Luigi Ghirri


Louis Kahn Superstar
Andrea Branzi

He was one of those personages who besides existing in real times are also a revival of themselves, a sign recalling some period of our lives, a significant detail in a much larger picture; in the background of an uncut version of «American Graffiti» teeming with teenagers and their yogourts, one should see a game of tennis going on between Louis Kahn and Marcuse.. He made us run terrible risks, but today we can smile at the tought of him and remember «the way we were» without any danger of our turning to stone. When his star rose in the early sixties we were all firmly settled in our admiration of the socialdemocratic perfection of the Scandinavian quarters, and our hitchhiking holidays were spent discussing our hopes to meet swedish girls...

Surrounded by mediocre teachers who talked of prefabricated schools, Louis Kahn then represented the almost biblical symbol of the campuses of American Universities, a myth still possible of the great master, the last specimen of the gerontocracy that dominated the world of architecture in those years (a tenuous link with the Founding Fathers, against whom rebelion was unthinkable ). His allusions to the classical origins of architecture - Roman - to be exact - was the academic answer to the stalemate to which Modern architecture which continued to point to itself as a rational order, with the Villa Savoye as its Parthenon and Siemenstadt as its Polis. As a counterbalance to this motionless Greek and Euclidean self-admiration, Louis Kahn proposed the Latin example, an experimentation brought on by destiny, an allusion to Roman way of looking architecture, in which volume and structure, fonction and monumental purpose coincided. It was then that the first reproductions of Piranesi began to be passed around, and the first visits to Villa Adriana took place. There are still some who haven’t recovered from it all..

At bottom Louis Kahn’s original compositional contributions were very few, and were useful in revealing that after all classical architecture was still latent under the skin of modern architecture. It was the first sign of a credibility crisis in the Modern Movement, and this crisis he lived from positions on the right. It was also the last weary debate on architecture and its laws of compostition; the came the deluge. It was the deluge because suddenly everyone realized that Carnaby street, the Animals, the Birds, the Beatles and the Mamas ans Papas were much more important, significant and complete than any prophecy meant for the masons. It was then that we broke off, because of those personages and along those lines; from that moment on our education went on elsewhere, and no longer in schools of architecture. Louis Kahn’s defeat was not due so much to the confutation of his theories as to the general leap forward taken by the youth culture, to the appearance of new and powerful media, and to the entrance of public creativity on the publis scene. It was the instruments, especially, that brought about his defeat, the sound of an LP record, clothing, and drugs were educational instruments more powerful than any form of architecture. The great consisted in the capacity of this «depth media» to appeal to the masses everywhere in the world. A cultural revolution had begun which went far beyond the conflict over its content and swept over unbelievable numbers of consumers.

Architecture, as cultural communication, has no way of achieving the same «quantitative» following as modern electronic media or models of behaviour. In a world in which a message spreads simultaneously everywhere , architecture remains an immovable object which on must travel to reach, as on a pilgrimage, an object which is half a usable instruments and half allegory, closed within its disciplinary limits and successfully imposed in a narrow field of urban influence only because of a ridiculous aspiration to the monumental. The city itself no longer coincides with an architectural area, but only with a consumer model. The quality of that model is as important as that of any municipal structure: any place, reached by the television, telephone, fashions, is an integral part of the urban system. Indeed, the metropolis is no longer a place, but a condition. Let the dead look after their dead, then. With Louis Kahn, architecture died and not simply a particular concept of it; he, like everyone else before him, saw it as a problem of quality.

Radical Notes, 1975.


City Metaphors
Oswald Mathias Ungers

Apparently, all thinking processes happen in two different ways. Each is claimed to be the only way in which thought processes occur in science, art and philosophy.
The first is commonly known as the empirical way of thinking. It is limited to the study of physical phenomena. The actual concern is with facts that can be measured and justified. This intellectual concern concentrates on separate elements and isolated facts, deriving from direct practical experience. Thinking is strictly limited to technical and practical processes as they are most strongly formulated in the theories and methodologies of pragmatism and behaviourism.
The other way of thinking seeks out phenomena and experiences which describe more than just a sum of parts, paying almost no attention to separate elements which would be affected and changed through subjective vision and comprehensive images anyway. The major concern is not the reality as it is but the search for an all-around idea, for a general content, a coheren thought, or an overall concept that ties everything togther. It is known as holism or Gestlalt theory and has been most forcefully developed during the age of humanism in the philosophical treatises of the morphological idealism.

