How architecture can create fragments of utopia by disrupting creative complacency
Reality Check: Using architectural fragments to generate a societal response
The following texts describe works of art and architecture that have reinterpreted the traditional representation of reality to cause reactions from society. For example, the work of the Constructivists showed an abstracted version of traditional geometries, while the Suprematists used art as a metaphor to awaken public consciousness through imagery. There is an underlying importance of the image in all writings, understanding that image is absorbed by our conscious mind, stored in our subconscious, and resurrected in the combined creations of our unconscious and conscious. The most common thread found in these texts is a perception of such an image-based reality as fragments. Whether it is the work of artists from the Constructivist period, world-renowned Deconstructivist architects, or artists of modern culture, a destabilized architecture has come to most accurately represent this reality. Constructivism began the discussion of fragments as a metaphoric term, as represented in David Wild’s titling of Fragments of Utopia, while the Deconstructivists turned fragments into physical architecture, once whole and separated to be reassembled. Modern artists have understood the absorptive properties of the mind to generate fragmented images, allowing our creativity to construct the missing parts. All techniques act to snap society back into reality, an effort made to gain any sort of reaction out of a drifting assemblage.
Leach, Neil. Architecture and Revolution: Contemporary Perspectives on Central and Eastern Europe. London: Routledge, 1999. Print.
Architect and theorist Neil Leach is currently an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California. His book, Architecture and Revolution: Contemporary Perspectives on Central and Eastern Europe (1999), asserts that the consequences of political revolution bring about a social change in both the built environment and the culture that contends with the previous regime’s socialist realism. Through writings from prominent architects, political and cultural theorists, critics, professors, and philosophers, Leach provides examples of how architecture has influenced social behavior from the October Revolution of 1917 to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Leach’s purpose is to examine the cities that have experienced social and political unrest, such as Moscow, Bucharest, and Berlin, in order to discover how building architecture can act as a means of re-building the identity of these cities. By including writings and discussions from architects and members of these cities in transition, Leach is speaking to the generation that survives ‘Beyond the Wall,’ essentially those who are willing to pick up the pieces of a broken city and forge a new identity.
Lodder, Christina. Russian Constructivism. New Haven: Yale UP, 1983. Print.
An internationally renowned specialist in Russian Modernism, Christina Lodder is currently a lecturer of history and philosophy of art at the University of Kent’s School of Arts. Her book, Russian Constructivism (1983), asserts that the Russian Constructivist movement radically reassessed the artist’s role in society, impacting Western creative culture since the 1920s. Lodder includes visuals of the works by the most influential members of Russian Constructivism, such as Tatlin, Rodchenko, Malevich, Klutsis, and Popova, as well as biographical sketches to support a descriptive account of the development of the movement. Lodder includes Constructivist works in textile, furniture, clothing, kiosk, and theater design in order to exemplify the skills of these artists despite the industrial limitations and cultural constraints of the period. The book provides a clear chronology of the development and lifetime of Russian Constructivism for Western readers to understand.
Margolin, Victor. The struggle for utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917-1946. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
Professor Victor Margolin teaches art and design history at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His book, The struggle for utopia: Rodchenko, Lissitzky, Moholy-Nagy, 1917-1946 (1997), asserts that a new artistic-social avant-garde emerged following World War I that engaged the artist in the building of social life. Margolin explores the works of the artists Alexander Rodchenko, El Lissitzky, and László Moholy-Nagy whom all confronted turbulent political realities through art. Margolin studies these three artists in order to understand how their utopian convictions could function as forces of social change. Margolin establishes a close relationship between the artist and activist to be understood by the contemporary reader.
Noever, Peter, and Regina Haslinger. Architecture in transition: between deconstruction and new modernism. Munich: Prestel, 1991.
Austrian designer Peter Noever is a curator of art and architecture and has contributed to numerous publications. His book, Architecture in transition: between deconstruction and new modernism (1991), asserts that Deconstructivism has the potential to take architecture in a new direction. Noever publishes a collection of lectures with images by world-renowned architects such as Peter Eisenmann, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, and Bernard Tschumi as examples of this potential technique. Noever includes these lectures in order to ascribe to a new beauty and keep the visionary alive. His audience includes these visionaries and architects interested in pursuing a similar design technique.
Pallasmaa, Juhani. The embodied image: imagination and imagery in architecture. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2011.
Finnish architect and professor, Juhani Pallasma has an interest in psychology, culture, and phenomenology. His book, The embodied image: imagination and imagery in architecture (2011), asserts that the images that exist in the world become ingrained in us, effecting the way we experience architecture. Pallasmaa organizes the book into five parts, contemporary culture, language and thought, multi-sensory, poetics, and architectural to examine the influences each has on our perception. Pallasmaa’s purpose is to point out the importance of images in order to ascertain that images are manifestations of our imaginations and part of language. Pallasmaa’s break down of the image types and their importance speaks to readers in any creative field.
Vidler, Anthony. Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2000. Print.
Former Dean of the Cooper Union, Anthony Vidler is a historian and critic of modern architecture. His book, Warped Space (2000), asserts that two related forms warp space: the psychological and the artistic. Vidler supports this claim by describing in Part I, the phobias and anxieties that developed from life in the metropolis, and in Part II, the different medias of film, photography, art, and architecture that have depicted space in new ways. Vidler has examined solutions given to metropolitan problems proposed by artists and architects in order to understand the ramifications of modernism. Vidler is writing to artists, architects, and urban dwellers with an interest in the psychological and artistic influences of modernism.
Wild, David. Fragments of Utopia: Collage Reflections of Heroic Modernism. London: Hyphen, 1998. Print.
David Wild has worked in the fields of architecture, teaching, writing, photography, and politics. His book, Fragments of Utopia: Collage Reflections of Heroic Modernism (1998), asserts that the productive avant-garde inspires the radical, utopian impulse of the built world, with its idealism and sense of continuity. Wild supports this claim by identifying three distinct parts that make up what he considers the heroic years of modern architecture: the Netherlands, Russia, and Le Corbusier. Wild chooses these parts, which have all shown hope during times of unfortunate states of affair, in order to provide an elusive and fragmentary vision of utopia. Wild’s collaged imagery speaks to readers interested in the De Stijl, Constructivist, and Corbusian movements of modern architecture.