SYMPOSIUM 2: MISSING MANIFESTOS Review

by Beatriz Villanueva, Francisco J. Casas (both AA Summer School Tutors 2012) and Ramiro Losada Amor, curators of “On the verge of criticism”

13 June 2013
Universidad Europea, Madrid

 

The second session of “On the verge of criticism” hosted by Universidad Europea de Madrid gathered more than 120 people who were interested in attending the round table discussion. Some hours before, one of the announced participants, Beatriz Colomina (Princeton University) had given a lecture to the students of the university yet this seemed to add rather than subtract audience members.

 

The packed venue with a huge attendance of students, architects and teachers from different schools of architecture.
Image credit: Francisco J Casas

A foreword to the individual speakers’ presentations was given by Beatriz Villanueva (ETSA Zaragoza USJ) who toured the manifestos of the 20th century. From the works of Adolf Loos or Marinetti’s futurist manifesto to Patrick Schumacher’s parametric manifesto in the 21st century, Villanueva emphasized the surge of critical manifestos around the Modern Movement after the Second World War, with another boom as a result of the 1973 oil crisis and the recent trend based on the new paradigm of thermodynamics, to finally articulate the concept of the collage-manifesto, much less radical and always as part of a larger set of intentions and reformist tendencies that seem to dominate the present time.

 

Beatriz Villanueva made an introduction from a historical point of view on manifestos of 20th and 21st centuries
Image credit: Francisco J Casas

This was followed by Villanueva introducing each of the participants. First to present was Nacho Martin (Architectural Association) who defended the need for building another kind of narrative where, facing an architecture that aims to create hegemonic and dominant cultures, it is possible for another kind of discipline to exist that promotes or creates subcultures and resilient communities. In that sense, he pointed out how the radical expression of identities, rituals and practices of reinforcement of the community should be understood as tasks to be addressed from our discipline.

 

Nacho Martín presenting
Image credit: Lin Davis

Milla Hernández Pezzi with a beautiful image (1924) of the constructivist period and its communist propaganda in which Alesander Rochenko used a portrait of Lilya Brik
Image credit: Lin Davis

On a somewhat more academic note, with a doctorate in Art History and a professor at the ETSA Madrid, Milla Hernandez Pezzi proposed to revise the avant-garde; emphasizing the commitment of manifestoes and attitudes over time in relation to society – a commitment that now seems to have disappeared in favor of personal interests and individual engagements.

 

Andrés Perea pointing out new directions in terms of creative input such as complexity and sustainability
Image Credit: Lin Davis

In any case, the paradigm shift that starts probably in the 1970s and was one of the few areas where there seemed to be broad agreement was defended by Andrés Perea (Universidad Europea de Madrid, professor) in his initial position. From an even wider point of view, he introduces the paradigm of complexity that goes beyond the previous paradigm: mechanic, scientific, causal, linear, which, in the opinion of Professor Perea, is a revolution in terms of creativity within architectural design. It can no longer be governed on aesthetic criteria but, on the contrary, with a new holistic, trans and multidisciplinary sight, where “the debate over styles is a corpse”.

 

Beatriz Colomina remembered how Mies Van der Rohe used to publish his unbuilt project in magazines such as G (in the image), Frühlicht or Merz
Image Credit: Lin Davis

The last presentation before the panel discussion was by Beatriz Colomina. She spoke about architecture’s relationship to the media and how the use of different media by architects was not new but rather very common. It had already been documented in the case of Le Corbusier (L’Esprit Nouveau) and Mies van der Rohe (G and Frühlicht), and even the Futurists whose manifesto was drafted as they awaited the right moment to be published in Le Figaro when the group was just configured. A similar situation occurred, many years later, when Archigram gained international recognition thanks to a lucky encounter with Reyner Banham, Colomina said.

 

The panel discussion, moderated by Pedro Pablo Arroyo (Head of Department of Architectural Projects of the European University of Madrid), was very intense and probably insufficient to shed some light on the number of issues that were on the table. Arroyo wondered if architects would always prefer building over  producing an intellectual body of theoretical work. He observed that this was the case when the opportunity arose, often disregarding the importance of the latter except when forced into it by economical conditions. Andrés Perea introduced the question of expiry in architecture, which is a contemporary concern related to sustainability, natural resources, re-using and recycling, while Nacho Martín highlighted the greatness of our time in which, according to him, different, small and even contrary ideas can be defended and build new horizons with the intent of creating a new definition of architecture itself.

 

Nacho Martín underlines the importance of small manifestoes supporting subcultures and other narratives as moderator Pedro Pablo Arroyo look on
Image Credit: Lin Davis

Anatxu Zabalbeascoa (El País) and Ivan López Munuera contributed from the audience putting two new issues on the table: one, on the relevance and adequacy of some theoretical assumptions as justification for architecture, and two: on the idea offlexibility and reversibility of manifestos concerning issues such as feminism and ecology, even in the sense of the gentle manifesto referred to by Robert Venturi in Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture.

 

Andrés Perea stated that he did not expect anything from manifestos within a creative process
Image Credit: Lin Davis

For more information:

Universidad Europea de Madrid

Ramiro Losada

bRijUNi Architects

On the verge of Criticism Event Poster

Symposium 1: On the verge of criticism

 

Beatriz Colomina speaking during the round table discussion with Milla Hdez. Pezzi beside her
Image Credit: Lin Davis