Retracing the development of architecture from the late eighteenth century to the beginning of the seventies, he concludes by discounting any possibility of utopia for the architecture of the era of late capitalism. Utopia — and ideology, as its foundational assumption — go into crisis when they are realised. But for him the problem was more general: the whole of Modernity — and most of all, Late Modernity — is a time in which not only utopia and reality but every pair of opposites, every contradiction, cannot coexist. Unlike the Renaissance, Modernity is an era in which contradictions produce a mere sum of pluralities, of dissimilar multiplicities, within which each constantly aspires to prevail over the other, to assert itself — a war of all against all.

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Its verifiability does not require abstractions of principle, it measures itself, each time, against the results obtained, while its theoretical horizon is the pragmatist and instrumentalist tradition.

One could add that this type of criticism, by anticipating the ways of and problems not yet shown at least, not explicitly so. Its attitude is contesting towards past history, and prophetic towards the future. We cannot pass abstract judgment on operative criticism. We canonly judge it after we have examined its historical origins and measured its effects on contemporary architecture: no other yardstick will do.

In order to find one of the first sources of an operative attitude in modern Theories and History of Architecture criticism, we will have to go back to Bellori, rather than to pseudoManetti or Vasari.

Clearly the author does not take history for granted; he does not accept reality as it is and he thinks that critical judgment cannot simply influence the course of history, but must also, and mainly, change it, because its approval or rejection have as much. For Bellori such a generic statement has lost its value.

The classicist language, in the mid- s no longer needs justification: what has to be aver- offers stable values and prospects. The antithesis hidden under the inhibited sixteenth-century debate must explode, become obvious, place the artist at a cross-road, place the critic in the situation of one that, Operative Criticism having pointed out the reasons for that antithesis, makes a choice: achoice that is, substantially, a gamble on the future.

Let us put aside, for the moment, any observation on the specific character of the two tendencies, and suspend our judgment as regards their historicity and the general analogies that, in spite of the antithesis, could very well be thereS4 What, besides the theses put forward by Bellori and Tesauro, links these authors, is the coincidence, in their theorising, of what is and what should be, of historical survey and projection of values into the future, of judgment of value and analysis of the phenomena.

Their criticism is operative in so far as the system of choices made by them does not presenr: itself as a well founded cognitive process, but rather as a suggested value, or, better, as an aprioridiscriminant between values and non-values. Somehow operative criticism dready contained the seed of anti-historicity in the Baroque Age. At least in this sense: if, like Bellori, in order to make history we start from a well founded and personal order of values, so apodictical as to make superfluous, in the end, any objective survey, we will no doubt, get to an obvious operativity of the critical product, but, at the same time, we will not be able to demonstrate the validity of the proposed choices.

Removing Bernini, Borromini and Pietro da Cortona from the historical scene is in fact a self-explanatory gesture of critiquepassionnie. But, having cut any connection with the historicisation of the critical choices, Bellori throws his own choice back into the most absolute relativity; he seems, in fact, to realise unconsciously that any judgment of value has irrationality at its foundation, and, as such, can only shrink fsom fully showing its hand.

We have stayed with Bellori not only because his Vile are objectively a formidable historical precedent for modern operative criticism, but also because it is often easier to read objectively the phenomena of the past than to recognise the structures of the phenomena in which we are deeply involved. Nowadays what appears paradoxical in Bellori is, in fact, daily and punctually repeated by the most orthodox operative criticism: ifno one goes so far as to eliminate from his historical treatise figures and happenings of the past, this is certainly not the case with figures and phenomena nearer to us.

The result is not all that different from that obtained by Bellori: we know all about the personal choices of contemporary historians, but at the price of introducing serious mythicisations in the corpus of history. C It should not surprise us, then, that the ambiguity between deducl-ive and inductive method is typical of one ofthe most operativetendencies of modern criticism: that of the Illuminist age, at least from Cordernay onwards. Je vais lever un coin du rideau qui leur cache la science des proportions.

Operative Criticism The critic is the depository of the rationality and of the internal coherenceof language while the alechitect confirms, by his activity, the range of applicability of that lanpage.

A half-way Philosophy takes one farther Dom the truth, but awell-meant Philosophyleads toit. How could, then, the true philosophical spirit be opposed to good taste? While criticism is at once a yardstick of the norms drawn from the rational analysis of history used according to present needs, the deduction of new norms from the operative experience see, h r example, the principle of variety, the concessions to Gothic and eastern suggestions, the interest towards an architectural picturesque and a constant check of the quality, in the process already in action to quantify architectural production.

What one needs is Operative Criticism Langley, Contamination of classic order and Gothic structure. From B. From these principles Reason may draw the right consequences about what should be done or not be done in Architecture. Only then will we have a trusty and sure guide to lead us safely to our goal.

Ambiguity is the condition that gives criticism the absolute leading role in the artistic revolution of the second half of the eighteenth century, preceding, with its pitiless analysis, the work of the architens that will put an end to the great chapter of Classicism.

