Putine carti de Arhitectura au avut asupra profesiunii un impact atat de rapid si indelungat cum a avut Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture a lui Robert Venturi. Succesul se poate explica datorita a doi factori. In primul rand cartea difera de oricare din aparitiile editoriale ale epocii prin varietatea ideilor extra-arhitecturale la care Venturi a apelat in cercetarea sa – sursele (mai ales literare) fiind William Epson, Cleanth Brooks, T.S.Eliot si August Heckscher. In al doilea rand cartea difera prin imaginile cladirilor pe care Venturi le prezinta: de la istoricismul baroc al lui Nicholas Hawksmoor pana la modernismul regional al lui Alvar Aalto, ambele venind in sprijinul tezei sale despre o Arhitectura manerista „nonstraightforward” – termen pe care l-as traduce prin sintagma “fara simplitate simplista”. In acelasi timp este o carte ce se concentreaza clar pe limbajul vizual al proiectarii de arhitectura si nu pe metodologii sau pe substraturile sociologice. Faimoasa expresie a lui Venturi „Less is a bore” s-a ridicat ca un stindard al populismului eretic impotriva modernismului al carei definitie data de Mies Van der Rohe “Less is More” facuse scoala decenii, dar constituie in acelasi timp semnalul unei noi directii care va intampina foarte curand o ferma opozitie. Extrasul de mai jos este numai o mica parte dintr-o carte foarte bogata in idei pe care orice student la o facultate de Arhitectura ar trebui sa o citeasca in intregime si sa o studieze cu cea mai mare seriozitate.
COMLEXITY AND CONTRADICTION IN ARCHITECTURE
I like complexity and contradiction in architecture. I do not like the incoherence or arbitrariness of incompetent architecture nor the precious intricacies of picturesqueness or expressionism. Instead, I speak of a complex and contradictory architecture based on the richness and ambiguity of modern experience, including that experience which is inherent in art. Everywhere, except in architecture, complexity and contradiction have been acknowledged, from G6del’s proof of ultimate inconsistency in mathematics to T. S. Eliot’s analysis of „difficult” poetry and Joseph Albers’ definition of the paradoxical quality of painting.
But architecture is necessarily complex and contradictory in its very inclusion of the traditional Vitruvian elements of commodity, firmness, and delight. And today the wants of program, structure, mechanical equipment, and expression, even in single buildings in simple contexts, are diverse and conflicting in ways previously unimaginable. The increasing dimension and scale of architecture in urban and regional planning add to the difficulties. I welcome the problems and exploit the uncertainties. By embracing contradiction as well as complexity, I aim for vitality as well as validity.
Architects can no longer afford to be intimidated by the puritanically moral language of orthodox Modern architecture. I like elements which are hybrid rather than „pure,” compromising rather than „clean,” distorted rather than „straightforward,” ambiguous rather than „articulated,” perverse as well as impersonal, boring as well as „interesting,” conventional rather than „designed,” accommodating rather than excluding, redundant rather than simple, vestigial as well as innovating, inconsistent and equivocal rather than direct and clear. I am for messy vitality over obvious unity. I include the non sequitur and proclaim the duality.
I am for richness of meaning rather than clarity of meaning; for the implicit function as well as the explicit function. I prefer „both-and” to „either-or,” black and white, and sometimes gray, to black or white. A valid architecture evokes many levels of meaning and combinations of focus: its space and its elements become readable and workable in several ways at once.
But an architecture of complexity and contradiction has a special obligation toward the whole: its truth must be in its totality or its implications of totality. It must embody the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion. More is not less.
I have been referring to one level of order in architecture – that individual order that is related to the specific building it is part of. But there is convention in architecture, and convention can be another manifestation of an exaggeratedly strong order more general in scope. An architect should use convention and make it vivid. I mean he should use convention unconventionally. By convention I mean both the elements and methods of building. Conventional elements are those which are common in their manufacture, form, and use. I do not refer to the sophisticated products of industrial design, which are usually beautiful, but to the vast accumulation of standard, anonymously designed products connected with architecture and construction, and also to commercial display elements which are positively banal or vulgar in themselves and are seldom associated with architecture.
The main justification for honky-tonk elements in architectural order is their very existence. They are what we have. Architects can bemoan or try to ignore them or even try to abolish them, but they will not go away. Or they will not go away for a long time, because architects do not have the power to replace them (nor do they know what to replace them with), and because these commonplace elements accommodate existing needs for variety and communication. The old cliches involving both banality and mess will still be the context of our new architecture, and our new architecture significantly will be the context for them. I am taking the limited view, I admit, but the limited view, which architects have tended to belittle, is as important as the visionary view, which they have tended to glorify but have not brought about. The short-term plan, which expediently combines the old and the new, must accompany the long-term plan. Architecture is evolutionary as well as revolutionary As an art it will acknowledge what is and what ought to be, the immediate and the speculative.
Historians have shown how architects in the mid-nineteenth century tended to ignore or reject developments in technology when related to structure and methods as unconnected with architecture and unworthy of it; they substituted in turn Gothic Revivalism. Academic revivalism or the Handicraft Movement. Are we today proclaiming advanced technology, while excluding the immediate, vital if vulgar elements which are common to our architecture and landscape? The architect should accept the methods and the elements he already has.