Manfredo Tafuri
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990, 1987, English; originally published in Italian
Nonfiction, Architecture
ISBN: 9780262200615

 Subtitled "Avant-gardes and Architecture from Piranesi to the 1970s"

From the Publisher. This major work by Manfredo Tafuri, one of today's most important theoretical historians and critics of architecture and urbanism, presents his critique of traditional approaches to historical investigation and criticism in a penetrating analysis of the avant-gardes and discourses of architecture.

Tafuri probes the lines between reality and ideology, the gap that avant-garde ideology places between its own demands and its translation into techniques, the ways in which the avant-garde reaches compromises with the world, and the conditions that permit its existence.

Interweaving intellectual models and modes of production and consumption, Tafuri constructs an elaborate network of references, comparisons, and analogies that leads to an interpretation of history as an archaeology of fragments and interpretations rather than a linear progression or compact block. In his methodological introduction, he states that the historiographic work should set into crisis not only its subjects and their plurality but also the historical project itself and the critical operations and languages of history it employs.

The Sphere and the Labyrinth charts an extensive itinerary from Piranesi to postmodernism. Piranesi, "the Wicked Architect," used architectural language in ways that transgressed and destroyed traditional boundaries. The avant-gardes of the twentieth century continue two major Piranesian themes, "the limit of forms and ... the violence done to the forms themselves." Tafuri points out that what appeared to be the possibility of affecting the social and physical order through the introduction of a "poetics of transgression," as in the deployment of the metropolis as a mise-en-scene in futurist and expressionist theater or in the encounters between the German and Soviet avant-gardes in Berlin in the early 1920s, emerges merely as aesthetic techniques, codified and self-referential.

Dismantling and reassembling the structure of the ideology of the avant-garde, Tafuri analyzes the relationship between the avant-garde and the planning of three great world-systems: the USSR on the threshold of the first 5-year plan; the United States on the verge of the New Deal; and Weimar Germany in the grip of Sozialpolitik. In the 1970s, he observes, the mechanisms of control and management of urban space clash with political reality. He examines the work of, among others, Stirling, Rossi, Gregotti, Venturi, Eisenman, Graves, Hejduk, Argest, and Gandelsonas, and finds a disenchanted avant-garde engaged in a private dialogue with forms, intent on playing "a glass bead game."  

On 1 book list
Paolo Deganello

From Piranesi to the 1970s. The history of the limits of the Modern Movement in architecture analyzed in relation to social conflicts, political ideologies, the arts, and philosophy.

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