1

Howard, H. 2016. Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson: Bloomsbury USA.

2

Scully, Vincent. 1963. “The dead of the street.” The Yale Architecture Journal (8): 91-6.

Our dear villains

Two Faces, drawn by John Romita Jr. for All-Star Batman #1 “My Own Worst Enemy” (2016), p. 22. Inked by Danny Miki, colour by Dean White. Fragment. © DC Comics

We are used to paying tribute to our heroes, to those architects that have had a positive influence on our way of understanding architecture. From a historical point of view, we even define a category to critically refer to these heroes, tied to “heroic architecture” that laid the foundations for modernity. However, our discipline is also peppered with villains to whom we should give their deserved honour.

I am not referring to those individuals who make us feel ashamed, architects who have gone from identifying with geometric and chromatic purity to identifying with their despicable perversions. Or those wolves donning lamb’s skins who, blinded by the power granted by a supposed German empire, forgot their progressive youth and embraced horror. Nor am I referring to those who think that architecture may be admirable even when sustained by economic and labour exploitation. No. They do not deserve to be considered villains but simply incarnations of evil that should be extricated from our discipline if we want to continue to feel proud of what it represents.

Our villains are those to whom each one of us chooses, often unaware, to attribute the condition of antiheros of architecture, or at least our way of perceiving architecture. Occasionally, they are people near to us, but not anonymous. Usually, though, we choose those who have acquired the condition of supervillains, who are more characters than they are persons. Just as in comic books, they have become more recognisable for their extravagant behaviour than for their work. The bald villain — you choose which one — who from his privileged pedestal denies the existence of superstarvillains; Mr. Freeze’s apprentice who purports to build monumental cities that are as cold and white as his (tax) domicile; Riddler’s advanced disciple who surprised the world with his ability to politically disassemble Swedish furniture with unpronounceable names; the local villain who disguises his cape by rolling it up around his neck…

Jack Hawksmoor aka. “The God of Cities”. Illustration by Fiona Staples for Wildstorm: A Celebration of 25 Years (2017). Fragment. © DC Comics

As compared to undesirable evil architects, villains are necessary. They perform an essential function in architecture as the nemesis of the hero. Without them, heroes would not exist. Many have tried to define architecture by identifying their own particular hero, from Philip Johnson emphasising his rivalry with Frank Lloyd Wright,1 to Jane Jacobs struggling against Robert Moses so that he would not permanently disfigure New York, to Vincent Scully placing Walter Gropius in the category of public enemy number one for his Pan Am building,2 and Robert Venturi in his show-down with the most powerful group of villains, the architects from the Modern Movement.

Our dear villains also enable a sort of collective and personal catharsis, freeing us from the frustration inherent in the inevitable confrontation between what we would like to be and what we actually are. They are the distorted mirror allowing us to see ourselves not as mere architects, but as heroes defending architecture. But we must never forget, to paraphrase Two Faces, that if we don’t die as true heroes, we run he risk of living long enough to see ourselves turned into villains.


Text translated by Beth Gelb
Notas de página
1

Howard, H. 2016. Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson: Bloomsbury USA.

2

Scully, Vincent. 1963. “The dead of the street.” The Yale Architecture Journal (8): 91-6.

Autor:
(Gijón, 1981) Arquitecto (2005), máster en restauración arquitectónica y doctor en urbanística y ordenación del territorio por la Universidad de Valladolid. Compagina la práctica profesional vinculada a la planificación urbanística con la docencia en el área de proyectos arquitectónicos. Sus intereses giran en torno a la representación e interpretación cultural del territorio, los medios de comunicación y la disolución de los límites disciplinares.

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