In the book the Italian Architect and Historian argues that, since architecture has been employed as a tool for the development of capitalism, it is unable to become an instrument for social transformation. But Architecture and Utopia was written between and , when both the organization of the world and the very logics of capitalism were different, so we cannot avoid the question of how such critiques have been addressed since the text was published. The main argument of this book is the inability of architecture to become an instrument for social transformation, since it has been an integral part of the capitalist project. In this way, the Italian architect and historian demonstrates his pessimistic point of view when he recalls that, as history has shown that architecture has failed in its attempts to engage in social transformation, the main architectural tool —the project- becomes useless in this regard, so the only chance to present a valid point of view in architecture lies in the work of the critique. Since this argument declares useless any socio-reformist aim through regular practice of architecture, it has led many critics to interpret it as a claim for the death of architecture. On the one hand, there are people that simply reject any argument from Tafuri considering him a radical , while on the other hand, there are people that think that his texts should be analyzed carefully, in order to look for possible operative spaces, within a proposal that supposedly leads architecture to a degree zero.
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In the book the Italian Architect and Historian argues that, since architecture has been employed as a tool for the development of capitalism, it is unable to become an instrument for social transformation. But Architecture and Utopia was written between and , when both the organization of the world and the very logics of capitalism were different, so we cannot avoid the question of how such critiques have been addressed since the text was published.
The main argument of this book is the inability of architecture to become an instrument for social transformation, since it has been an integral part of the capitalist project. In this way, the Italian architect and historian demonstrates his pessimistic point of view when he recalls that, as history has shown that architecture has failed in its attempts to engage in social transformation, the main architectural tool —the project- becomes useless in this regard, so the only chance to present a valid point of view in architecture lies in the work of the critique.
Since this argument declares useless any socio-reformist aim through regular practice of architecture, it has led many critics to interpret it as a claim for the death of architecture. On the one hand, there are people that simply reject any argument from Tafuri considering him a radical , while on the other hand, there are people that think that his texts should be analyzed carefully, in order to look for possible operative spaces, within a proposal that supposedly leads architecture to a degree zero.
This is the simplest way to explain that the city is, in its purest sense, a human creation, and hence, the product of an idea. Starting from the contingent dimension of a human creation, Tafuri understands that if the city has persisted as form of human organization over the territory, it is because it was functional to something. Deepening in that argument he believes that, as a way to organize the movements of masses of people minimizing the frictions, the city is completely functional to capitalist logics; that is, its condition as a of tool of capitalism has allowed the city to persist in time and crystallize as the most common form of human organization over territory.
This means that the city is not a natural phenomenon of human organization, but a contingent one. Human density, on the contrary, cannot indicate by itself the presence of a city because it may be only temporary, as it happened in Woodstock.
According to these arguments, the city would be the structure which allows less friction to the accumulation of capital. But if it is purely a structure, then the city would show capitalism in its most raw way; here is when Tafuri realizes of the functional use of naturalism in its double sense, as an aesthetic as well as an ideological principle: What, on the ideological plane, does reducing the city to a natural phenomenon signify? On the one hand, such an enterprise involves a sublimation of physiocratic theories: the city is no longer seen as a structure that, by means of its own accumulation mechanisms, determines and transforms the processes of the exploitation of the soil and agricultural production.
Inasmuch as the reduction is a "natural" process, a-historical because universal, the city is freed of any considerations of a structural nature. At first, formal naturalism was used to make convincing the objective necessity of the processes put in motion by the pre-revolutionary bourgeoisie. A bit later, it was used to consolidate and protect these achievements from any further transformation.
On the other hand, this naturalism has a function of its own, which is that of assuring to artistic activity an ideological role in the strictest sense of the term. However, Tafuri also observed that after the crisis of , a process of reorganization of capitalism took place, and that it changed the view on the city: no longer a productive structure to be hidden behind artistic motifs, but a superstructure that gives place to speculation both economic and artistic.
Even though they recognize the capitalist origin of the city —and, as Harvey does, the way in which it is useful to extract surplus- value from land— they bet, as Lefebvre, for a revolution from within the city. It can also mean a generalization of rebellion and then, possibly, the growth of networks of cooperation, the increased intensity of the common and encounters among singularities. This is where the multitude is finding its home. But if the city is the form in which the relations of production are organized under the logics of capital, we may think that if revolution happens, then it should be followed by a restructuring of this mode of organization; otherwise, the superstructure would remain untouched.
As we previously saw, Tafuri says that artistic avant-gardes were initially in charge of naturalizing the city to make it seem as inevitable. But then, when the city became a superstructure, avant-gardes also played a key role, no longer dressing the structure, but developing tools to create the superstructure.
Mondrian was to have the courage to "name" the city as the final object toward which neoplastic composition tended. But he was to be forced to recognize that, once it had been translated into urban structures, painting —by now reduced to a pure model of behavior— would have to die.
