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. 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. Before Bellori's 'Vite there certainly had been a mmitment by theorists within a group or a movement, in the texts of onimo brunelleschiano and Vasari, for example as well as in those of omazzo and Serlio ; but it had always beenapartialcommitment, often ded and elusive.

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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. 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.

Before Bellori's 'Vite there certainly had been a mmitment by theorists within a group or a movement, in the texts of onimo brunelleschiano and Vasari, for example as well as in those of omazzo and Serlio ; but it had always beenapartialcommitment, often ded and elusive. Vasari himself, although an enemy of the Sangallian circle, felt the need to show some objectivity in the biographyofAntonio il Giovane; in the same way Lomazzo's insults against Serlio are of particular nature, and would disappoint anyone trying to find in them a critical choice in the anti-Mannerist sense.

In Bellori's Vite, on the other hand, there is an. 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.

What is the difference between Bellori's rejection of Baroque - we should perhaps say rejection of the existence of Baroque - and the strict rejection of the Middle Ages and of Gothic by the theorists ofHumanism and Classicism, as expressed, for example, in the famous letter from Raphael to Leo X?

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. 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,. 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.

And with the gradual demolition '. 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.

It can be shown more clearly by underlining the gap existing between a text like Jacques-Franqois Blondel's Architecture Frangoise that, although published in is still prescriptive in the Classicalsense and very far from the modern criticism of Diderot's Salons , and Campbell's Vitruvius Britannicus that, with its precocious dates from fonwards , announce the principles of the critique passionnie that found its expression in the theories of Baudelaire.

Els n'en rendent aucune raison capable de satisfaire un esprit sense. L'usage est laseule loi que Ieurs Auteurs ont suivie, et qu'ils nous ont trasmise. C'est aux Philosophes 2 porter le flambeau de la raison dans l'obscurit6 des et c'est au principes et des rtgles. E'exkcutionest le propre de 19Artiste, Philosophe qu'appartient la lkgislation. J'entreprends de rendre aux Architectes un service que personne ne leur ;a rendu. Je vais lever un coin du rideau qui leur cache la science des proportions.

Si j'ai bien vii les choses, ils en profiteront. Si j'ai ma1 vii, ils me reltveront, la matitre sera discutke et la verit6 se fera jourS6 Not far from Laugier9sposition, Memmo, reports Lodoli9sthought: It is the philosopher that brings the light of reason to the darkness of principles and rules : to him the legislation, to the artist the execution.

Rochefort, Corinthian order engraved for the Nouveau Traite' de toute 1'Architecture by Cordemoy 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?

On the contrary it is its stronger support, because it goes back to the true principles, it recognises that every Art has its own nature, every object its particular colour and character; in one word it does not confuse the limits of each different kindm9 The Philosopher's research, then, is into the structure and meaning of language.

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.

For Laugier andMilizia - but not for Eodoli, 'perhaps the first to carry out a pitiless m d determined reduction of architecture to pure present - and for Voltaire in his Si2cle de Louis XIV, Illuminism is the landing stage of the history sf man.

What one needs is. 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. These are opposite situations: Camillo Boito, Viollet-le-Duc, James Fergusson are the historians that precipitate the impatient request for a new architecture, in the second half of the nineteenth century. 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.

Fergusson's work is in many ways ahead of its time. 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. But Fergusson's historical relativism, by simply showing how Renaissance, Chinese or Indian architecture adhered to functions and socialcustoms in order to bring the nineteenth-century architects to an anti-eclectic study of the conditions and needs of their time, becomes a sterile moralism.

The attempt to actualise history, to turn it into a supple instrument for action, has deep roots in nineteenth-century historicism. And it should not surprise us if we see in the contribution of some members of the Viennese School the decisive step towards a modern 'operative' historiography. In his Wiener Genesis, Wickhoffbravely introduces, on the basis of a tried philosophical certainty, an exceptionally wide diachronic analysis, bringing out the value of the reliefs of the Titus Arch by.

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.

Max Dvorak's words in his famous lecture on Greco and Mannerism, in 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.

But at this point we must ask two questions: why shouldn't Expressionism and the situation of modern art and thought beexamined in themselves, rather than be seen only fleetingly through distorting the past? And does the projection on history and on the present of the historim's personal ideology really help the knowledge of things and the action on them, once this ideology has taken the place of the objective survey of the situation?

The indiscriminate superimposition of the historian's hopes and of his personal values on a reality left untouched in its true dimensions, makes DvorBk's actualisation quite inoperable. 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. We have insistedon the negative sides of his position because his misunderstandings are still active: it is enough to think of the success of one of the last books of his best pupil - Hauser and on the very theme of Mannerism - inspite ofits na'ive and mythical deformation of historical reality.

Architecture is the one on the Sistine structures of late sixteenth-century Rome, realised under the direction of Domenico Fontma. Let us keep in mind the meaning of this historical episode within the economy of the book: in Sixtus V's street network Giedion sees one of the sources of that new dimension, perceptive and physical at the same time, that characterises the entire cycle of contemporary art.

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.

All the observations made so far would indicate that the modern urbanist should give up this 'safeyprecedent andtradition: but we arenot accusing Giedion of a mist Ae. 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.

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:. 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. Both criticism as an incessant polemical operation m d the historiography of the 'Masters9of contemporary criticism are happy to produce a shon-lived, consumable even rapidly consumable literature.

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. Argm's constructivism guides his slashhg of t k later Le b r b u s k , his appreciation of progr d art, and his cautious and recent acceptmce of Pop Art; in the same way faith in anti-Classicism and in the organic myth leads Zevi to certify Ee Corbusier's premature death in and his recovery after Ronchamp and La Tourette. At this point a doubt arises of an operative nature.


Manfredo Tafuri - Theories and History of Architecture _ Operative Criticism

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser. Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser. Like other celebrities — though these are more usually found in the world of entertainment than in architectural history — a remarkable reputation has accrued to Manfredo Tafuri, furthering the spread of his name and his books; but it has also distorted his message, encouraging the miscomprehension of his thought. It must be admitted that Tafuri, with his occasionally wilful unintelligibility, was complicit in this himself. But in fact his entire biography shows that, behind the mask of the provocateur, Tafuri intended the construction of a serious critical consciousness and a role for the architectural historian within it.


Theories And History Of Architecture

Source: Wikimedia Commons. The presumed general humanistic aim of these, often separate courses would no doubt be the introduction of potential architects to history, to ways of thinking inherent to the past and present of their practice, and the interpretation of that practice in the past and present. And while theoretical incursions from outside have always had their place in authorizing architectural thought, those of the s and s were especially—and deliberately—unsettling. What allows me to pass from a history written in the plural to a questioning of that very plurality? Perhaps we can see more clearly the danger that lies in the analysis of a Blanchot, a Barthes, a Derrida.

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