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Architectural pedagogies. Worldviews

Architectural pedagogies. Worldviews

Colin Rowe maintained that the teaching of architecture «is not only about training students for professional occupation, but is above all to stimulate his spiritual and intellectual growth and to enable him to grasp the nature and meaning of architecture»1. Departing precisely from this assumption, this issue of FAmagazine proposes to make a selection of certain schools of architecture and leading players who characterized them, starting from the peculiarities of specific teaching methods.
Ernesto Nathan Rogers asserted that a school must not oblige the achievement of goals that have already been ideologically set, but must teach a method, a point of view, that everyone can make use of according to their own talent. The school, as the most appropriate place to «think concretely of a better world – a world built with ‘real means for real ends’ – given that, not being pressed by the burden of contingencies it can apply itself more open-mindedly to those problems which, without presenting themselves to the moment as finished, can avoid being abstract and extravagant»2, understood as «an active service of the social complex, a laboratory where culture is produced»3, through criticism and imagination, the very pillars of architectural research.
The study cases selected in this issue are all situations where Rogers’ intentions came to the fore, even if each pursued and respected different peculiarities, and can provide a clear school model to examine not only for the contents of their teaching but also, and above all, for their attempt to build a cultural project. It is precisely this project, albeit born and becoming concrete in different ways, that finds its roots in humanist rather than technical-scientific culture, expanding the architect’s experience to dimensions similar to those of other artistic means of expression, while focusing on the themes of form, space and architectural composition. It must be emphasized that none of these experiences has ever had the presumption to define a theoretical system. Each of them was developed in line with a theory consisting of formulas that were modified in itinere through experimental practice, that laboratory where culture is produced which Rogers spoke of.
These forms of teaching therefore become attempts to set a fashion, where unquestionably in all cases there is the authoritativeness of a master who, if operative inside a school, can make architecture teachable and transmissible, in the fullness of its problematic nuclei, beyond the formulation of a sterile body of precepts.

What happened at Valparaíso in Chile, as Massimo Alfieri has written, at a small school of architecture founded from a collaboration between an Argentine poet, Godofredo Iommi, and a Chilean architect, Alberto Cruz, represents one of the most original experiences in teaching architecture. At this school the relationship between architecture and poetry became a tool to open up to the world. A poetry, to learn to see the world with “South-American eyes”, where observing becomes an integral part of the educational process and means looking at things beyond the visible, establishing a new sense in what seems obvious. Thus, observing becomes the seed of a small theory, a theory of space made in a determined circumstance, and this makes an understanding of the world possible by obliging us to construct a point of view of it. For this reason, inside this school, use is made of poetry in teaching, precisely because poets are they who can teach us how to observe the world.
Or in the experience of John Hejduk described by Luca Cardani where «architecture is the result of a cognitive process, one of the ways through which thought takes on form, manifests and thereby acquires a presence, a transmissibility and a value of testimony that produces culture». Particularly inside that school where he taught almost all of his life, namely, the Cooper Union of New York, John Hejduk began from the idea that those who study should not research pre-constituted notions, but find themselves within the reasons behind a procedure gained through experience. At this school a project began based on the idea that architecture does not exist without knowledge and that it is necessary to attribute the design operation to theoretical presuppositions in order to interpret the value of space, bodies and objects. From these ideas, Hejduk would begin teaching through an approach of a metaphorical kind, by “osmosis”, as he himself would declare during an interview. Hejduk never explained his projects but told stories, fables and poems starting from objects to be found inside and outside the world of architecture. His exercises included a narration of space that could grow a series of concepts and awarenesses that would become part of the exercise itself and the experience of the student who acquires the capacity to be able to interpret architecture, by learning to observe the world through the eyes of an architect.
Another case study presented is Luciano Semerani’s experience as coordinator of the PhD in Architectural Composition at the IUAV in Venice. Abandoning design practice, Semerani developed an analysis of consistency within the planning process of a single work by a single author, in order to verify an “absolute value” for it: the authenticity of the language. That same demand for authenticity, as he himself asserted, which constituted the guiding thread through which his teacher, Ernesto N. Rogers, linked together as “Maestros” totally heterogeneous figures such as Perret, Van de Velde, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Wright, authors and works with completely different languages, but exemplary in their commitment to found theories and poetics on the experience of making that was rigorously guaranteed by a high level of workmanship (the lay religio in dealing with art). However, it is not sufficient to say that there is a pretext to investigate compositional techniques. In reality, Semerani expected to find the genesis of the form penetrating the raison d’être of the creative act, investigating the efficacy of a language in transmitting a vision of the world and its interpretation.
Another example, described by Marta Caldeira, is the experience of Manuel Solà-Morales, who as a lecturer, founder and director of the Laboratori d’Urbanisme de Barcelona at ETSAB from 1969 to 2012, supervised the crucial reform in teaching urban planning at this school, determined to overcome the technocratic tendency that had marked Spanish architecture and planning during the last decade of Franco’s regime.
With the goal of training what he defined the ‘architect-urban planner’, «through a foundational program that unified architecture and studies of urban form as a single discipline», Solà-Morales carried out a series of research projects starting from urban morphology through an adroit «study of the city and its history as the primary ground for every architectural and urban project».
Lastly, Elvio Manganaro attempts to draw up a final balance sheet by asking questions that are essential for those dealing with teaching today. Starting off from some of the teachers from the Italian School who have understood architecture not merely as representation, but as a desire for transformation that contemplates a conception of the world, and through the school have been able to transmit «a knowledge base on which to develop independence and rigour of expression»4, Manganaro came to assert that «the problem is not the teaching approach but the forms, because these really do embrace an idea of the world». And even when teachings «have long ceased being productive […] the forms remain and continue to operate. [For this reason] it is the persuasive power of images which end up being shared that consolidate a school, not the efficacy of the analytical tools adopted [while] the teachers’ etymons came to be adopted not out of laziness or adulation, as the misguided might insinuate, but to participate in a precise idea of the world».

Tommaso Brighenti

(1) Caragonne, A., (1995). The Texas Rangers. Notes from an architectural underground. Cambridge: The Mit Press.
(2) Rogers, E. N. (gennaio 1962). L’utopia della realtà. Casabella-continuità, 259.
(3) Ibidem.
(4) Canella, G. (1984). La reinvenzione tipologica. In Fiori, L., Boidi, S., Disegni e progetto del centro civico di Pieve Emanuele. Milano: Abitare Segesta, 17.

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