed light on how one of the most functional proposals for the reorganization of capital has come to suffer the most humiliating frustrations, to the point where it can be presented today as objective and transcending all connotations of class, or even as a question of alternatives, a terrain of direct confrontation between intellectuals and capital.

Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968, p.6

Tafuri, M. (1969). Toward a critique of architectural ideology. In Hays (Ed.), Architecture theory since 1968 

Wachtmeister, J. (Director) (2007). Great expectations. Solaris Filmprodution.

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