For Martin, the curtain-wall is not only a mirror of economic abstraction, but also an architectural response to standardization in its double sense: both as the standardization of the building industry as well as the standardization of the spaces in which a new kind of abstract labor is developed. That is, architecture becomes a sort of anchor which ties to land the flux of the markets, because in the same way than believers need a concrete place to give actual materiality to the invisibility of their faith —the church-, the building becomes the place in which the developer materializes his faith in the invisible flux of the market.
In this way, architecture would not be just a by-product of urban speculation but rather a constitutive element of financial markets; thus, both kinds of abstraction architecture and financial capital would be religiously tied: …the rise of the developer and the rise of the signature architect go hand-in-glove but not only in the sense of one serving as client or patron for the other. Much more significant, the rise of these two iconic figures has to do with a hidden religiosity that architecture and money still share, a religiosity that becomes clearer when we recognize the affinities between so-called iconic buildings and the visual icons that characterize many but not all religious traditions.
Abstraction changes its forms, but around this concept —and over the city— it has been developed a continuous relation between architecture and capital. Unfortunately, the analytical productivity that this path shows, and the fact that Tafuri was right, demonstrates that architecture is still a key tool in the permanent reformulation of capitalism.
Tafuri opened this debate as a critique to the formalistic approach of the so-called neo-avant-gardes of the sixties. Wanted or not, the avant-gardes of the twenties understood the key problem of their age, so the tools they developed became socially useful a few years later, no matter if it were in favor or in counter of their original ideas. As Tafuri says: The attempt to revitalize architecture by means of an exploration of its internal structures comes about just at the moment when avant-garde studies in the linguistic field are abandoning "ambiguous" communications and taking their place in the heart of the productive universe, through the creation of artificial programming languages.
By the end of the sixties it was taking place a new process of reorganization of the productive universe — similar to the other that Tafuri discovered after the crisis of — which was no longer based on the plan but in the programming languages.
This new concept is related with the rise of cybernetics, and its capacity to give a dynamic response to changing conditions: in other words, if the plan implied the planning of production —a long-term process, which included stages and goals, according to fixed conditions that allows the projection of spending and returns— the programming languages implied the dynamic response in a context where the equilibrium has disappeared — which makes impossible to predict the conditions, implying the necessity of a language able to adapt itself to an ever-changing environment.
In that context, cybernetic and programming languages were the response to the dynamic fluxes of capital. But achieving that goal implied two new features: on the one hand, a permanent monitoring of the conditions —the so-called real-time analysis— and on the other, the neutrality of the language —its abstraction almost to a degree zero literally a binary code based in ones and zeros.
There were of course bonus systems in factories, but businesses strive to introduce a deeper level of modulation into all wages, bringing them into a state of constant metastability punctuated by ludicrous challenges, competitions, and seminars… In disciplinary societies you were always starting all over again as you went from school to barracks, from barracks to factory , while in control societies you never finish anything-business, training, and military service being coexisting metastable states of a single modulation, a sort of universal transmutation.
We are no longer dealing with a duality of mass and individual. Rem Koolhaas coined in the concept of Generic City, which is the urban form that appears once the programming languages have taken over the plan. If the Generic City is the city without identity, the junkspace is the space without quality. As Koolhaas says: Continuity is the essence of Junkspace; it exploits any invention that enables expansion, deploys the infrastructure of seamlessness: escalator, air-conditioning, sprinkler, fire shutter, hot-air curtain… It is always interior, so extensive that you rarely perceive limits; it promotes disorientation by any means mirror, polish, echo … Junkspace is sealed, held together not but structure but by skin, like a bubble… If architecture separates buildings, air-conditioning unites them… Because it costs money, is no longer free, conditioned space inevitably becomes conditional space; sooner or later all conditional space turns into Junkspace… 30 Here the Dutch architect shows a pessimistic point of view, quite similar to Tafuri: no matter what the architects do, capital takes over architecture but imposing its own rules.
Since junkspace proliferates throughout the world like mushrooms, it is clear that its growing rate is intrinsically tied to the expansive nature of capital. Was this article a call to lay down the arms and surrender to the omnipresent powers of capital? In other words, if architecture consists of designing the skin for the spaces generated by capitalist development, then the work of the architect lies in creating bubbles.
At this point, Zaera-Polo indicates that his aim is to: …produce an updated politics of architecture in which the discipline is not merely reduced to a representation of ideal political concepts, but conceived as an effective tool to produce change. Rather than returning to ideology and utopia as some critical theorists are proposing a contemporary politicization of architecture needs to relocate politics within specific disciplinary domains — not as a representation of an ideal concept of the political but as a political effect specific to the discipline.
Since Tafuri never mentions a projective application of his proposal, and he even rejects the possibility of an operative criticism, it is curious that Zaera-Polo used that argument to support a projective theory mostly if it is a theory that claims for the specificity of the discipline.
As we have seen, the only possible relation that exists between the envelope and the programming languages is that the former covers the latter. But this argument has the same weaknesses that Tafuri discovered in the proposals raised by the neo- avant-gardes of the sixties: behind that envelope autonomously designed by the architect, the relations of production generated by the programming languages remain untouched.
