well we started 20 years ago and in Rotterdam creams architecture historians with six of us all historians and right from the beginning we chose in a rather optimistic mood to do like on the one hand the traditional architectural historians work maybe write books or curate exhibitions or or do research on historical buildings and on the other hand we were also involved in design teams working on urban planning concepts one of the very first project we did was to work with Max one Dutch Young office then twenty years ago to think of the basic urban concept for a new town or a new extension of it erects in in Holland for a very large urban plan and we were asked to think about how how can you still kind of create urban coherence in a time that already social housing was being kind of privatized and a lot of the old really modernist tools of planning where were kind of you know losing their original power so which new tools could you develop to still achieve urban planning I think we were always persistent in the idea that if you know this very well that this is one of the key ingredients on which to build a future city and we also wanted to put this into practice and we had a chance to do that when we were asked to become involved in the restructuring the revitalizing of one of the post-war neighborhoods close to Rotterdam which called whole fleet it was the most hated harrier in Rotterdam really too quite unattractive and unpopular and we of course understandable for a number of reasons it was quite unattractive but while building on these existing qualities I think it has improved immensely one of the things that most striking about the exhibition is that you've set up an oscillation a constant oscillation between two areas of history prehistory and modernity could you tell me why you chose this dialectic in particular it is basically an exhibition on how British modernism is not just about modernization about modern culture but is inherently also including all those aspects of British culture that we all may be associated with completely different architectural styles and not with modernism but are very much in there like the romantic notion of the ruin for instance that has been present in British culture from the 17th century onwards or the notion of the pastoral or the landscape and we are showing how these notions are very much present in high modernist states like Milton Keynes like thamesmead and like Hume and cumbernauld I would say that the exhibition is another didactic but unlike a evocative exhibition showing how these themes are interrelated and how they all come back in different aspects in these modernist estates thereby also posing the question if these cities these days planned the sort of combination in planned and unplanned cities all have to do with cultural visions at in the broader set of the world word how do we pick up our possibilities of creating new cities for the future and how do we make sure that this is not a technocratic thing but again a cultural vision which relates to this broad conception of British culture also in the future English modernity always had this strange double or a very ambiguous relationship with history on the one and it was input it was informed or obsessed nearly with history with two malai with Stonehenge with the Lance but it was also constantly retelling that history reconstructing it and for example indigo Jones when he read through stone and has a Roman temple it was because he needed the history to be the kind of driving force behind his huge project for an English classicism the same with John Wood who when he designed bath crescent he said we have to make a combination of Stonehenge and palladio and that will be our real English style and then when Wilson and wormers Lee designed the Hume crescents in Manchester they said we have to build the bath crescents again but then 10 times as big for the working classes as soon as you go into the exhibition you see this amazing photo montage mural and the central the central position is taken up by this grand sweep of the Royal Crescent in bath which then melds into him present and I was instantly reminded of charles jencks is critique of specifically of Robin Hood gardens and he claimed that it failed to achieve the grandeur in the homely pneus that the Georgian architects had achieved in places like bars so is this exhibition a direct rebuttal of charles jencks his possession we at crimson have a strange relationship to the concept of failure in architecture we think that architecture or cities design cities only get interesting once they start failing if architecture would not fail and it would succeed succeed in the sense of fulfilling to the letter the promises or the program or the prophecy that it has made then why bother because then you would already know what would happen what is to us really fascinating is the way that you build a new town and then the new town before it is even finished already gets perverted either by stuff happening like economic change political change or by the inhabitants not behaving exactly the way that the planners had wanted it to be or culturally like for example a filmmaker's or pop singers or painters or novel writers appropriating this construction this design and giving it a totally different meaning and then distributing that meaning into the culture there by completely bypassing the original concepts of the architect so I think failure you know the way that Jenks describes the failure of Robin Hood gardens is the way that a tutor in an architecture school might might say that's a fail because you have not you have not you have not checked the right boxes but we think that maybe failure more in the Beckett sense of fail better fail try again fail better we believe that failure is just another world word for a reality taking over and then giving another layer of meaning to a project charles jencks of course used the the Me's of modernist architecture to further his cause for postmodern architecture but that there is definitely two sides to the story that is something that we would that we wanted to show in this exhibition obviously there are huge problems with Robin Hood gardens there were even worse problems with the humid state with the humid states but that does not take anything away from their ambition and their meaning also in architectural culture or in the culture at large it struck me that the works in the show stopped very at a particular point in the 60s before post-modernism but it struck me too that when you were speaking earlier some of your say scene tinged with a certain post modern sensibility do you think that's that's fair to say i think post-modernism as a conscious kind of or a deliberate choice of ideology or a deliberate choice of attitude I think that only is possible for a generation that also remembers the times and modernism was still really the dominant the dominant dogma I'm too young to be a real post modernist because a real post modernist is someone who made that conversion you know sir charles jencks is a real postmodern is because he actually most of his life or motor before he became postmodernist he spent of being a modernist or a rationalist or what have you so I think that postmodernism as as a real conscious as a like a card-carrying postmodernist you can only be that if you're around 70 Cedric price and his idea of non-plan crop up a couple of times in the show is he the villain of the piece no use actually more than hero I would say just as much as the you maybe you would expect that the original planners would be the hero but in fact this is also one of the agendas if you see the last part of the exhibition I think that we're not exactly claiming that there should be like this new mass planning or there should be a revival of top-down planning not at all i think this sort of leveling of planning that is not only by professionals but also by local entrepreneurs that it is also by inhabitants or by lobby groups or by the steel poles scene or by punks or by this this is actually one of the things that I have the most hopes for for the future city planning and also one of the things that I tried to do with the Newtown Institute how to find a way in which planning can also be open to other parties than professionals but it also seems just from looking at the pieces in the show that the people can repurpose architecture