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San Rocco 4: Fuck concepts! Context!

San Rocco is interested in gathering together the widest illustration source, name of photographer or artist, name of
possible variety of contributions. San Rocco believes that copyright holder, or “no copyright”, and caption, if needed.
architecture is a collective knowledge, and that collective G San Rocco does not buy intellectual property rights for
knowledge is the product of a multitude. External contributions the material appearing in the magazine. San Rocco suggests
to San Rocco might take different forms. Essays, illustrations, that external contributors publish their work under Creative
designs, comic strips and even novels are all equally suitable Commons licences.
for publication in San Rocco. In principle, there are no limits H Contributors whose work is selected for publication in
– either minimum or maximum – imposed on the length of San Rocco will be informed and will then start collaborating
contributions. Minor contributions (a few lines of text, a small with San Rocco’s editorial board in order to complete the
drawing, a photo, a postcard) are by no means uninteresting preparation of the issue.
to San Rocco. For each issue, San Rocco will put out a “call for Proposals for contributions to San Rocco 4 must be submitted
papers” comprised of an editorial note and of a list of cases, electronically to before 31 January 2012.
each followed by a short comment. As such, the “call for papers”
is a preview of the magazine. The “call for papers” defines the Contemporary architecture is generally present-
field of interest of a given issue and produces a context in which ed with the phrase “My concept is . . . ”, in which the
to situate contributions. blank is filled in by some sort of notion: “My concept
Submission Guidelines: is freedom”, “My concept is the iPad”, “My concept is
A External contributors can either accept the proposed the Big Bang”, “My concept is democracy”, “My concept
interpretative point of view or react with new interpretations is panda bears”, “My concept is M&M’s”. This statement
of the case studies. is then followed by a PowerPoint presentation that be-
B Additional cases might be suggested by external contributors, gins with M&M’s and ends with round, pink bungalows
following the approach defined in the “call for papers”. New on paradisiacal Malaysian beaches.
cases might be accepted, depending on their evaluation by the According to concepts, to design is to find what build-
editorial board. ings are: an ontology for dummies that turns banality
C Proposed contributions will be evaluated on the basis of a into spectacle. Thus, the library is the books, the sta-
500-word abstract containing information about the proposed dium is the muscles, the promenade is the beach, the
submission’s content and length, and the type and number of aquarium is the fish, the swimming pool is the water
illustrations and drawings it includes. and grandmother’s garage is grandmother.
D Contributions to San Rocco must be written in English. San Concepts are a tool used to justify design decisions in
Rocco does not translate texts. the absence of architecture. Concepts originate from a
E All texts (including footnotes, image credits, etc.) should be state of self-inflicted despair in which design needs to
submitted digitally in .rtf format and edited according to the be justified point by point, and architecture by defi-
Oxford Style Manual. nition has no cultural relevance. Concepts presup-
F All illustrations and drawings should be submitted digitally pose that nothing specifically architectural exists in
(in .tif or .eps format). Please include a numbered list of all reality: there are no spatial relationships, no territo-
illustrations and provide the following information for each: ries and no cities, and it is thus impossible to obtain


there are no nightmares in the city. no surprises. those who charged them with this task. The only gestures admitted into build. In the end. being simply based on the them. that architecture we can shout “Eureka!” in your face? needs to apologize.) lem is translation in general. The period of con- but architecture cannot produce them: like a bowl. or turning selling into an ideology. Just pay attention. concepts point here is that translating architecture into an eve. Anyhow. Concepts help decision-makers to Concepts claim to translate architecture into an every. . own disappearance in the final product. no com. not about communicating information in the building. plain. The relationship between hu- ings are the conceptual ones that were used to explain mans and buildings is spatial. derstand them! With concepts. concepts do not want to vacate the fact that both humans and buildings occupy portions 170 . no contradictions. and therefore claim that they allow people with no people are parliamentary commissions. to re-shape what is already there. lence and immobility. Conan and Mad Max would dream Concepts introduce a kind of rationality that makes pro- up a concept for imagining how to erect their own jects automatic-pilot-justified in every step of the con- primitive huts. You just need to enter. but it cannot generate its own lifespan. atomic barbarians. just trust si- nasty jokes. schuldete Minderheit. they erase ize the given. Why should we bother with form when we tainly not about understanding architecture: it is about have an idea? Why waste time seeking beauty when we accessing architecture. move. And democracy is cer. what is avoid- but also the translation into a mediocre story of some. of this easily – prevents any possible future complexity tial conditions. Concepts turn Cities and territories are here. remember and re-tell the reasons for their decisions to day language. it is possible to escape from this selbstver- ture will do before architecture is made. no subconscious. there is noth. concepts claim to be democrat. (Note: plexity that is associated with any kind of populism. this. Concepts operate as a form of violence or celebrating values (values can occupy architecture. The design is totally dependent on ey. no Nothing else is needed. struction becomes more important than the building’s chitecture can be filled. and it is possible to un- architecture into something safe. to a certain extent. more bureaucratic than democratic (concepts and bu- lar opinion. As such. able is building the cultural legitimacy of architecture thing that is simply not a story. reaucracy have always been allies. there is nothing democratic about non. Like ghosts. ar. the prob. no translation of architecture is possible. messages or literature. Concepts are not needed. justify and certify the project now – and to do all ture is about modifying landscapes and shaping spa. the precisely upon its very dependence on these oversim- problem is not that of mediocre translation. climb. Architecture is immersed in and appropriated and Perrault screwed poor old Bernini). stop . struction process. tractors becomes more important than the future rich- just as it is impossible to “translate” dance or ice hock. of the present against the future. and neither are any surprise. tamed. Concepts protect us from running the risk of engaging ing to understand in buildings. plified narrations. The need to ex- by language. contrary to popu.any knowledge about these phenomena. start an endless chain of justifications that are certainly ryday language is nonsensical (and. in re. no congestion. is unavoidable. In other words. wait. thereby guar. Here the problem is not only the reduction of com. The kindergarten mothers or voters. . committees of architectural education to understand buildings. So. but it is not itself a language: architec. with form. That’s it. the narration that is required to sell the building. to design is to define plexity. contexts. whether these ic. In the end. we can happily sit around a table and do some brain- Concepts exist because of the unnecessary feeling that storming? Why take the pains to learn something when architecture needs an explanation. predictable. Concepts are buildings they generated. The immediate dialogue with clients and con- content). In this way. Concepts describe what architec. at least since Colbert sense). anteeing that it will not do anything else. Complexity exists. can claim that we are solving problems? Why think when look. to formal- Concepts prevent any free appropriation. no memory. ness of the building. concepts do not accept their the tools used to make architecture in a world of post. in context.

But content (which is to say quantity) was still not sentence itself too: here is the building. fuck concepts! Context! And fuck content! Form! gressive as Lady Thatcher’s social policies. thereby creating a model of the happy yards. or a given project’s cost per square together. Schin- own immobility.g. they must whisper into the Colbert’s reasonable objections to Bernini’s Louvre. Modernism accepted the 17th.. The Architecture of the ation with concepts. though. to sacrifice itself in the name of a good cause. . Concepts correspond to the need to whisper into the architecture parlante. repetitive. it be- move. in the court. a reality. Durand. with all kinds of related topics (character. economical and realizable in stages. in the dormitory” (Rossi. and does the building represent sorrow. To do this. and so on): Serlio’s Book VI with ears of millions (as Jeff Koons has said. But then happiness does not need concepts. yet it recognized only one of these: City. kel. And this clumsy brotherhood of archi. Un. No concepts. For its row. Ledoux’s architecture parlante . contemporary Laugier’s hut. Sorrow is in the walls. and neither does that good cause somehow got lost. this mute complexity. 1966). only concept. or. modernism also invented an entire body row manifests itself in space – in the walls. quite a • Into the Ears of Millions • serious one. in other words. Sorrow is not the concept behind the building. there is sor. to have political effect. “At one time. This crystallized sorrow that marriage of concepts and propaganda that would be so materializes as walls cannot be described. one that is quite concepts. gible” – there is no link between the two phrases. rather. Palladio’s villas. Concepts survived. “Sorrow is in the walls”. nor because modernism was about doing the right thing. as brutal as Bolshevik propaganda and as re- So. 171 .and 18th-century infatu- yards. .of space but with this difference: contrary to humans. Various strategies were developed in order interesting and unpredictable: the possibility for built to react to this situation and to offer an architecture matter to operate on human behaviour by means of its befitting the logic of bureaucrats (e. it was the concept of modernism. of propaganda. appeared. one that was logically arranged. sur. in the dormitory. A strange kind of no-nonsense classicism tecture and human gestures. There seems to be a possibility for interaction came crucial for architects to find a way to deal with between humans and architecture. vives only if the relationship is both immediate and in. Semper). Probably nobody has ever exposed the nature of this relationship as precisely or bravely as Rossi did: “Go to an old folks’ home: sorrow is • Content • something tangible. no ex. art- its houses that change appearance according to the dif- ists had only to whisper into the ear of the king or pope ferent professions of their inhabitants. form was dismissed out. sorrow is a context was ignored because modernism was about do- specific condition produced in space by the series of ing the right thing in large quantities. just pointed successful later on. Modernism (a tru- “Go to an old folks’ home” and “sorrow is something tan. Architecture had acts accumulated through time in a specific place. ly Protestant project) was an architecture of quantity. ears of millions of people”). measurable in terms of the amount of social housing planation: sorrow and the old folks’ home are just there produced in a year. How could San Rocco 4 attempts to understand the genealogy of modernism come to such a sad a conclusion? What concepts and ultimately tries to imagine a new archi. content. went wrong along the way? Is there a parallel here with tecture without ideas. • No-nonsense Classicism • buildings survive for long periods of time and do not As our world became increasingly bureaucratized. Sor. The relationship is spatial in character in the metre. No jokes. evident and untold. the depressing history of the European political left af- ter May 1968? • Genealogy • There is a tradition of concepts in architecture. direct. in the court. quantity. rather. In the process. happiness. Now.

