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GHIRARDO 2000-Tafuri Arch Theory US 1970-2000

GHIRARDO 2000-Tafuri Arch Theory US 1970-2000

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Yale University, School of Architecture
Manfredo Tafuri and Architecture Theory in the U.S., 1970-2000Author(s): Diane Y. GhirardoReviewed work(s):Source:
Perspecta,
Vol. 33, Mining Autonomy (2002), pp. 38-47Published by:
on behalf of Perspecta.Stable URL:
Accessed: 14/02/2012 07:19
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38/GHIRARDO
Manfredo
afuri
and
Archtectural
heory
DIANE Y.GHIRARDOInthe late1960s,Italian architect and historian Manfredo Tafurisurveyedthe situation of architecture and architecturalpracticewithgrim resignation.Theconcluding paragraphsof ArchitectureandUtopia:De.ignandCapitalistDevelopment,xpress fairlywell the monumentaldespairwhich suffused thisandsubsequenttextsbyTafuri:Modernarchitectureha. markedout its own fate by making itself..thebearerofidealsofrationalization ... it is useless tostruggle forescapewhen com-pletelyenclosed andconfinedwithoutanexit... No "salvation"LAany longerto befoundwithin it: neitherwandering restlesAlynlabyrinthA f imagessomultivalenttheyend inmutenesa,norenclosed in thestubbornsilenceofgeom-etrycontent withitsownperfection.. itiLuselesA toproposepurelyarchitec-
tural alternatives.'
ForTafuri,architecture since theEnlightenmenthad become the instru-mentparexcellence ofcapitalist development,with theutopias proposed byitsgreatest avant-gardesnothingbut vehicles of worlddomination and admin-istration in the hands oframpant capitalist expansion.Butin hisdipintothehistoryof WesternEuropeanarchitecture,Tafuriconvenientlyfailed tomention that architecturehad also been an instrument of feudalexploitation,domination,andadministration;an instrument ofpost-medievalcolonialexpansion, exploitation,domination,andadministration;an instrumentofcolonization,exploitation,domination,and administration forImperialRome;and so on. Architecture's nstrumental usebyregimesofpowershardlynew.What Tafuriaverred,however,s that in thecontemporaryworld,this instru-mentalization had becomeinescapable, presumablybecause of thetotalizingreachoftheprocessesofcapitalistrationalization. Buriednthis formulation
 
MINING AUTONOMY/39
Whilemyaimliere is not torecapitulateor even criticizeTafuri's heo-ries,a few clarifications areinorder,notleast because Tafuri'spositionhasso often beenmisrepresented.2Unfortunately,n mostcases the translationsof hisadmittedly complexand elusiveproseareclunkyand oftenwrong.Buteven thepoortranslations are clearenoughabout hiskey points,so that mis-representationcannot bedismissed asmisunderstanding.3In his1976reviewof the Frenchedition of Tafuri's TheoriesandHiAtoryofArchitecture,Yves-AlainBois accused Tafuri of"losing"he architecturalobject,and ofoppos-ingarchitectureascriticism because itrendered hisownwork as critic inef-fectual.4AlthoughBoiscomplainedabout the Frenchranslation,hiscritiquecouldonlybe a willfulmisinterpretation,becauseTafuriexplicitlydistin-guishedbetween a criticismwithin architecturalanguage,and one externaltoit,ameta-languagewiththegoalofexposingtheunderlying ideologicalsystembeyondheindividualwork.5More ater aboutthe misrepresentations;first,howdid Tafuripositionarchitecture?WhatTafuriviewed asthe tragicfate ofarchitecturenthecapitalisteco-nomicsystemand within the relations ofproductioncertainlydrovehim to thelimits ofdespair,for heviewedcapitalismas atotalizing,all-encompassingsystem.Buthebeganand ended his work fromtheperspectiveof the criticand thehistorian,as suchundertakingapoliticalcritiqueofhistoryandprac-tice in which heinsisted thatarchitectureaspureform could neverrupturecapitalism'sstranglehold.Theessentialother half of thisobservation,rarelyquotedbutabsolutelyboundtothefirst,was that forarchitecture,theonlyremainingchoices werepo.itical ones.Tafurioffered noblueprintsforaction;that made itmore difficult totussle with himexcepton the level oftheory.As heremarkedn ArchitectureandUtopia,"Ofourse,once the work of ideo-is the conviction thatthingshadonce beendifferent,but that with theEnlight-enment came a fallfromgracewithconsequencesasdevastatingforarchitec-ture as thoseconfrontedbyAdam and Evewhen banished from the GardenofEden.Theveracity,not tomention thelogic,of this view is atbestdubious;bethatasitmay,Tafuriwaswidelyunderstood o besoundingthe end of architec-ture,justas ArnoldSchoenberghad announced the end oftonality,TheodorAdorno he end ofart,andFrancisFukuyamaater soundedthe endofhistory.Noneof these millenarianpredictionsturned out tobetrue,as theGuggen-heiminBilbao,u2'sJoAhuaTree,andVijaCelmin'spaintingsdemonstrate.LikeotherEuropeanandAmericanelites,Tafuricasthis sterngazeoverconsumerism,commercialism,the erosion ofhighculturebyasea of senti-mentalityandcommodification,anda host of other illsassociated with latecapitalism,and,findingthem at oncedepressingly pervasiveandtriumphant,conceded defeat. Evenworse,thepossiblefutures ofarchitecture wereas res-olutely drearyas itsunremittinglybleakpresent.With a future as bleak asTafurianticipated,whywould one build at all?And f all actions areinevitablycompromisedby capitalism,how is itpossibleto doanythingwheneveryactcanonlyrepeatthe initialcapitulation?Contraryowhat onemight expect,inthe United Statesthecurrencyof Tafuri's heories(insomevery particularor-mulations)andtheir offshoots survived heNixon,Ford,Carter,Reagan,Bush,andeven Clintonerasto enterthe new millennium. In thespace-timecompres-sion of thelatecapitalistorder,nearlythree decades is alonglifespanindeedfor atheory,giventhat deconstruction inarchitecturewent in and out inlessthan a decade.It doeshelpthatpartsof thetheoriesinTafuri's ariousessaysandbooks becametheintellectualbaubles ofuniversity faculty, graduatestu-dents,andjournaleditors,even ifthey barelypenetratedherealm ofpractice.

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