Illuminist criticism, which is able to project into the future only the results of a colossal work of rationalisation, desecretion and systematic control, tends to overlap reflection and operation but it avoids turning on itself the weapons of criticism. The ambiguity of Illuminist criticism is the ambiguity of operative criticism: it touches Laugier as well as Milizia, Boito as well as Selvatico, Dvorak, Giedion and K a u h a n n.

It is an ambiguity, besides, that operative criticism accepts willingly and consciously. With fine insight, Zevi recognised, in a famous passage by De Sanctis, the manifesto of the identification of civil and critical courage that characterises historians like Compagni, Dvorak and Wickhoff and, we would certainly add, Zevi himself : Dino9sCompagni Chronicle and the three Chronicles of the Villanis cover the thirteenth century.

The first tells us of the fall of the Whites, the other three of the rule of the Blacks. Among the losers were Dino and Dante, among the victors the Villanis. The latter tell with quiet indifference, as if drawing up an inventory; the former write history with a dagger. Those happy with the surface, let them read the Villanis; but those who want to know the passions, the customs, the characters, the interior life where facts come from, let them read Dino.

He may not be objective, because, unable to use the dagger in the civil struggle, he discharges his anger into his writings: not able to change, in politics, the course of the events, he forces instead written history. In order to find the precedents for this extension of the operativity of criticism to historiography, we must go back to the ideological historicism of Pugin, Ruskin and, mainly, of Fergusson.

His historical study is all directed towards findhg, in the evolution of past forms, the link that will help create a theory of nrchitecture valid for his contemporaries. It seems, therefore, that the dichotomy between history and theory, introduced by Leroy in , has been left behind. The attempt to actualise history, to turn it into a supple instrument for action, has deep roots in nineteenth-century historicism.

But it is Dvorak, even before Lukhcs, who legitimises historiographical transvaluation as a specific critical method. What Michelangelo painted and sculpted in his last years [Dvorak wrote] seems to belong to another world.

Materialistic culture is nearing its end. And I am not thinking ofthe external ruin, which is only a consequence, but of the interior crisis that, for a whole generation, can be observed in all the fields of spirtual life, of philosophical and scientific thought, where the sciences of the spirit have taken the lead. The revaluation of everything in the past that might be taken as a precedent for the way beyond materialism of which Dvorak dreamt and for a positive interpretation of Expressionism - which last motive places his interpretation of Mannerism within a whole tendency of German historiography l 8 - sets the tone of his transvaluations.

Instead of making history one makes ideology: which, besides betraying the task of history, hides the real possibilities of transforming reality. We have not given here acomplete view of Dvorhk. Architecture is the one on the Sistine structures of late sixteenth-century Rome, realised under the direction of Domenico Fontma. Furthermore, as the space-time category finds its specific setting within the urban structure, the empiricism and anti-schematism of the Sistine plan become, for Giedion, an exciting anticipation of that free and open experience of the form that the modern city has introduced into our vision ofthe world as the capacity for critical reception.

Through the reading of the Sistine structures in a modern urbanistic key, Giedion has on one side eased the minds ofthose architects who had started the examination in depth of the Modern Movement the hard way, by showing them how well based their studies were; on the other side he has demolished polemically an academic historiographical tradition by demonstrating its poverty and the narrowness of its instruments and arguments.

When he brought out the final version of his book, his position became legitimate as is shown by its cultural productivity. If, today, his historical forcing does not satisfy us any more, and if we have made use of a more careful philology to contest it, this is because the discovery of an unstable dialectic in history, of a continual mutual presence of positive and negative, of anunresolvable multiplicity of meanings and directions matches the need to make its meanings operative.

This kind of observation can be applied to other themes that Giedion tackled, first of all the evolutive continuity of visual modes and the concept of art: what is deformed, here, is the revolutionary value of the Operative Criticism historical avant-gardes and the fractures introduced by them at all levels.

It is, however, a historical limitation, tied to the incidental situation, andnot alimitation in the absolute sense. Now, criticism as one of the dimensions of architectural activity, has to satisfy two basic conditions: A. It has to renounce systematic expression in favour of a compromise with daily contingencies. Its model should be journalistic extravaganza rather than the definitive essay which is complete in itself. The continuity and promptness of the polemic is, in this sense, more valuable than the single article.

Criticism as intervention in depth is dropped in favour of an uninterrupted critical process, valid globally and outside the contradictions met in its evolution. The varying objectives of the polemic will justify the arbitrariness of the critical cuts, their alteration and the casual errors committed on the way. The structure of this context - laws, regulations, social and professiotlal customs, means of production, economic systems will confront individual works only in a secondary way: these will appear as particular phenomena of a more general structure representing the true context on which criticism will act.

We could say, in fact, that this new critical habit has found its way into the most important volumes of the historians of the Modern Movement: Gom Pevsner to Giedion. As the judgments of value are measured by the pregnancy of events, and as planning behaviour - explicitly conditioned by consumption - is the model of operative critidsm, both historiographical orientation and critical prospects can only adjust to the continuously changing criteria.

