Conceptual Architecture Symposium – Part 5 – Bernard Tschumi, David Stezaker

Lecture date: 1975-01-18


Day 2 AM – Speakers Bernard Tschumi, David Stezaker

[Questions to Cedric Price’s lecture continue]

R. Banham: The word concept was already in use in England in the middle 50’s; used to describe any architecture which put the expression of a concept or an idea over and above the service to the client.

Bernard Tschumi’s intervention is divided in four topics/parts: space, words, pleasure and finally a series of images. He decides to put more emphasis on the problem of architecture itself in order to reach the problem of conceptual. Thus, he addresses the concept of transparency, which has evolutioned to the point that space seems to exist  only as the interpenetration of quite different layers: the mode of production, the collective unconscious, the linguistic pattern, the alternative technology, historical precedent and so on. These were the new layers that were intersecting, infiltrating and superimposing upon the idea of architecture. In the best instance, space became the new product of a social-economic structure. The city became the means of reproduction of the modes of production. These notions are the direct product of a particular political analysis of what space, cities and architecture are about. Architecture then became so transparent that many wandered where it was. Architectural metaphors were used everywhere except in architecture. Boullée asks himself: what is architecture? Will I define it with Vitruvius as the art of building? This definition contains a gross error, Vitruvius takes the effect for the cause; one must conceive in order to make. We can now define architecture as the art to produce any building and bring it to perfection. The art of building is thus, a secondary art that seems appropriate to call the scientific part of architecture. By nature, architecture has always been conceptual and to discuss conceptual architecture is an entelequia, a meaningless task. Buildings that compose the history of architecture are so few that it is in the books that space finds its archetypes. The architect’s imagination depends on words. At this moment, there is no other architectural reality that the words of architecture.

David Stezaker disagrees with those who have claimed that conceptual art is a meaningless term. He proposes to make an account of the various uses of the term conceptual, such as the placing of the critic (the middleman) and its intervention in the process of art. Thus suggesting that artists, rather than being involved with physical forms, within physical space, are involved with linguistics, located within logical space. The artist can then see how the meaning of his work was dictated and determined by critics. Another meaning refers to artworks as abstractions rather than as a particular objects; as types rather than tokens. Other conception understands artworks as pointers of pre existing reality, as opposed to an iconic representation of reality, or as a form of analogy of reality, they simply suppose that anything is aesthetic, the role of art is pointing this out. Stezaker discusses the application of a conceptual approach to architecture, among which: architecture for architecture’s sake, a total autonomy from function or whose function is indifferent to use, alienated from it.

Symposium over two days speakers include; Will Alsop, Peter Eisenman, Charles Jencks, Peter Cook, Cedric Price, Bernard Tschumi, David Stezaker, Colin Rowe, Dalibor Vesely, Jo Rykwert, Rosalee Goldberg. Chairman Bob Maxwell.