The End of Technic as Proxy
in the Praxis for Presencing Architecture
A lecture given at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna on June 26th 2013
from the dissertation
Goal in Architecture
This talk serves as an orientation for the
architect embedded in the technicist status quo.
Earlier this month I sat in on some of the lectures for the 200th Birthday Symposium of Theophil Hansen. The next to last Referat given by Robert Stalla, one about the technology used in Hansen’s architecture began with a quote from Adolph Loos. I will repeat it here and say why. The quote is from Prinzip der Bekleidung, I’m sure one or two of you might know it. But if not, you all know the story.
|Der Mensch suchte Schutz vor den Un’bilden des Wetters, Schutz und Wärme während des Schlafes. Er suchte sich zu bedecken. Die Decke ist das älteste Architekturdetail. Ursprünglich waren es Felle oder Erzeugnisse der Textilkunst, welche Bedeutung sie in den germanischen Sprachen heute noch besitzt. Diese Decke musste irgendwo angebracht werden, sollte sie genügend Schutz für eine Familie bieten!
Bald kamen die Wände dazu, um auch seitlichen Schutz zu bieten.
|This is story
telling which sounds really good. The nice warm hearth that the
architect might create, also by implication in the psychological and
the cultural sense. I would say that at that time it may have been at
best transitional from an unintelligible past to an as yet unknown
future. The proof for the primitve hut and such simpleness comes from
the idea that ancient humans were nearer to being animals which is
circumstantial. We definitely THINK that we need to protect ourselves
and this is automatically related with comforts and with those things
that please us including architecture. I question if this is actually a
realistic and practical origin story for architects. Technologists,
perhaps. It seems to me wiser for architects to stick with the present,
the human, the divine and Nature herself, than to put up conjectural
histories as starting points.
I would propose the architect Loos felt that architecture did not lie in the technological. Nor obviously in decoration. Loos did not deny ornament, but as I am going to do today for technology, he questioned its role and its place. The so-called non-practical such as ornament in certain architectural contexts, as well as the material, such as statics and others, had to be questioned in the face of technology’s power. The architect could not fall to representing the merely decorative. Loos had to push that aside as technology was beginning to fill the realm of the architect with a rush, which Ruskin had so well written dire warnings of 50 years earlier. Architects were going to have to find a reference — perhaps like a log in a flood — to be relevant in a world absorbed by technic and the sciences. Architecture was surely not just ornament, and at the time the architect still held structural engineering firmly within the scope of practice.
Not only Loos, but Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe and many other architects, continuing for 3 or 4 generations now, have defined themselves by the means of technology. Once so vested, invested; garmented as architects future-past, they may continue with the real work: Defining architecture each and every day in how they work and in each and every project. Architecture has thus been evolving in a kind of shadowy presence in broad day light. Perhaps that makes it fuzzy. It is molecularized unknown, ready to spring up anywhere in an instant. This is how architects also retain the aura of the subterfuge, the radical and the anarchic.