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f1' 8L c~ 1. Culture and Civilization

Modern building is now so universally conditioned by optimized technology

Towards a Critical Regionalism:
that the possibility of creating significant urban form has become extremely
limited. The restrictions joi ntly imposed by' aUIllmllti \II: l1islrihution and the
volatile play of land \petulauon serve to Ii~t lhescope or urban design to
Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance
such a degree"ifiiit any intervention tends 10 be reduced either to the
manipulation of elements predetermined by the imperatives of production,
or to a kind of superficial masking which modern development requires (ar
KENNETH FRAMPTON the facilitation of marketing and the maintenance of social control. Today
the practice of architecture seems to be increasingly polarized between, on
the one hand, a so-called "high-tech" approach predicated exclusively
uponproductipn and, on Ui'eotfler, the provision of a "l;;ornoenSiltoI.V
.1a9d~" to cover up the harsh realities of this universal system.2
Twenty years ago the dialectical interplay between ci\ l1uation and
culture still afforded the possibility of maintaining some general control
over tile shape and significance of the urban fabric. The last two decades,
however, have radically transformed the metropolitan centers of the
developed world. What were still essentially 19th-century city fabrics in the
early 1960s have since become progressively overlaid by the two symbiotic
instruments of Megalopolitan deve[opment- the frec~tllnJing high-me and
the ~crpcntlOe rreewa~. The former has finally come into its oWn as the
prime device for realizing the increased land value brought into being by the
latter. The typical downtown which. up to twenty years ago, still presented a
mixture of residential stock with tertiary and secondary industry has now
become I iltle more thun a burolalldschajt city-scape!the victory of uni versa!
civilization over locally inflected culture. The predicament posed by
Ricoeur-namely. "how to become modern and to return to sources":'­
now seems to be circumvented by the apocalyptic thrust of modernization..,
while the ground in which the my tho-ethical nucleus of a society might take
root has become eroded by the rapacity of developmenL I
Ever since the beginning of the Enlightenment. c/I'Ifi;ill/on..has been
primarily concerned with instrumental reason, while:-;'ulllm' has addressed
itself to the specifics of expression-to the realization of the being and the
evolution of its collectil'e psycho:social reality. Today civilization tends to
be increasingly embroiled in a never-ending chain of ~means and ends"
wherein, according to Hannah Arendt. "The 'in order to' has become the
content of the 'for the sake of;' utility established as meaning general@8
meaninglessness." 5

ry and Truth

Towards a Critical Regionalism 19

H' ~r 2. The Rise and Fall of the Avant-Garde Not least among these reactions is the reassertiOIl of ~o-Kantian
aesthetics as a substitute for the culturally liberative modern project.
The emergence of the avant-garde is inseparable from the modernization of Confused by the pol itical and cultural politics of Stalinism, former left-wing
both society and.architecturc. Over the past century-and-a-half avant-garde protagonists of socio-cultural modernization now recommend a strategic

culture has assumed different roles, at times facil itating the process of withdrawal from the project of totally transforming the existi ng real ity. This
modernization and thereby acting, in part, as a pr('lgrcs~ive, lihcraLive fnrm renunciation is predicated on tlie belief that as long as the struggle between
at times being virulently Opp-O'icJ to the posit ivi~m of bourgeois culture. By soci . m and ea itaJism ersists (with the manipulative mass-culture
and large, avant-garde architecture has played a positive role with regard to politics that this con Ict necessarily entails). the modern world cannot
the progressi ve trajectory ofthe Enlightenment. Exemplary of this ill the role continue to entertain the prospect of evolving a marginal, liberative, avant­
played by Neoclassicism: from the mid-18th century onwards it serves as gardist culture which would break (or speak of the break) with the history of
both a symbol of and an instrument for the propagation of universal bourgeois repression. Close to l' art pour I' art, this position was first
civilization. The mid-19th century, however, saw the historical avant-garde advanced as a "holding pattern" in Clement Greenberg's "Avant-Garde
assume an adversary stance towards both industrial process and Neoclassical and Kitsch" of 1939; this essay concludes somewhat ambiguously with the
form. This is the tirst concerted reaction on the part of "tradition" to the words: "Today we look to social ism sim Lv for the reserv tion of w atever
process of modernization as the Gothic Revival and the Arts-and-Craft~ ~ culture we have TIS t now." 0 Greenberg reformulated this position in