It is not only the question of self-surpassing common to every scholar not riveted to a preconceived position but also, and ingreater part, of an effort dictated by external conditions, by the variable pulse of events. Every scholar knows, of course, how to anchor himselfto stable choices, derived from his m l t i f o m aaivity. At this point a doubt arises of an operative nature.

Is not csnfronting a cultural situation of the consumerist type with a consumer criticism an operation too m c h on the inside to be really productive? Is not operative criticism, in this respect, too much compromised by the attitudes of the planners to be able to bring out the non-obvious structures and the meanings implied in that very same planning? I t is a fact that the critical proposals ofthe last thirty years have actedas stimulants, but they have also failed to reach their objectives.

The problem is of a different nature, and it can be summed up in one question: if we take for granted the possibility of the presence, at the same time, of the various types of criticism, each with its well-defined role, what are the margins of validity for operative criticism?

Is its insistence on taking a traditional literary form really useful, or is there already some new field of application? And, again, what is the reason for its persistence, after its obvious failures? Particularly because, if one compares the literary production of architects with that of other categories of manipulators or creators of forms - from painters to film directors - one quickly notices a singular difference. While the latter are conscious, in their writings, of giving discursive form to a personal poetic or of expressingproblems relative to a highly distorted perspective, the former mostly tend to give objective form and scientific dignity to their speculations.

We do not think that the presence of a strongly distorted or instrumentalised critical and historiographicd production is necessarily harmful or incorrect. If it were possible to use this kind of literature in assisting the comprehension of the methods and poetics in their evolution, or as evidence of the links between the various architectural tendencies and the problems faced by them, we could accept its accentuated tendentiousness, at least as a symptom.

Unfortunately, at least for the present, this is not possible. This is not only because of the lack of a rigorous scientific tradition in the subjects relative to architectural disciplines, but also because the way in which studies, examinations, historico-critical valuations are presented prevents the separation of a nucleus of coherent elaborations from their superimposed deformations, through the continuous confusion of cleverly disguised value judgments with the analysis of data.

Once these distortions have been registered it will be easier to answer the question of why there is so much interest in the actualisation of history: those committed in this sense are aware of the gap between history and architectural activity, and try to bridge it by using the historical example as a didactic and moral instrument reduced in the worst cases to exhibitionism or moralism.

In the last resort, operative historicism fails completely, precisely in the field of concrete action: if we take for granted the inability of architects and of the public in general to state the complexity and specificity of historical events, then the actualisation of history consciously ratifies the proliferation of myth. And myth is always against history. When Zevi, however, forces the intentions of Biagio Rossetti, or intentionally ignores the ambiguity of Borromini, if we keep in mind that we are not facing aplanning of history we will not be so naive as to take his propositions in a mere historiographical sense.

The tension and interests behind those readings of the past filtered through hopes for the future are autonomous facts, and go beyond their productivity: they must, in fact, be valued as projects. The analysisof two critical instruments only recently introduced as such may give us some new answers.

We could charge criticism - as another of its failures -with the prevalence of pure and simple graphic and photographic images in the diffusion of architectural problems and fashions. We could try to workout ascientific and statistical study of the influence of images on the planning praxis of even the most prepared architects.

Critical praise or rejection counts, in fact, less and less, when the sophisticated photographic images on the smart glossy pages of architectural magazines ooze with often cunning visual seduction. But it would be childish to be scandalised by this phenomenon, typical of the present cultural situation. The first way is the most difficult and, so far as we know, has not been attempted yet: Italian and foreign magazines are not all that concerned about the selectionand the significant arrangement of their material.

And we must add that since a real committed magazine does not exist today apart from marginal, confused and insignificant attempts like Carrillleu, Archigram and the architectural section of Marcatrk - we cannot see by what principles an operation of this kind could be conducted.

The second way - the critical use of the camera - has, on the other hand, been attempted, and is becoming more and more widespread. Among the Operative Criticism most significant examples are those by Zevi, Benevolo and Portoghesi.

How can photography lend itself to a critical interpretation? As it offers us fixed and isolated images of a whole that it is defined as aprocess architecture or town , it becomes obvious that its main characteristic is the elimination of the temporal succession of images.


Theories in and of History

Its verifiability does not require abstractions of principle, it measures itself, each time, against the results obtained, while its theoretical horizon is the pragmatist and instrumentalist tradition. One could add that this type of criticism, by anticipating the ways of and problems not yet shown at least, not explicitly so. Its attitude is contesting towards past history, and prophetic towards the future. We cannot pass abstract judgment on operative criticism.


Manfredo Tafuri - Theories and History of Architecture _ Operative Criticism

Start your review of Theories And History Of Architecture Write a review Shelves: architecture , history , philosophy-critical-theory This book is a crucial examination of the roles of the historian and critic within the history and practice of architecture. His critique is focused on recent architectural practice and mostly about the Modern Movements anti-historical bent. He exhaustively tries to demonstrate the dangers and complications of ideologically motivated exclusions and dismissals within historical research. He goes on to outline the linguistic turn in architecture i. Tafuri draws on a wide list of examples covering the past years of architecture.

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