1

Behne would later be his publisher. Taut, B. & Ábalos, I. «Arquitectura alpina» Círculo de Bellas Artes (2011).

2

Tafuri, M., & Dal Co, F. «Modern Architecture»  Faber & Faber (1987)

3

Harvey, D., & Smith, N. «Financial Capital, Real Estate and Culture» (Vol. 1). Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona. (2005)

4

Manfredo Tafuri referred thus to the avant garde ideal of merging together art, life and technology. Tafuri, M. «The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s» (No. 72) . MIT Press (1987).

 

Alpine Architecture (I): Love and Guilt or the Double Dilemma of Political Imagination in Architecture

“There’s Alpine Architecture for you!”  That was how, in 1917, Bruno Taut introduced his friend and mentor Adolf Behne to a fascinating treatise in which he aspired to transform the world into a great work of art1. Fired by a desire to combat the widespread boredom that he saw as the underlying cause of war, Taut democratised Nature, making it something to be enjoyed by the masses and at the same time turning it into a global monument to peace. Tafuri said the exaltation of Nature as a “regressive utopia” typical of late Romanticism concealed a deep, secret feeling of guilt2; but Taut’s idealism comprised something more than just nostalgia for a lost affinity. 0} Before setting out to build star-like cathedrals, the German architect expressed his feelings for the earth with these words: “Love is imagination. Love for the earth is the image we have of her”.

The mixture of love and guilt kneaded together in Alpine Architecture can be found today in the global demand for natural experiences, a phenomenon which has mushroomed with increasing awareness of the environmental crisis. The coloured gems Taut set along the icy crests of the Monte Rosa mountain range are echoed in the lines of tourists queuing up to take selfies at the top of Mount Everest. The spectacular, unrepeatable Nature that stirred Taut’s political imagination is now boxed up as a marketable image, but the purpose is the same: to embody the “sublime” dream of a better world and use the sheer extraordinariness of Nature to channel the yearning for differentiation that’s so characteristic of mass culture.

The task assumed by the iconic “neomonumentalist” architecture of the 1990s3 was precisely that of meeting the demand for entertainment and specialisation which accompanied the spread of globalisation.  Alpine Architecture was, in a way, a precursor, although it also identified an unforeseen need. In his commitment to architecture as a privileged instrument with which to “manage the whole”4 as a total interior, Taut realised the importance of generating internal balance. The urgent need for that balance is today manifest in the high-profile consumption of “natural” experiences: 0} experiences which also have a soothing effect. For some time now, the permanent renewal of superficial reality as a means of endorsing the beneficial direction being taken by technological progress has been better served by green facades than by curtain walls. Greenery, however, is no longer enough. Viscous, intense tides of cultural techno-capitalism require continuous shots of fantasy, not only to pump life into them but also to mask their accompanying structural imbalances. Tafuri called this the “ideology of permanent innovation”.

A project like the Port of Kinmen Passenger Terminal could therefore be seen as an attempt to reposition architecture as an interpretation service for global capital movements threatened by the circulation of images showing an exploited, degraded Nature: if architecture can be restored in the collective imaginary as an object of desire, everything will at least look as if it’s under control. Ishigami’s “renewed monumentalism” certainly recalls Taut’s mountain architecture. But, in this case, has symbolic imagination been placed at the service of anything more than the market for ostentatious experiences? Alpine Architecture can thus be seen as a model not for building a new world but for understanding a problem. The complex relationship it highlights between balance and renewal – love and guilt – invites us to review the conditions, consequences and alternatives of an architecture deeply mired in the habitability crisis.

(To be continued)


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor

Notas de página
1

Behne would later be his publisher. Taut, B. & Ábalos, I. «Arquitectura alpina» Círculo de Bellas Artes (2011).

2

Tafuri, M., & Dal Co, F. «Modern Architecture»  Faber & Faber (1987)

3

Harvey, D., & Smith, N. «Financial Capital, Real Estate and Culture» (Vol. 1). Univ. Autònoma de Barcelona. (2005)

4

Manfredo Tafuri referred thus to the avant garde ideal of merging together art, life and technology. Tafuri, M. «The Sphere and the Labyrinth: Avant Gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s» (No. 72) . MIT Press (1987).

 

Autor:
Paula V. Álvarez es una arquitecta con sede en Sevilla, fundadora de la práctica editorial Vibok Works . Su trabajo reúne investigación, edición, diseño y escritura desde una perspectiva experimental y crítica. Su principal interés de investigación es cómo el encuentro del enfoque académico de los Estudios Culturales y de la Ecología de los Medios con la experimentación arquitectónica desde inicios del s. XX hasta nuestros días puede habilitar una comprensión más profunda de la renovación de las técnicas de arquitectura en el seno de la globalización electrónica y la cultura tecnográfica.

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