The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture is a bookwritten by Pier Vittorio Aureli, within which he tries to convince the readerto consider the possibility of a ‘unitary’ interpretation of architecture, onein which everything is considered a whole entity.
He argues how up until now,we have created a false idea regarding a ‘unilateral synthesis’ wherearchitectural identity is a resultant of numerous architectural projects, whichhave impacted upon each other to form a whole, but separate identity. Hecontinues to explain how ‘this unilateral synthesis addresses the possibilityof interpreting architectural form as the index for the constitution of an ideafor a city’, explaining how he feels cities have been understood to have beencreated in the past; as a series of chain reactions and modular creations. He then continues to state how this form of creation couldhave never lead to ‘absolute architecture’, which he believes should be how weunderstand how the history of Architecture came to be. To Aureli, Absolutearchitecture is not to be understood as a ‘purity’ but something which is’resolutely itself without its other’, (which he understands the other to bethe ‘space of the city, its extensive organisation and its government’.) Aureliuses this concept of absolute architecture to act as a stark contrast to how hedefines our current understanding of architecture to have came to be; somethingunilaterally synthesised. By doing this, he demonstrates the paradox behindthis way of thinking and explains why a ‘unitary interpretation’ would serve usbetter. Within his first couple paragraphs, he explains thefundamental issue regarding architecture being formed by ‘unilateralsynthesis’, which is that it produces spaces which are inherently divided andseparate from one another. Aureli wishes for architecture to act politically,which he uses Aristotle’s definition of to be ‘for the good of allindividuals.
‘ He believes spaces created economically cause divisions withinthe city and that economic construction is a result of urbanisation. Hebelieves we must make the distinction between urbanisation and architecturalform, and suggests we pay further attention to Architectural form if we wishfor architecture to act politically. Thisexplain Aureli’s underlying but essential belief we should pay more attentionto architectural form, as ‘it is precisely in the process of separationinherent in the making of architectural form that the political in architecturelies’ and because of this understanding, there is ‘the possibility ofunderstanding the agonistic relationship between architecture and its context.’He uses many examples to identify why urbanisation cannot beused to explain how architecture could act politically; because urbanisationleads to a suggested requirement for repetition and infinity. One of the bestexplaining quotes he uses is from Hegel, whom states ‘Infinity… cannot avoidincarnation in the finite’ ‘This compulsive repetition leads to a loss ofhistorical process’ Therefore, Aureli believes the city is a collation ofcontrasting pieces, which cannot be attuned to urbanisation, and therefore hisideals regarding building absolute city parts suggests an alternative to conventionaldomestic building; and thus, lead to architecture being more for the good ofthe people.
However, not all the examples he offers align up with hisideals. He offers up Mies Van der Rhoes’ projects as an anomaly which fails tofit with his concept of ‘political and economic’ architecture and acknowledgesthis where he states ‘The silence of Mies’ architecture has been interpreted byhistorians as reflecting and incorporating the uprooting nature of modernitywhile defining a critical distance from it.’ Aureli later attempts to diminishthis anomaly by likening Mies’ architecture to that of his friend Hilberseimer,of whom was renowned for his minimalistic plans, which matched Urbanistic formof design; making Mies’ architecture therefore fit within his dis-crediting ofurbanistic design. Whether there is a strong enough connection between thetwo’s work is open for much discussion. Hochhaustadt – Ludwig Hilberseimer’s Farmsworth House – Mies Van Der RhoeUsing this example, we can see there are elements ofrepetition within both designs and simplistic design, although there is moreindividuality evident within Mies’ Farmsworth House and less key elements ofurbanism (a lack of generality in terms of relation to site within this design),bringing Aureli’s dismissal of Mies’ form of architecture to question. Nevertheless, Aureli’s key dilemma with Urbanism sits withinthe blockages created via (lack of) flow through urban landscapes.
Much laterin the book he addresses the Berlin Wall Crisis and how this once collectivecity became divisioned and how conventional Urbanism was identified as anunsuccessful means of planning to deal with the dis-conjoined archipelago theynow faced. Aureli supports this argument further where he quotes Karl FriedrichSchinkel on ‘Schinkel had envisioned the capital of Prussia as a fabricpunctuated by singular architectural interventions, rather than as a cityplanned along the principles of cohesive spatial design’ (commonly associatedwithin urbanistic design.) ‘For Ungel, this approach would overcome thefragmentation of post-war Berlin by turning the crisis into the architecture ofthe city’ These quotes show a convincing furthering of Aureli’s argument thatUrbanism is not the future of architecture, nor a successful means ofunderstanding its history and that his belief one should work against theeffects of urbanisation to create political effect is reasonable.