Book Cover Manfredo Tafuri Vienna Rossa

VIENNICE

The Disturbing Moment When Marxism Entered the History of Architecture

 

Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

"If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from the physical life-process."
Karl Marx

In the 1970s, a group of architects and theoreticians from Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia went to Vienna in order to study the communal housing blocks of “Red Vienna” from the period 1919-1934. According to one of their main exponents, Manfredo Tafuri, these had been neglected by the master historians of modern architecture, since their architectural language was considered to be conservative and not appropriate for a socialist, progressive residential housing programme.

While Tafuri and his colleagues were not so much interested in the architectural appearance of these massive building blocks with their sculptural decorations, their criticism was even harsher. Trained by longstanding political activism and neo-Marxist debate in Italy, they criticised the design of early Viennese Gemeindebau as ideological.

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VIENNICE

The Disturbing Moment When Marxism Entered the History of Architecture

 

Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

The fact that the blocks seemed to be integrated typologically into the urban fabric of Gründerzeit blocks concealed their actual political and economic isolation. The Social Democratic party had not succeeded in creating comprehensive socialist planning for the whole city. In a capitalist society, architecture appeared unable to overcome inner contradictions of a social and political nature through the architectural project – Tafuri “killed” architecture, as many contemporary architects complained.

However, it was for a very good reason that Tafuri chose to look at fin de siècle Vienna. It was the perfect place to execute a “critique of ideology”; to establish a new method of architectural historiography, in opposition to traditional historicism or “operative history”. For Tafuri, the cliché of Viennese modernism– a prolific sphere of culture and innovation exemplified by the works of Ludwig Wittgenstein, Adolf Loos, Karl Kraus, Sigmund Freud et al. – had actually been the centre of “negative thought” (or of discovering the false consciousness of the capitalist bourgeoisie), applied by modern artists and architects in their critical confrontation with the modern metropolis.

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VIENNICE

The Disturbing Moment When Marxism Entered the History of Architecture

 

Master Studio: History Theory Criticism

Angelika Schnell

Hence, Tafuri’s analysis of Vienna between 1890 and 1930 seems to reveal a complex network of conscious and subconscious relations that still affect the present, rather than a singular moment in history. Vienna Rossa might be read in comparison to Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas or Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, where not individual architects or theoreticians, but rather a city and a certain period created a completely new understanding of architecture and its history. But in contrast to the celebrated works about these two unique American cities, Vienna Rossa caused unease. It became legendary, yet it has not been translated into German or English. Since then, a spectre has haunted architecture...

The students will work as a research team. The studio will be accompanied by several lectures and workshops about Marxist theories in and beyond architecture. The results will be exhibited at AzW. The studio will be held in German.

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