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FUNDAMENTALS: JUST FOR THE HELL OF IT

"The temptation shared by all forms of intelligence: cynicism."
                                                                                     - Albert Camus. Notebooks 1935 – 1951

In Venice the raid on the next generation of architects continues, “just for the hell of it”, until November 23rd. The battle is one-sided and we stand over the defense ditch in bewildered grief. Just as Achilles wept after The Night of Victory exclaiming: “For I have done what no man has done on Earth- I have lifted to my mouth the hands of the man who killed my children.”

Fundamentals opens with a full size section through Junkspace; here, a suspended acoustic ceiling reveals a full floor of galvanized ducts and pipes- precisely the type of building section eliminated today by geothermally driven radiant cooling and heating.

The future of architecture can be naturally lit and ventilated; geothermally heated and cooled, freeing all rooftops for gardens. The curator of this architecture biennale has no faith in the potential of future architecture to set a more positive course for a fragile planet. But we must also endure other “fundamental” contradictions. If a primary element were “column” or “beam”, a deeper connection to a great history of architecture might be contemplated. Instead, we have “escalator” or “toilet” as fundamentals.

As I left this exhibition, I walked past the Doge’s Palace with its unprecedented double rows of columns, raising the massive stone building above the ground. Here the column in a joyful structural challenge is a precursor of Le Corbusier’s piloti, as he developed them in a variety of ways, including the thick pilotis of the Marseille Block. Oscar Niemeyer’s inventive transformation of the column in the buildings of Brasilia come to mind. “Fundamentals of Architecture”? In Venice, I happened to be reading Peter Sloterdijk's Critique of Cynical Reason. In the chapter Cynicism: The Twilight of False Consciousness he writes: “such consciousness cannot become dumb and trust again: innocence cannot be regained.”

Balthasar Holz
Venice 7/26/14