themselves in Western Europe because of the way that we organize and plan and control things inhabitants often have very little chance of controlling their environment and having an influence on it and you see that in other countries where these new cities have been less controlled and have been more open or have been sold to inhabitants or you know have developed they have developed much more dynamically they are much more seen as a success in heart not unpopular at all there's a for instance in our research we looked at one of the city's in Ghana of all places the former Gold Coast of course we're English planners but also other Western European plan has had a big made a big effort and produce large cities these cities look almost like ma stevenage or Harlow but they're not unpopular they're being considered the highest range in housing and in amenities and in services and in schools and churches that you can find anywhere so there is it's very culturally determined how these cities actually develop as well as prehistory utopia is another strong theme of the show since we're in Venice it seems pertinent to ask what's Manfredo tafuri right when he took a very pessimistic view of utopian architecture is it possible for architects to build a better world I think there's numerous examples and proofs that it cannot be done and still there is no other way than to try as an architect or as a planner because if he wouldn't want to achieve that why even put any effort in it so and this is this this kind of tragic interpretation of the position of the architect or planner is i'm not sure if you if this is one of the interpretations when you walk around in the exhibition but this is one of the things that fascinates me enormously that you always when faced with the the question how to build a new city how to build utopia that you always have to find an answer to this question knowing that it will probably be imperfect and even more so might end up in a disaster because we have seen the proof of that as well this period of modernism as an architectural period fits into a much longer tradition a much longer history we take William Blake as the kind of symbolic starting point of that the idea that when he wrote I will not cease from mental flight until we have built Jerusalem on England's green and pleasant land that is the moment that he looks at the world around him and he does not like what he sees he sees social unrest he was actually involved actively in the Gordon riots of 1780 was there in the forefront of the of the of the rioters being swept up by them he was shocked by the amount of poverty inequality the fate fatalism also of British society and he said we we have to change things and the idea of looking at the world around you and saying we can and we have to change things the whole realization that you are actually empowered to do that that you can can actually that things are not should do not have to stay the way they are because it's given to us in that way that is modernity you know the fact that you can say okay I can look at the world as a construct and I can reconstruct it that is modernity and the idea to build a new Jerusalem in our own land instead of just waiting for you to die and then be you know joy and then go to a kind of a heavenly Jerusalem after in the afterlife to say no no we are it is our duty to build it here in the here and now that is the starting point state power was invested so heavily in architecture and architecture was given such an enormous mandate to build the real physical forms of the welfare state that is something that never happens before and will never happen after and I am sure that it we will look back at it as a very unique historical historically discrete period but what we try to do with this show is that this historically discrete period came out of a much longer period and one that I think does not have a natural end and that is an idea of modernity something that you know the idea that communities whether they are religious communities or ethnic communities or maybe the state or shopkeepers or or our activists or political parties or cults that they could all kind of think we have a vision for a new england we have a vision for a new jerusalem we have a vision for a new community we have a vision for a new city i think that is the kind of this the scent the centrality of the imagination in shaping your environment in transforming your environment I think that is the real kind of red thread that we should continue and we are not at all nostalgic about modernism at all when that is also why we present the model of Hume as a kind of a contorted fragment as if it were you know broken off from the Acropolis and then presented far away from its source in a foreign museum we look at it with enormous respect and fascination and and you know wonderment but we are we are not saying things are much better when the state was building social housing we're not it it's a common complaint at least from historians that architecture students don't get to any history how do you incorporate history into the into the architecture curriculum I do not teach my students architectural history as architectural history I try I use elements from history and from the present and from economy and from in a completely opportunistic and a completely hybrid way the lectures that i gave the the graduation studio that we teach its history plays you know we don't even talk about it okay now we're going to introduce some history because for example when i taught a whole lecture series what for example about money and then of course you also talked about how money was used the financial instruments were developed / new banking systems in amsterdam in the 16th century etcetera or 17th century so it comes very it's it's but I I never really think about architectural history as something separate as something else as something that you need to teach in its in its own capacity you see that architects have always been using history reconstructing history retelling history as if it were an architectural project in itself and in that sense I think we are very different from classical architectural historians in that we are not so much in an academic way searching for the historical truth but that we are interested in architectural history also as a malleable kind of constructive projective things and to return to the present day and the situation in England what do you think about the current government's plans to revive the idea of the Garden City by building essentially new towns again but under a new name I'm not an expert in the the UK planning scene but it seems to me that the whole garden city movement which was also highly political at time and which was not only a spatial model or a way to blend in city and countryside but was also a very new social model that it has been sort of water down to something which is quite innocent the garden city that everybody likes and that every that nobody who could be against while I'm much more interested in cities that puts a more rich and challenging combination of both ugly and beautiful both garden and city of both high high rise and low rise and that offer a more well orban context so I know I don't see what the advantage could see apart from political from watering down this idea of the Garden City so so much do this conservative idea of filtering out every modernist idea so what's the future for the UN for crimson I do not think that architecture is is a craft the craft part might be an interesting asset but i think that architecture could an architect could do anything absolutely anything and he should not limit is it there he should not limit him or his or her energies or ambitions just to building spatial structures I think the arc also if you look at the real history what we think is the more interesting history of architecture which is the one who represented the show it isn't history of ideas and the history of obsessions and the history of of interventions in political systems it is a history of reimagining history you know it's it's an incredibly interfering type of attitude that defines the architect and I think if people would think of being an architect more as an attitude or as an ethic than as a craft and as a job they could do Oh Oh

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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