Over time. So. oversized railings. he felt the need to turn 172 . gers’s architecture is an example of how concepts can but the one that he constructed himself along the way. He may also have had some sort of together a body of non-dogmatic formal knowledge (German) sense of humour. a Contextual Architect • we not learn from this failure? Why should we not ac. In each of his commissions. Stirling is often considered a stupid architect. (Peace Be Upon Him) deed a mishmash of statements. there is some sort of reason for this. Convincingly enough. landscapes such as the Acropolis in Athens or the city its desperate eagerness to sacrifice itself in the name of Rome. a large majority of our readers it is easy to consider the series of projects ranging from might be irritated by (or at least have doubts about) Plan Obus to the sketches for South American cities as our argument against concepts. U. machine- cept this situation and make use of it? Consider how inspired architecture. probably partly because (at least in the second part of his career) he didn’t write. curiously coupled Accumulation of Formal Knowledge • with the surrealistic excision of the Cadavre Exquis. again. But then ly work out? For all its love of cheap slogans. In his “inconsequential” ac. Stirling put not lack good taste. ed and realistic. Despite his initial claims for a new universal. bad jokes and out-of-place erudition. the feeling that its failures exist on purpose. Still. Ungers was For Stirling. As a result. even the Plan Voisin or the Beistegui attic clearly fit within the very specific Parisian context of the Haussmannian eras- • Stirling’s Non-dogmatic ures and the cult of the urban axis. imprecision can generate a world if one is stub- porary architecture is still highly non-communicative. Colin Rowe • A Defence of Concepts • states that the La Tourette monastery acts in the very Over the last four centuries. an architectural device that provides the key to the in- terpretation of the entire landscape lying between Pi- raeus and Pentelikon. destroy all good presuppositions. comfortable. contem. Un- which he was supposed to place each of his buildings.architecture enthusiastically embraced all sorts of comprised of imprecise sources. You know we are open-minded. • Why Architecture by O. It is also probably The architecture of Oswald Mathias Ungers is always un- partly because he seemed so strangely inconsequen. Why should • Le Corbusier. nouveau (later to be included in Vers une architecture) ately obscure. And tial in his trading in of British industrialist brickwork the worst thing about it is that you always suspect that for pink. just for the sake of argument. On another scale. vague interviews and Always Looks So Bad • sloppy prize acceptance speeches. M. Maybe what is wrong with contemporary communicate Le Corbusier’s deep interest in specific architecture is precisely its (modernist) humbleness. concepts have been very same way with respect to its context. and what has appeared in print is in. Any other art form too much about it. He was intelligent. educat- created the context for the new ones he would devel. parently most un-contextual operations. born and consistent and ignorant enough not to care misunderstood and neglected. the series of preceding formal solutions right on almost every level. or that its ist. But did this populistic attempt real. reality turned out to and an impressive understanding of the city. and he did be confrontational yet fertile. In fact. and any other expressive medium (con- sidering architecture. had a precise notion of monumentality op. you always have tions. popular. inconsequential fasci- trashy allegories. Among the ap- why we are wrong. however. works better. though his context was not the gloomy universe in shortcomings are supposed to tell you something. Stirling was a fundamental contextual. please explain to us obvious members of the same family. as an expressive medium) has higher returns. Le Corbusier considers the Acropolis to be of something else. nations. uneasy and fundamentally unhappy. a number of essays from L’Esprit successful contemporary art has been in being deliber.

