SYMPOSIUM 3: SILENCE AND CRITICISM Review
by Beatriz Villanueva, Francisco J. Casas (both AA Summer School Tutors 2012) and Ramiro Losada Amor, curators of “On the verge of criticism”
08 August 2013
Roca Gallery, Madrid
The third and last session of “On the verge of criticism” conferences hosted by Universidad Europea de Madrid changed venue and took place at the Roca Madrid Gallery on Monday 13th May with a very involved theme (the silence of criticism) that initiated an intense conversation, almost immediately, between the speakers and the audience.
[caption id="attachment_1937" align="alignnone" width="360"] Francisco J. Casas (curator of "On the verge of criticism" with Ramiro Losada and Beatriz Villanueva) summarised the previous two days of the symposium and introduced this third and final session.[/caption]
Francisco Javier Casas introduced the guest speakers after summing up the past conferences where he highlighted the need to set some rules to register and catalogue the new sources of information that had appeared since the beginning of internet. This is in order to integrate them within a body of knowledge where future researchers are able to use them properly. He also mentioned the need for a new framework where format and content could work together more cohesively. Finally, Casas made a historical introduction in which he claimed to avoid lobbies in criticism in order to achieve a more open, sincere and free scenario, although operating in an ideological and never neutral field (quoting Colquhoun), where criticism will not be used in an operative/instrumental way (Tafuri).
[caption id="attachment_1938" align="alignnone" width="360"] Anatxu Zabalbeascoa (Journalist -El País- and Historian) was critical of the profession in general.[/caption]
The first speaker was Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, historian and journalist (El País), who was critical of architects in general -apologizing in advance for unfair generalizations- underlining the discourse of many architects who deliberately separated their own work into two categories: those that can be published and those that can not because they are of a lesser quality. Zabalbeascoa justified her work as a journalist at a newspaper like El País, whose objective public is very different and not necessarily always architects, as it is a form of mass media with a wide range of readers. To explain this, she used well known examples (Alejandro Aravena or Sol 89) and others which were less known that related to the informal city and the suburban life in deprived South American cities.
[caption id="attachment_1935" align="alignnone" width="360"] Nestor Montenegro (Tri-Continental Master's Degree in Advanced Architectural Design -Universidad Europea de Madrid- Director) spoke without the support of images.[/caption]
Nestor Montenegro (Universidad Europea de Madrid) used multiple references and mostly excerpts from texts by Georges Perec to show his idea of criticism not using any kind of images: “Every library answers a twofold need, which is often also a twofold obsession: that of conserving certain objects (books) and that of organizing them in certain ways.” Montenegro supported the idea of a new criticism that accepts architecture in its multiplicity and difference; where critics have to take some risk every time they act, in order to construct a diverse and collective knowledge.
[caption id="attachment_1936" align="alignnone" width="360"] Francisco González de Canales (Architectural Association Unit Master) constructed a historical argument around the theme.[/caption]
The third guest, Francisco González de Canales (Architectural Association) started his presentation by stressing the superfluous nature of the first critique of the Modern Movement. Architecture needs to be understood by using tools and disciplines exterior to itself. González de Canales enhanced the radical historicism of Raymond Williams and his critique of structuralist and post-structuralist ideas from the 70s and 80s, as a way to return to a positive criticism that would go “from the customs and minor practices of our everyday and its modes of expression to the central issues of society in relation to culture”, as Williams writes in “Politics of Modernism. Against the new conformists”.
[caption id="attachment_1940" align="alignnone" width="360"] Néstor Montenegro speaking while (from left to right) Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, Miguel Lasso de la Vega, Francisco González de Canales and Fredy Massad listen.[/caption]
[caption id="attachment_1934" align="alignnone" width="360"] Fredy Massad (architect and critic -ABC-) pointed out how lies turn into architectural truth if they are repeated often enough[/caption]
Last to speak was Fredy Massad, architectural critic (ABC) and teacher (ESARQ), who showed some examples of what he considered as mistakes spread from criticism and architectural journalism in general. One of them was La extraña muerte de la crítica de arquitectura, an article in which José María Montaner reviews Martin Pawley’s book The strange dead of the architectural criticism and agrees with this sad death. Massad also commented on how some architects defined themselves or their works and how the general press take these self-definitions as a dogma without any reflection or interpretation, just as a loud-speaker or podium to enlarge their egos.
[caption id="attachment_1933" align="alignnone" width="360"] Miguel Lasso de la Vega (Head of the department of Urbanism and History of Architecture) holding the microphone during the roundtable.[/caption]
The round table was moderated by Miguel Lasso de la Vega (Head of the department of Urbanism and History of Architecture) who put forward questions about the objective of criticism, to whom it is addressed or who should make it and how. Lasso de la Vega reminded us that criticism is not something new but, on the contrary, has always existed in art. However, he regretted that maybe now we focused more on format than content (like in the first of the session), disregarding the message and the actors in favor of an almost instant, democratic and accessible exercise of criticism.
[caption id="attachment_1939" align="alignnone" width="360"] Guest speakers listening to symposium organiser's introduction to the third day of "On the verge of criticism".[/caption]
For more information:
Universidad Europea de Madrid
On the verge of Criticism Event Poster
Symposium 1: On the verge of criticism
Symposium 2: Missing Manifestos
A Short Film summarising the 3 events by Lin Davis
(all images are credited to Lin Davis)