In his deep analysis of avant-gardes and neo- avant-gardes, Tafuri forgot to look beyond the architectural academic establishment. If he would have done so, he could have realized that the programming languages have been actively addressed in architecture not by the five from the east nor the west, but —as Reinhold Martin has noted— by Buckminster Fuller.
Although it is understandable that in a book on Jameson the editor needed an opponent to highlight the relevance of the honoree, it is curious that the character selected as nemesis had been precisely the architect that raised the relation between architecture and ideology. Now, if we speak about intellectual false consciousness, the question is: which is the true one? In fact, being deeply Nietzschean supposes to be deeply convinced of the disappearance of any concept of true, thus the concept of ideology as false consciousness is a contradiction in its terms.
To skip that obstacle, we can refer to something most simple, so we will speak of representations. They do interest me. Critique of ideology must be understood as critique of the left itself. My own program was to develop a critique of the ideological thought that has pervaded architectural history, art history, and history in general… One should always address the critique of ideology towards his or her own ideology, not the ideology of his or her enemy.
What needs to be de-ideologicized is precisely the cultural context to which one fight for. For a general understanding of the concept of critique of ideology as it was developed by the Operaists see: Mario Tronti, Operai e Capitale Turin: Einaudi, Representations are often hidden within different practices and they form a substrate common to all individuals: the inter-subjective code of a society or a social group.
We can understand them as lenses, not necessarily distorting, through which reality is seen… But the systems of representation of the world lie outside our control: we are not the ones who speak through them; it is they that are expressed through us.
This means that representations are always actual constructions of reality, which supposes that reality as such does not exist, but only as we construct it. Architects and non-architects —whether we like it or not- we are built once we came into the world, we are built and simultaneously we built those images of reality. However, there are movements which can alter those representations, but they are not subjective.
For example, critique. On the other hand, a delirious representation is produced socially… And yet, these delirious representations turn out to be historically necessary. The interview was realized in Translated by the author. The case of the psychoanalyst is a mere example, but the affinity is really deep. After that reasoning, Zizek cleverly observes that if market- exchange implies the non-knowledge of its participants, then this unconscious nature is part of its essence.
In this regard, we may understand the re-reading of Freud and Lacan that Tafuri was doing by the end of the seventies, 43 as a search for a way out of the paradox of ideology —a task that would be successfully achieved by Zizek at the end of the eighties.
Trying to find a space out of the system of production in which to re-locate the work of the architect as intellectual, Tafuri realizes that the only possible place to re-locate architecture was outside the ideology; but for doing so, the price to be paid was to renounce practice and devote to the historical and critical analysis of architecture. Zizek by his part, widely recognized as one of the main Marxist thinkers of our age, has missed the opportunity to continue the path traced by Tafuri.
But by now, we can only find support on the provisional results obtained by Tafuri more than thirty years ago. While his negative view on the city has turned into a hopeful one in the works of Harvey or Hardt and Negri, the concept of the city as superstructure remains latent.
After having demonstrated the unconscious nature of ideology, Zizek deepens in his analysis to demonstrate that, in our contemporary world, we are far from being a post-ideological society. What they do not know is that their social reality itself, their activity, is guided by an illusion, by a fetishistic inversion.
What they overlook, what they misrecognize, is not the reality but the illusion which is structuring their reality, their real social activity. They know very well how things really are, but still they are doing as if they did not know. The illusion is therefore double: it consists in overlooking the illusion which is structuring our real, effective relationship with reality. And this overlooked, unconscious illusion is what may be called the ideological fantasy.
How the ideological fantasy operates in architecture? If the illusion is not on the side of knowledge but on the side of practices, are the architectural practices operating within an illusion? Does the architectural knowledge remain immune to ideology? What if the knowledge on architecture is also a form of practice? On the relationship between the critique and the architect, I have an image: in a room that seems to have no doors or windows, the architect is.
And in a moment the room starts to flood. The operation of the critique would consist in being willing to drown the architect, not for malice, but for that man discovers that the room has no walls, no floors, and no roofs. In other words, to realize that the room does not exist If the man in the room persists in believing that the room is real, he will drown. Thus, bound by the water to be saved or die, he will have invented a new space What really matters is that, in architecture, the question of why we are doing what we are doing remains unanswered.
Blackwell, - D. Hardt and A.
Architecture and Utopia
Immediately after the publication of that essay many more or less violent stands were taken in regard to its theses. To these I have always avoided responding directly, not so much out of a lack of respect for my critics, as for reasons which must now of necessity be clarified once and for all. Rereading the history of modern architecture in the light of methods offered by an ideological criticism, understood in the strictest Marxist acceptance of the term, could, six years ago, furnish only a frame of reference for further examination, and only a partial and circumstantial analysis of individual problems. The journal that published this essay and others by myself and by colleagues working along the same lines was so clearly defined in its political history and particular line of thought and interests, that one would have supposed that many equivocal interpretations might a priori have been avoided.
I mean literally carrying it around — I tend to pick it up two or three times a year to dip into. I often take it on holidays or on long train rides. For those of you who know the book you may not think much of my holidays now. It is small — both in dimension and total pages — and I always have the impression that I will read it all the way through and understand it all. I fail each time.