is a house just the same. Italy extremely delicate with his mother: architecture must • Seagram Building. almost unnoticeable at first glance. it has no • Brasília. Vanna hides in San Rocco’s Top 25 Contextual Masterpieces: the shadow. USA or a manifesto about the potential of an architecture • Casa Milà. Como. Italy • Vito Acconci. USA The house is clearly not a portrait. Rome. Paris. wherever it is right now gible. Austria ri’s early production. Italy one’s mother. • Currutchet House. Robert Venturi is • Forum Nervae. The owner and the house are clearly two separate things. Mexico learning all the ideas that his wife would later dis.k. USA the contest was clearly about concepts even if nobody • Stone House. Illinois. London. • Examples • ments. New York. USA and. Moline. Paris. USA Vanna was lucky: Bob designed her house before • Satellite Towers. In fact. “la Rotonda”). Regent’s Park. Indiana. Rotterdam. USA keep its distance from the world of feelings. and so he never made a decent building. Italy understood what those concepts were. • Fire Station No. as such. The question is: Why red? Why did concepts in archi. San Rocco is also interested in contributions analyzing concepts and contexts in the buildings included on our • Vanna at the Door • lists of the Top 25 Contextual Masterpieces and the Top In a famous photo of her house. It clearly cor. no message and no reason. France tecture appear in 1983 as something entirely unintelli. Tavole. San Rocco’s Top 25 Conceptual Disasters: misingly ugly (as the ones that were built still testify). Istanbul. California. USA expensive and they clearly did not do any good for the surrounding urban fabric. Columbus. Maybe the con. UK cover in his architecture – brilliant ideas. a masterpiece of respect.a. Italy • John Deere headquarters. A house for • Annunziata. • Twin Parks Northeast Houses. Spain of pure concepts. Paris. Ariccia. next to the entrance. Paris. The house is not an icon. Minnesota. France 173 . • Tour Eiffel. • Santa Maria della Pace. New York. They were • National Farmers’ Bank. OMA’s or Tschumi’s • Centre Georges Pompidou. Barcelona. New York. Santa Monica. • Economist Building. • The Calatrava project of your choice lery floors? • Fondation Cartier. • Flatiron. Czech Republic • Bibliothèque François Mitterand. USA no programme. USA • The Concept Is “Concept” • • Sokollu Mehmet Paşa Mosque. In the image. They were also uncompro.all his impressive architectural knowledge into argu. Argentina responds to the rigorous mannerism of Robert Ventu. • Kiefhoek social housing. Vicenza. Vienna. but ideas • York Terrace. Vanna Venturi stands 25 Conceptual Disasters. France entries for the competition for the Parc de la Villette. Seattle. • Tallest tower in the world. Italy cept was just “a concept” – the concept of a concept. apart from the fact that they had to be red? • Fred & Ginger. Buenos Aires. Mexico City. and • Portico dei Banchi. Italy Could you please go back to masturbating under art gal. London. Italy Vanna Venturi’s house is a masterpiece of abstraction • Bowery Savings Bank. France • Casa del Fascio. The Netherlands • San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. Rome. Owatonna. • Public Library. Brazil message. Prague. New York. the proposed pavilions had • Gehry House. Bologna. UK nonetheless. and it develops no argument. Turkey Whether you consider Eisenman’s. Rome. Architect • • Villa Capra (a. Distrito Federal. • Haus am Michaelerplatz. however. The photo is frontal: it shows the house as in an elevation. 4.

Bangladesh • Central library. Chicago. Rotterdam. Beijing. Copenhagen. The Netherlands • Cemetery of Modena. The Netherlands • Mountain dwellings. Getty Center. Modena. Hannover. Delft Institute of Technology. Potsdam. photograph by Francesco Giunta Tour Eiffel. Dhaka. USA • Capitol. Paris. P. Berlin. The Netherlands • McCormick Tribune Campus Center. Italy • Kubuswoningen. Amsterdam. photograph by Giulio Boem 174 . France (except the pyramid. USA • San Ivo alla Sapienza. Chicago. Denmark • J. Rome. Italy • Olympic Stadium (the so-called Bird’s Nest). Delft. People’s Republic of China • Reichstag (the old and the new). Germany Following pages: Flatiron Building. Germany • Aqua tower. Germany • Wissenschaftszentrum. Germany • NEMO Museum.• Dubai. United Arab Emirates • Louvre. Los Angeles. USA • Dutch Pavilion. Illinois Institute of Technology. Berlin. of course) • Einsteinturm.