movements take up a categorically negative attitude towards both utilItarIan­ speci cally formalist terms in his essay "Modernist Painting" of 1965,

wherein he wrote:

ism and the di vision of labor. Despite this critique, modernization conti nues
unabated, and throughout the last half of the 19th century bourgeois art Having been denied by the Enlightenment of all tasks they could take
distances itself progressively from the harsh realities of colonialism and seriously, they [tl1\: arh] looked as though Ihey were going to be<.tSsirnilatcd to
paleo-technological exploitation. Thus at the end of the century the avant­ entcnainmenlpure and simple. and cnterl:llnmCIll looked as though it was
gardist An Nouveau takes refuge in the compensatory thesis of "art for art's going to be a~similatcd, like religion, to therapy. Th~ <1m c'lulJ ,av
sake," ietre'iITng to nostalgic or phantasmagoric dream-worlds inspired by rhemselves rrlllll Iht .. ,,"vcling dU\~n unl} h)' Jcmlln~lratlng thaI the "Iml (I
the cathartic hermeticism of Wagner's music-drama. c\r<:m:nrc they pmvided was \ .lluahlc In Us own rlghl and nOtlo he ohlawcd
- from an)' olher kinull(lIi.:lil·u ' - - . - ­
The progressive avant-garde emerges in full force, however, soon after
the turn of the century with the advent of futurism. This unequivocal Despite this defensive intellectual stance, the arts have nonetheless
critique of the oncien regime giv~s rise to the primary positive cultural continued to gravitate, if not towards entertainrnen!, then certai nly towards
formations of the 1920s: to PUrism. Ncoplasticj:ilJ1and Con~tructivi§.m. ~ommodity and-in the case of that which Charles Jencks has since
These movements are the last occasion 011 which radical avant-gardism is C1assLfied"as.,?ost-Modern AIchitect~-towards [lure techniQue Or r.
able to identify itself wholeheartedly with the process of modernization. In scenogra~hy. In the latter case. the so-called postmodern architects are
the immediate aftermath or-Worl!:!. War [-"the war to end all wars"~lhe merely feeding the media~society with gratuitous, quietistic images rather
triwn hs of sCience. medicineaii"d industry seemed to confirm the libcrat;e than proffering, as they cJaim, a creative rappel d rordre after the
~mlse \1 t e m ern project. n t e 1930s, owever, t e prevailing supposedly proven bankruptcy of the liberative modern project. In this
ackwardnessartd C11rtll'ilc msecurity of the newly urbanized masses. the regard, as Andreas Huyssens has written. "The American postmodernist
upheavals caused by war, revolution and economic depression, followed by avant-garde. therefore, is not only the end game of avant-gardism. It also
a sudden and crucial need for psycho-social stabiltty in the face of global represents the fragmentation and decline of Critical arlver!\a!)!..c:l.!lture." 9
polit ical and economic crises. all induce a state of affairs in which the Nevertheless, it is true that modernization can nOToNierbe simplistically
interests of both mono 01 and state ~a italh.m are, for the tirst time in idemified as liberative ifl-8!. in part because of the domination of ~s.
m ern lStOry, di\orced from the I erativc uril,es ofculLUraJ moderniza­ Culture by the !MQia-indu~ (above all television which, as Jerry Mander
tion. Universal civilization and ;arid culture cannot be drawn upon to reminds us, expanded its persuasive power a thousandfold between ~5 and
SUStain "the myth of the State," and one reaction-formation succeeds 1975 °) and in part because the trajectory of modernization has brought us to
another as the historical avant-garde founders on the rocks of the Spanish the threshold of nuclear war and the annihilation of the entire species. So
Civil War. too, avant-gardism can no longer be sustained as a Iiberativemoment, in part
20 The Anti-Aesthetic Towards a CnLJcal Regionalism