Kant postulates that knowledge has its origin in two basic components : intuition and thought. According to Kant all our thinking is related to imagination, which means it is related to our senses, because the only way to describe an object is through imagination. The intellect is incapable of perceiving anything, and the senses cannot think. Only through a combination of both can knowledge arise. Imagination has to precede all thinking processes since it is nothing less than a synopsis, an overall ordering principle bringing order into diversity. If we accept that thinking is an imaginative process of a higher order, then, argues Kant, it means all sciences are based on imagination.

In more recent philosophical debates, Herman Friedman replaces Kant’s concept of imagination thought as the basic components of knowledge with the argument that the sense of sight - the vision - and the sens of touch - the haptic - are the two competing polarities, and that all intellectual activity happens either in an optical or haptic way. Friedman argues that the sense of touch is non-productive; it measures, is geometrical, and acts in congruity. The sense of sight, however, is productive; it interpolates, is integral, and acts in similarities. The sens of sight stimulates spontaneous reactions of mind; it is more vivid and more far-reaching than the sens of touch. The sense of touch proceeds from the specific condition to the general, the sense of vision from the general to the specific. The visionary process, whose data are based on imagination, starts out with an idea, looking at an object in the most general way, to find an image from which to descend to more specific properties.

In every human being there is a strong metaphysical desire to create reality structured through images in which objects become meaningful through vision and which does not, as Max Planck believed, exist because its measurable. Most of all, the question of imagination and ideas as an instrument of thinking and analyzing has occupied artists and philosophers. Only in more recent history this process of thinking has been undervalued because of the predominance of quantitative and materialistic criteria. It is obvious, however, that what we generally call thinking is nothing else than the aplication of imagination and ideas to a given set of facts and not just an abstract process but a visual and sensuous event. The way we experience the world around us depends on how we perceive it. Without a comprehensive vision the reality will appear as a mass of unrelated phenomena and meaningless facts, in other words, totally chaotic. In such a world it would be of equal importance; nothing could attract our attention; and there would be no possibility to utilize the mind.

As the meaning of a whole sentence is different from the meaning of the sum of single words, so is the creative vision and ability to grasp the characteristic unity of a set of facts, and not just to analyse them as something wich is put together by single parts. The consciousness that catches the reality through sensuous perception and imagination is the real creative process because it achieves a higher degree of order than the simplistic method of testing, recording, providing and controlling. This is why all traditional philosophy is a permanent attempt to create a wellstructured system of ideas in order to interpret, to perceive, to understand the world, as other sciences have done. There are three basic levels of comprehending physical phenomena: first, the exploration of pure physical facts; second, the psychological impact on our iner-self; and third, the imaginative discovery and reconstruction of phenomena in order to conceptualize them. If for instance, designing is understood purely technically, then it results in pragmatic functionalism or in mathematical formulas. If designing is exclusively an expression of psychological experiences, then only emotional values matter and it turns into a religious substitute. If, however, the physical reality is understood and conceptualized an an analogy to our imagination of that reality, then we pursue a morphological design concept, turning it into phenomena which, like all real concepts, can be expanded or condensed; they can be seen as polarities contradicting or complementing each other, existing as pure concepts in themselves like a piece of art. Therefore we might say, if we look at physical phenomena in a morphological sense, like Gestalten in their metamorphosis, we can manage to develop our knowledge witout machine or apparatus. This imaginative process of thinking applies all intellectual and spiritual areas of human activities though the approaches might be different in various fields. But it is always a fundamental process of conceptualizing an unrelated, divers reality through the use of images, metaphors, analogies, models, signs, symbols and allegories.

O.M Ungers, City Metaphors
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02. Broken Blood - Tommy Guerrero
03. Mini Calcutta - Nicolas Jaar
04. Anything/Ganesh - Flying Lotus
05. Eagles of Africa - Koudlam
06. Akula Owu Onyeara - The Funkees
07. Okwukwe Na Nchekwube - Celestine Ukwu
08. Guinnevere - Miles Davis

Pict. Romain B.James, Brazzaville, Congo