Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Air Architecture" and Social Reform Through Immateriality

The Baron in the trees.

In the early 50’s it started an interest in the regulation of society by artistic means. When Abstract Expressionism research was exhausted, artists began experiencing with materials. The collage methodology was a philosophical step, textures were something that artists created, collage had a plus value, the “ready made” things, the objects associated with environment, that were the central innovation of Dada. Assemblage was also the way to show feelings of disenchantment with international abstraction. It provided the starting point for two concepts that were fundamental to artists: environment and the Happening.

In Europe, an equivalent of the American Neo-Dadaists was the New Realism, which major personality was the French artist Yves Klein (1928–1962). He was important for what he did –the symbolic value of his actions- rather for what he made. (E. Lucie Smith, p. 123). This period of the 60’s was marked by an artistic and architectural experimentation as a challenge of the “systems thinking” enlightened by a postwar cybernetic thought and military operations, where people and machines were part of information processes systems. In time, the artistic practices developed into the theory of dematerialization. The theory involved a re-evaluation of the Modern Movement planning ideas predicated by the Team X. The set of practices were beyond disciplinary boundaries, they all had in common a concern for environment and immateriality. In this realm, Italo Calvino writes “The Baron in the Trees”, the fictitious story of a 12 years old Italian nobleman Cosimo Piavosco di Rondo who decided to live the rest of his life on the trees and never set foot on the ground again, in protest against his family and society in general. The story could be analyzed on a number of points of view, as a romantic story, environmental, sociological, and in questioning the role of man and the community.
Immateriality is also a political critique. Society was to be changed, and architecture was part of this. If for the Team X architecture and machines were on top of men, the relationship had to be reversed. The change would develop from society’s internal processes and architecture and planning would be submitted to them. The consequence of this idea was a tendency to give primacy to program, that is, use and events supplanted the architectural form as the soul of design. The extreme was that no architect would be involved in designing projects, only artists, musicians and engineers. The spatial experience would be made up of sound, light, mist and reflections. The designers’ job would be relegated to build the hardware to regulate the intensities of flow within systems. Architecture was a form of life support that could not impede human interaction. In this context, immateriality was the ideal state of architecture.

Fire Column and Fire Wall installed in the garden of Mies van der Rohe's Lange House in Krefeld, Germany in a still from the 1961 color, silent film Monochrome and Fire. From

“Air Architecture” was Yves Klein’s concept of an immaterial architecture, made of ephemeral elements of nature, such as air, fire and water. It was the symbol of materiality liberation, humans would have complete access to the space of Universe.
In 1957 Klein began to design schemes of buildings and cities inspired by ancient Islamic palaces with pavilions, fountains, sky; the exhibitions included films, drawings, plans, construction details, installations. He was working along with architects Claude Parent and Werner Ruhnau. Engagement with climate was at the beginning of the design: walls of fire were proposed for cooler northen climates and walls of water for the south; shelters were shells of moving air, providing protection from rain, which could be blown away before it landed.

Air Architecture by Y. Klein.

Air Architecture by Y. Klein.

This Utopian habitat was like a legendary Eden where people would be in direct contact with Earth and the elements; privacy was not important; everyone could live outdoor without partition rooms, using air made invisible furniture; the bathrooms, kitchens, closets, storages, were in underground quarters. This concept of Eden was rooted in Klein’s formation. He was a jazz musician, a Rosicrucian and a judo expert. In Judo, the opponents are regarded as collaborators and this notion is underlying in his projects. His work is also influenced by Zen concepts, what he described as “the void”. It is like a nirvana state void of worldly influences, a zone where attention is only paid to sensibilities, and to reality as opposed to representation. The artistic resolution for Zen was his adoption of unorthodox methods, the objects were not represented in standard artistic ways, Klein wanted his objects (let us say subjects) to be represented by their imprint. At his directions, women smeared with blue paint and flung themselves on to canvas spread on the floor while musicians played Klein’s monotone symphony , a single not played for ten minutes which alternated with ten minutes of silence (the void, the negative space). That was a public ceremony, a prelude to the Happenings manifestations, recorded in the film Mondo Cane. These actions have a poetic-philosophical-metaphysical meaning that was absent from the more elaborate Happenings in New York. His audience could simultaneously “feel” and “understand” the ideas in a new sensibility of space.

Happening by Y. Klein.

Since 2004, his provocative projects are exhibited once again in museums, together with the work of the Italian Superstudio, in a revival of immateriality and the absence of objects in arts and architecture.

Lucie-Smith Edward. Movements in art since 1945. Issues and Concepts. 1995. London.

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