..Qut new kind~ of erogmn.l§,; ... Despll<: thcse Ii mllati!)ns crit ical regionalism is
a briuge over which any humani\(lc architccture of the future I1lU~t pass. '2

te.. 3. Critical Regionalism .and World Culture

No one can say what will become of our civilization when It has really met
different civilizations by means Olher lhan the shod. of conquest and

22 The Anti-Aesthetic Towards a Critical Regionalism 23

domination. But we have to admit that this encounter has not yet taken place at
the level of an authentic dialogue. That is why we are in a kind of lull or
interregnum in which we can no longer practice the dogmatism of a single
truth and in wh.ich we are not yet capable of conquering the skepticism inlo
which we have stcpped.l~

A parallel and complementary sentiment was expressed by the Dutch

architect Aida Van Eyck who, quite coincidentally, wrote at the same time:
'We~h:m civi I ization babitually identifies itself with civilization as such on
the pontificial assumption that what is· not like i1 is a deviation. less
dvanced, primitive, or, ul best, exotically interesting at a safe distance." 14
That Critical Regionalism cannot be simply based on the autochthonous
forms of a specific region alone was well put by the Californian architect
Hamilton HarwelJ Harris when he wrote, now nearly thirty years ago:
Opposed to the ReglllOJIt~m ul RcStrlLUUII is another type of regionalism. the
Regronal\~m of Liheratlon-. This is the manifestation of a region· that is
.especially in tune with theemergil1g thought of the time. We cull such a
maniiestation regional" only because it has not yet emerged elsewhere ...
.10m Utzon. Bagsvaerd Chl/rch. 1973-76.
A re!tion may develop ideas. A region may accept ideas. Imagination and North elevation and section.
intelligence are necessary for both. In California in Lhe late Twenties and
Thirties modern European ideas met a still-developing regionaJ ism. In New
land, on the other hand, European Modernism met a rigid and restrictive
regionalism that at first resisted and then surrendered. New England accepted
European Modernism whole because its own regional ism had been reduced to
a collection of restrictions. I r,

The scope for achieving a s('lfcon~ciou~ synthesis between universal

d"JllzatlOnand world culture may .be specifically illustrated by J~rn Utzon's
Bagsvaerd Church. bullt near Copenhagen in 1976, a work whose complex
meaning stems directly from a revealed conjunction between, on tbe one
hand, the rationality of normative technique and, on the other, the
t !EtionaJjJy Q~cratic forl],J. Inasmuch as this building is organized
around a regular grt and is comprised of repetitive, in-fill modules­ .. ~ts\

concretej)l.Qcks in the first instance and precast C.Q!lcrete.~all.lJnits in the

second-we may justly regard it as the outcome of uoiversal civilization.
Su'ch a building system, comprising an in situ concrete frame with
prefabricated concrete in-fill elements, has irloeed been applied countless
times all over the developed world. However, the univerSality of this
productive method- which includes, in this instance, patent glazing on the
roof-is,abruptly mediated when one passes from the opti mal modular skin
of the exterior to the far less optimal reiof.orced coucretesheU vault spanning
tlte nave. This last is obviously a relatively uneconomic mode of
construction. selected and manipulated first for its direct associative
capacity-that is to say, the vault ~igwJjesEcred sD8ce-and s.econd for its
Towards a Critical Regionalism 25

t.N\llf'- 4. The Resistance of the Place-Form


.f4l if
26 The Anti-Aesthetic Towards a Critical Regionalism 27

instances entirely discount the latent political and resistant potential of the

pI ace- form.

T\I' J..,.",..I\ J

~Nv'~'~5. Culture Versus Nature: Topography, Context,

Climate, Light and Tectonic Form

to, I

~/.. referred not just to the ~t.ll \ltV of making the materially requisite
construction ... but rather to the activity (hat r'I\"I:~ (hI' clln'truction tll an urt_

_/ ~Of



28 The Anti-Ae!>lhetic Toward~ i1 Critical Regionalism 29

~ ... Tbe IunCfiunolly E1deqrrate I()(nl IllUsL be. i.lJap[~ so as to give

<:,p..c".. ", Itl if!; function. The ~ense of bearing provided by the cntusb of
reek columns became the louchst0nc of lhb -.:om:epl of Tekto/lik .~~

_ ~
. . ""'.,I. Versus the Tactile


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