Space, Light and Truth
by Paolo Vincenzo Genovese
These web-pages are focusing on architecture. And then as a preliminary discussion we have to define what is architecture, otherwise all our future considerations will vanish.
In some of our investigations, in our previous analysis and in our scripts, we try to find reasons for this concept. But the nature of every definition is to limit, to frame a concept and for this reason, it kills the object of investigation. It is not a case that there is no definition concerning metaphysical entity, like God, or Dao, or Brahman. Every definition fixes a term and this is a problem. It has the advantage to give a clear idea of a concept, but finally every definition is incorrect because it does not touch the real and true nature of the things.
A possible argumentation could assert: yes, but architecture is not God, or Dao, or Brahman! But this position is inconsistent. In fact, in the ancient tradition, God is the Architect of the Universe and in the 道德经 “Dàodéjīng”, there are many references about architecture as a metaphor of the Supreme Truth.
So, the one who said that architecture is the art of construction or, the one who point out hundreds of possible analysis around the etymology of the word, yes they may say something interesting but without touch the point. Yes, because the point cannot be touched because it is zero-dimensional. And this is valid for every concept.
Then what is the key issue of our discussion here?
If all the definitions are inaccurate and basically specious, is it necessary to avoid every form of discussion? In general, this is not a bad idea, because blogs, papers, books, already discussed too much and the value of the silence is incomparable.
On the contrary, it is also true that every form of apophatic thought is only valid in some specific cultural context and for a limited area of knowledge. And architecture is exactly one of this area.
Are we going to be philosophical?
Yes and no. Yes, because without philosophy — in the sense of «love for knowledge» — there is no thinking and quality, but only material quantity, and this is the end of the nature of being human. No, because finally produce architecture and urban context is a necessity.
If the first point is clear, the second point is much more ambiguous. It appears as a triviality, as a banal assertion which no need to be discussed; but we have a totally different opinion.
One of the radical problems of contemporary architecture is that there are too much philosophy and almost no built architecture. There are building, yes, there are cities, yes, but all of these is not architecture.
Our criticism is intentional and we want to be as sharp as possible, as provocative as possible.
The architecture almost does not exist anymore. There is no more urban planning or urban design. From one side we assist of a proliferation of deliriant scripts, philosophically inconsistent and twisted in their argumentation about pure nonsense. Personally, we took part in some conferences concerning the theory of architecture and we did not understand a sentence in that delirious speeches. The deconstructivist critics on architecture generate interesting buildings but a mountain of scripts which make no sense to us. Noam Chomsky, one of the personalities that we admire most, make a precise statement against the deconstructivist process of argumentation. His critics were more general and our accusation is specific in the area of architecture, but finally the topic is identical. The things have to change and the scripts on architecture cannot be based anymore on a twisted interpretation and verbal funambulism. The explanations have to be clear and precise. No more Avant-Garde poetry, no more nonsense.
There is a second point to be discussed. At least people who talk nonsense are not really dangerous if we do not listen. Much more dangerous are the architects who do projects, who build their works without any social consciousness and without any self-censorship. They build only for marketing reasons. They are very often famous, professional and competent. But unfortunately, everything is done to become “image” and “architecture for publication”. The building is made only to generate rendering and to please the eyes of the incompetent marketing environment. They make money and they waste public and private money generate the ugliness of our cities. And finally, who cares? The architects who produce ugliness live in other places and they are not condemned to see the horror that they produce every day. They only produce architecture of rendering. If the reality is different, if the reality does not correspond to the fake image published in the advertisement, or on the magazine, or on the website, who cares! They sale an image and not a real architecture. Are the architectures and the cities around us beautiful? No, they are ugly, but nobody notice and the reason can be illustrated in the following lines.
A third point, even more dramatic, that have to come into an end is the “so-called” architect which propose only “non-building”. We intend all the designers which never come into a building site, which never know the problem of the material construction of architecture. They mostly produce “dreams” on paper, and only that. Very different were the cases of Hans Scharoun and Günther Domenig. They “dream on paper” («am papier traumen» as Domenig once said), but then that dream become space and light, and especially great space and light. During the 1990s and late, we have seen a thousand cases of architects which only dream on paper (or worst, on computer) and proudly said that the architecture have to be only abstract spaces; or the architecture «may be» this or that, and finally it is nothing. We are not talking about the Cyber-Architecture, and the virtual space which has its own complexity and nature. We are talking about people who have no knowledge of the nature of the abstract mathematical space, complex geometry, as well as the art of the construction. But they talk. Great masters of architecture do not talk, but they build or write.
This third point has a consequence, even more dramatic. The indifference of the physical space. If most of the projects are produced to please the eyes, to be published in some form of media, for «Take Money and Run», then the result is the un-planned city which appear in front of us every day in our experience of citizens.
Urban planning is a very scientific and precise discipline. Architecture is a great and difficult major. But few people do this job recently. Everyone is busy in computer rendering and money. People do not look the city anymore. We are all concentrated on our smartphone. We have no more interests for the physical road because our concentration is mostly on virtual space. And this is the end of the idea of Urban Planning and Architecture as it was conceived for thousand years. «The world go on», yes, but it is not going in a good direction and it is the task of the critic to remind the right direction.
This is the reason why we need to give a definition of architecture. If you ask: well, but finally what is the definition of architecture? My answer is in the title of this paper.
Reference picture: San Vitale, Ravenna, 526-547. Source: mikipedia-arte.it. In: