Category: Manfredo tafuri operative criticism

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‘Interpreting the Renaissance by Manfredo Tafuri’ (book review)

A short summary of this paper. History is redefined as a shifting and complex plurality rather than a given monolithic and comprehensive whole, and as an autonomous project independent from architectural practice.

Nothing else. It is this specificity that became for Tafuri not only a point of departure, but also the key to open up to a plurality of objects, voices, processes and contexts, a discourse that by definition intended to remain incomplete.

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It is this tension, between specificity and incompleteness, that keeps it still active — still at play — today, not only within architectural historiography3 but also, as we suggest here, in contemporary architectural discourse and critical practices.

Tension In his writings Tafuri repeatedly evokes the image of the ropewalker to describe the work of the historian. In so doing, it will try to achieve a balanced overview of Tafuri's historical project subsuming his Renaissance and modern concerns under a unified picture that does not underplay the internal tensions of his work, but places them at the center of the inquiry.

Manfredo Tafuri

The rigour of the historical analysis may be threatened by distractions and de-routings, by the complexity of the contexts and the events it tackles, but its tension resides in fact in the very definition of its task - in the tightening of the rope rather than in the struggle against adverse winds. The critic is compelled by a personal choice. It is the personal choice, the adhesion to the task of history, the decision - once it is made - that produces such compulsion.

The duty in the task of the historian resides in the building and inhabiting of this tension. Tightrope Fig1.

From this firm and yet fragile standpoint, history is redefined and reinvented as a shifting and complex plurality that is always subject to reassessment, rather than as a given, monolithic, resolved whole. What is defined is the direction of movement of such work, and — each time - the subjects of its analysis, but not its boundaries or en closures. History is and remains open and active. Open, acting on a multiple and non-linear time, such history offers itself as an 5 Tafuri, M.

La sfera e il labirinto. Active, it is not only determined by the objects it analyses, but also determinant of the realities it deconstructs and recomposes. History then can no longer be one, but a plurality of partial histories.

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La sfera e il labirinto, p.Nearly 20 years ago, Tafuri delivered a lecture at Carnegie-Mellon University, where I was then a faculty member and chairman of the visiting critics and lecturers committee. In one of my courses, a theory seminar, my students and I had been examining Tafuri's "Architecture and Utopia. In recognition of the general reticence of students to engage in critical debate with lecturers in the question-and-answer period following lectures, I organized an informal seminar with the lecturer and interested students the morning after the lecture.

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One student, troubled by what seemed to be Tafuri's impossible challenge at the end of "Architecture and Utopia," asked the obvious question: "What can we do to make meaningful architecture in the face of the apocalyptic forces of capitalism? Tafuri shrugged and said, very genuinely, "That's not my problem. Critical historians like Tafuri serve a crucial, irreplaceable role as framers of broad critical perspectives.

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But those of us who, for whatever reasons, choose to spend our days attempting to create meaningful architecture, those of us who cannot say "That's not my problem," believe that there must be criticism. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them. Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems; we are continuing to work to improve these archived versions.

Home Page World Coronavirus U.Certainly no historian of architecture has ever produced such a challenging theorization of the relationship between architectural ideology and capitalist modernity. In fact no other scholars have ever attempted to write this kind of architectural history before.

There is a certain similarity in the titles some of his books. It seems to be a collection of essays.

In reality, however, in writing the single chapters — published in provisional form in various Italian and foreign journals between and today [], and subsequently completely revised — we have adhered to a design that we invite the present reader to contrast with the theses expounded in this introduction.

The book has a peculiar literally intensity and at the same time some kind of ideological violence, which can be read as autonomy of the text. Subsequently — as a reaction to biographical, historical, psychological reading of literature — it led to criticism and to the reintroduction of history and context as an antidote to textuality.

This analytical synthetic technique is related to the semantic distortions of the Russian formalist poets, like Mayakovsky and Eisenstein. And this leads straight to the emergence of the Avant-garde idea of art as dialectical becoming [ 6 ]. Art can only destroy itself in order to constantly renew itself. Piranesi is a wicked architect [ 7 ] — the architect as a transgressor. Thus, the theme of imagination enters into the history of modern architecture with all its ideological significance, as a source of hypotheses that cannot be formulated by science.

The Sphere and the Labyrinth can be seen as a unique Avant-garde historiography, characterized by the dialectics in the text itself, between the ideology of an architect and the structural forces driving capitalist society. Between utopian ideas and forms of architecture and the concrete reality which they always come into collision. It is not a piece of history complete in itself, but rather an intermittent journey through a maze of tangled paths, one of the many possible provisional constructions obtainable by starting with these chosen materials.

The cards can be reshuffled and to them added many that were intentionally left out: the game is destined to continue. The City as a Project.

Sergei Eisenstein, made frequent references to Piranesi.To browse Academia. Skip to main content. Log In Sign Up. Download Free PDF. Teresa Stoppani. Download PDF. A short summary of this paper. That which founded the relation between beauty and truth the harmonic 'analogism' characterizing solidly structured syntactic systems is thereby eliminated.

The theoretical anxieties of the nineteenth century already expressed a sort of anguish when confronted by an architecture that was becoming increasingly self-referential. His 'research' proposes an alternative way to deal with the resurgence of the themes of history and memory in contemporary architecture Interpreting the Renaissance was published in Italian in as Ricerca del Rinascimento. He responds to those who look at the past with nostalgia and a 'compulsion to quote' p.

This is the 'research' that instigates and moves this book, where the investigation of the past is used to address and come to terms with the present. The Renaissance of the title here is sifted through by an historian who, like the Benjaminian angel of history, 1 is inevitably hurled towards the future which he already inhabits, but looks with horror turned into investigative urge at a past which is still troubling and unsettling the present.

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And while the historian seeks the distance of a method whose stability and coherence is always threatened and questioned by the object of its analysis, it is the very objects of history that fuel both the analysis and its uneasiness. Interpreting the Renaissance is a book of architecture that begins with the account of a ruse devised 'designed' in its tiniest detail, we could say by Filippo Brunelleschi around at the expense of fellow Florentine intarsia craftsman Manetto Ammannatini.

Brunelleschi and the community of artists that congregate around him scheme in depriving Ammannatini of his identity, and pretend that he is somebody else. Ammannatini, disconcerted at first, eventually plays the game and acts as if believing the joke, for fear of being deemed mad. He acts, comments Tafuri, with 'prudencea virtue at once private and public' p. Long after the events, Ammannatini is repeatedly invited by Brunelleschi to reminisce about the practical joke and perform a retrospective analysis of the sequence of events.

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It is this analysis that, stresses Tafuri, completes Brunelleschi's 'story of existential deconstruction' 'story' is in fact 'project' in the original Italian text and bears witness to the architect's 'cunning' 'intellectualism' in Italian and 'penchant for risky experiment' p. Why this opening, apparently shifting away from architecture?

manfredo tafuri operative criticism

Tafuri Tafuri's purpose here is to shift the attention his as well as the reader's from the architectural artefact and its rules to the complex system of ideas, motivations, processes and relationships that lie behind the devising and the making of the architectural object in the city.

It is not only buildings that interest Tafuri here, but the interwoven systems of power relationships, influences and decision-making processes that determine their coming into being, or their confinement to the paper of the archive. Princes, Cities, Architects as the subtitle of Interpreting the Renaissance recites are what interests him; that is, the enablers, the places and the agents of architecture, before architecture can be.Each of his works serves as a platform for questioning the methods of architectural history, which, as he so emphatically states below, is not to be distinguished from criticism.

His suggestion to counteract this tendency to impose contemporary standards on the past was to shift the discourse away from the protagonists and individual monuments and consider architecture as an institution. His goal is to penetrate the language of architecture through non-linguistic means. There is no such thing as criticism; there is only history. What usually is passed off as criticism, the things you find in architecture magazines, is produced by architects, who frankly are bad historians.

As for your concern for what should be the subject of criticism, let me propose that history is not about objects, but instead is about men, about human civilization. What should interest the historian are the cycles of architectural activity and the problem of how a work of architecture fits in its own time. What is essential to understanding architecture is the mentality, the mental structure of any given period. Take for example a sanctuary dedicated to the cult of the Madonna, built sometimes in the Renaissance.

What amazes us is how consistently these buildings have a central plan and an octagonal shape. The form cannot be explained without a knowledge of the religious attitudes of the period and a familiarity with the inheritance from antiquity — a reproposal of the temple form devoted to female divinities. Or take the case of Pope Alexander VII, whose interest in Gothic architecture at the cathedral of Siena [midth century] compared to his patronage of Bernini in Rome can only be explained through a knowledge of the Sienese environment and traditions.

The historian must evaluate all the elements that surround a work, all of its margins of involvement; only then can he start to discover the margins of freedom, or creativity, that were possible for either the architect or the sponsor. The problem is the same for comprehending current work. You ask how the historian might gain the distance from a new work to apply historical methods. This cannot be done without a profound knowledge of the times — through the differences we can better understand the present.

A man of the 16th century would only be able to tell you that he was born about 53 years ago. There is a fundamental difference in the conception of time in our own era: we have the products of mass media that give us instantaneous access to all the information surrounding our lives.

Four centuries ago it took a month to learn of the outcome of a battle. An artist in the 15th century had a completely different reference to space-time; every time he moved to a new city which was very rarely he would make out his will. In earlier centuries, time was not calculated but was considered to be a gift from God. Knowledge was also considered to be God-given and thus teachers in the Middle Ages could not be paid; only later was their payment justified as a compensation for time.

These factors belong to the mental web of another era. The way for us to gain distance from our own times, and thus perspective, is to confront its differences from the past. One of the greatest problems of our day is dealing with the uncontrollable acceleration of time, a process that began with 19th-century industrializations; it keeps continually disposing of things in expectation of the future, of the next thing.Particularly, this essay explores the ideological and historiographical production of the s and s.

While questions of interdisciplinarity remain essential toward an understanding of future architectural contingencies, it is only by questioning the status quo of architecture and re-examining its past that a new sense of criticality can be generated.

Contemporary architectural production seems to be generally defined by the recent fascination with speculative technologies and interdisciplinary processes. However, it has also become evident that its sense of criticality appears to lack the discursive specificity or a tendency that sees architecture as a form of internal knowledge characterized by its inherent will to the critical.

It also re-assesses the importance and centrality of the architectural artifact as the point of reference for a reestablished sense of criticality. Michael Hays 3. This movement is examined as an historical form of ideological criticism of the discipline of architecture and its contentious relationship between intellectual and capitalistic production.

The architecture of Aldo Rossi eliminates such a scandal. Its reliance upon form excludes all justifications from outside. The distinctive features of architecture are inserted into a world of rigorously selected signs, within which the law of exclusion dominates. Prolific and equally provocative for his cynical views on architecture, Manfredo Tafuri has to be considered the most prominent and equally nihilistic mastermind of a critical attitude that saw history as a project dictated by ideological specificity and disciplinary autonomy.

While extremely dense and convoluted to the point of compromising the readability of the text itself, Tafuri examines the contingent relationship between the architect and the historian as well as their shared operative field of action.

Yet, while the architect pragmatically objectified the past and present via the designed, the historian had to stimulate and provoke a reaction contingent to its contextual framework. How do we establish this operative sense of criticality? It is criticism that comes from the architect or the historian in an attempt to manifest a vision or make a change. Rather than developing a linear historical survey, operative criticism distorts history creating multiple layers of narratives with the intention of projecting tendencies forward out the past.

The final result of criticism is the artifact generated out of the study of existing architecture. Therefore, criticism moves from the media of description to the medium of architecture itself where history becomes infected with a sort of critical subjectivity that ends up influencing future architectural production.

It is not a mere recollection of events all chronological spaced, but it becomes a new critical artifact that redefines the positioning of a certain tendency and its level of artistic and moral productivity.

It is a new kind of criticism that essentially departs from the objective endorsing the subjective. Why is this tendentious model still relevant? This was all the more true given that most competent members of the profession took it for granted that there could be no knowledge divorced from action: an encounter with active politics seemed imperative.

However, it is in the work of Aldo Rossi, Giorgio Grassi and Massimo Scolari, that Tafuri calculatedly finds the answers to this crisis; a silent and isolationistic position that critically forces architecture to look internally in order to survive. Tendenza, originally formulated as a methodological response to the reductive aesthetics of Modernism and the International Style, is usually associated to a Milanese and Venetian group particularly close to Aldo Rossi, Massimo Scolari and Carlo Aymonino, and which also included other members who had a strong influence in other Italian circles such as Antonio Monestiroli, Salvatore Bisogni, Uberto Siola, Gianni Braghieri, Franco Raggi, Ezio Bonfanti, and Daniele Vitale.

This definition certainly provides the basic underlying principles of this critical discourse, which was characterized by an autonomous and disciplinary impulse shared by many individuals.

manfredo tafuri operative criticism

Also labeled as Neo-Rationalism, the Italian Tendenza was never a homogeneous movement that produced a relatively similar architectural style as the term Neo-Rationalism might erroneously imply ; on the contrary, Tendenza listed a very heterogeneous number of practitioners and academics that shared a similar interest toward an understanding of architecture and its urban methodological investigation.

Indeed, Tendenza, was understood as praxis indicative of a certain disciplinary disposition elucidated by an autonomous methodology based on a typological classification and the practical application of an established building logic. While formally diverse, this tendency was ideologically characterized by a return to the traditional rationality of Modernist architects, such as Ludwig Hilberseimer, Adolf Behne, Hans Schmidt, and Adolf Loos.

Particularly, the project of Tendenza and its typological and rational framework appears to offer an interesting case study, which emphasized a design practice based on a critical and typo-morphological methodology that sought resistance through autonomy Fig.

With the publication of The Architecture of the City inAldo Rossi launched a redefinition of the discipline grounded into an autonomous understanding of architecture and the formation of the modern European city.Manfredo Tafuri Rome4 November — Venice23 Februaryan Italian Marxist architect, historian, theoretician, critic and academic, was described by one commentator as the world's most important architectural historian of the second half of the 20th century.

manfredo tafuri operative criticism

For Tafuri, architectural history does not follow a teleological scheme in which one language succeeds another in linear sequence. Instead, it is a continuous struggle played out on critical, theoretical and ideological levels as well as through the multiple constraints placed on practice. Since this struggle continues in the present, architectural history is not a dead academic subject, but an open arena for debate. In his view, like other cultural domains, but even more so, due to the tension between its autonomous, artistic character and its technical and functional dimensions, architecture is a field defined and constituted by crisis.

During the s, Tafuri published important essays in Oppositionsthe journal directed by Peter Eisenman. Although he always had a strong interest in this area of research, in the last decade of his career he undertook a comprehensive reassessment of the theory and practice of Renaissance architecture, exploring its various social, intellectual and cultural contexts, while providing a broad understanding of uses of representation that shaped the entire era.

His final work, Interpreting the Renaissance: Princes, Cities, Architectspublished insynthesizes the history of architectural ideas and projects through discussions of the great centres of architectural innovation in Italy Florence, Rome, and Venicekey patrons from the middle of the fifteenth century to the early sixteenth century, and crucial figures such as Leon Battista AlbertiFilippo BrunelleschiFrancesco di GiorgioLorenzo de' MediciBramanteRaphaelBaldassare Castiglione and Giulio Romano.

Tafuri held the position of chair of architectural history at the University Iuav of Venice. He was a member of the Communist Party. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Categories : births deaths Italian architecture writers Italian architectural historians Architecture academics 20th-century historians 20th-century Italian writers 20th-century Italian male writers Writers from Rome Italian male non-fiction writers Italian communists Italian Marxists.

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