arquitetura da pobreza/arquitetura do sublime [pt 1]

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Seguem trechos de um texto escrito em 1995. Mesmo datado (tendo em conta que foi escrito em meio ao turbilhão pós-anos 80), apresenta passagens interessantes. No entanto, ainda me incomoda a visão um tanto quanto linear e progressiva da história. Todos os grifos são meus.

While working together on the project Choral Work Derrida asked Einsenman to consider the theme of ruin in relation to the palimpsest: the architectonic experience of memory. In the request, reference was made to Benjamin’s essay Erfahrung und Armut of 1933. Benjamin talks in this about a modern poverty of experience which for him was a part of a much greater poverty resulting from our technology. This poverty is not merely subjective, it points to the split between the notion of technological development and its opposite – the world of yoga, astrology, christian science and spiritualism. Modernism cherished few illusions about the nineteenth century, but it took on its technical possibilities – Benjamin points to the use of glass by Loos and Le Corbusier and of steel by the Bauhaus. Glass is a matter-of-fact material, it is the enemey of secrecy and therefore of the civic culture around the turn of the century. It is in this sense that the ‘poverty of modernism’ must be understood. People aren’t looking so much for new experience as they are trying to free themselves from the civic culture. Benjamin has analysed this situation beautifully in his incomplete masterwork, the Passagen-Werk. […]

[…] The piece Parisier Passagen is important but it conveys just one theme amongst many. The street is for Benjamin the dwelling of the collective, an ever busy and always moving thing which lives, experiences, and dreams outdoors, just as the individual does in the confines of his house. The cities Benjamin describes are for him a realization of the dream of the labyrinth. Here the flâneur passes his life, unnoticed, unremarked, the covered passagens from the last century forming a central theme. Benjamin regarded them as a material reflection of the consciousness of the time. You could find there everything that was wrong with that consciousness – internalized – but also the utopian dream – fashion, prostituition, gambling. Above all, the passages formed the first ‘international style’ of modern architecture, they were part of the metropolitan experience. […]

Anyone who reads the book will also realize how dramatically the world has changed. It seems as if the tramp from the Konvolut M 1,3 is the only survivor from that world in our time. The flâneur could then still go walking with a turtle, while everybody now seems to take place at an uncontrollable pace.[…]

[…] Architecture cannot attempt to evade desconstructivism and post-modernism without re-evonking the idea of modernism itself – which is altogether more than a simple analysis of the culture and the design concepts of the moderns.

Derrida challenges Einsenman to consider the question of the relationship between architecture and poverty. He means poverty in Benjamin’s sense, but also in the other, that of architecture, housing in general and livability specifically. Eventually, he concerns himself with the homeless in this time in the United States. Einsenman replies that neither architecture nor philosophy are capable of solving this problem. This seems right to me. The question is however whether architecture can do nothing more than only point to its own political helplessness.

Architecture of poverty

Benjamin’s text raises a number of important issues, not only from a social and philosophical point of view – the meaning of architecture is also questioned, both in social and ideological terms. The choice of the object is not really the issue – a shelter for the homeless is not more ’social’ than a museum. Such a building quickly lures out pseudo-socially motivated attitudes. The real question is whether an architecture of poverty exists, no so much in the financial as in the conceptual sense. […]

‘Homeless’ has meanwhile become a term of the media. Around Christmas the newspapers are full of it. What I am primarily concerned with is to show that homelessness as a phenomenom is the outcome of a historical process which in the US is coupled with speculation in the property market, gentrification, the abuse of alcohol and drugs, and the continuing disintegration of normative systems. This is a position for the architect as well for the critic.

Homelessness covers a range of experiences which for the architect belong to the material with which he works. Neither the modernist concept of pure form, nor the desconstructivism of the tormented form can be of assistance here. Their ideas of time and space, the parameter of architecture as spatial configuration, differ fundamentally from the way the homeless themselves experience them. […]

When architecture and society cannot be connected by means of political notions and the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’, and ‘beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ are no longer adequate to describe a building, other terms must be found. I suggest the category of the ’sublime’, a concept that points to the aesthetic and ideological aspects of our experience. […] As the content of a notion such as sublime becomes clearer, other terms become less clear. Concepts like formal, purist, modernist or abstract seem till now to be no problem, but now we ask ourselves what we really mean by them.


fonte: GRAAFLAND, Arie. “The architecture of unease” in The Architecture Annual – 1994-1995. Delft: TUDelft, 1995

Falta a conclusão do texto (“The sublime”), mas esta parte intermediária parece ser mais rica. Apesar de algumas passagens provocadoras e elucidativas (“The question is however whether architecture can do nothing more than only point to its own political helplessness.” ou “The choice of the object is not really the issue – a shelter for the homeless is not more ’social’ than a museum.”), há algo de desestimulante e frustrante no texto: parece que ele não consegue entender a prática do arquiteto ou do crítico além da esfera da atuação profissional, colocando-o também como agente possível na luta política ou em uma perspectiva de classes (deliberadamente?). As conclusões a que o texto chega eventualmente podem ser usadas para justificar atitudes e posicionamentos típicos de um cinismo imobilista à la Koolhaas.

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