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17. 10. 2005

Louisiana Manifest

Jean Nouvel
"Vsaka nova situacija potrebuje novo arhitekturo." Jean Nouvel Muzej Louisiana v Humlebaeku na Danskem je nedavno gostil veliko razstavo francoskega arhitekta Jeana Nouvela z naslovom Louisiana Manifest. Na razstavo nas je opozoril arhitekt Grega Košak, ki si jo je tudi ogledal : "Priložnost svoje predstavitve v muzeju, je ta izrabil za konceptualno prezentacijo ne le svojega dela, ampak zlasti svojih angažiranih pogledov na vlogo arhitekture v pogojih globaliziranega sveta. Poleg aktivne animacije (s projekcijo) svojih stališč in prostorskih in intervencij v park Lousiane smo obiskovalci v obliki posterja prejeli tudi njegov manifest. "

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Louisiana Manifest

In 2005, more than ever, architecture is annihilating places, banalizing them, violating them. Sometimes it replaces the landscape, creates it in its own image, which is nothing but another way of effacing it.

And then there is Louisiana, an emotional shock. The living proof of a forgotten truth: architecture has the power to transcend. It can reveal geographies, histories, colours, vegetations, horizons, qualities of light. Impertinent and natural, it is in the world. It lives. It is unique. It is Louisianan. It is a microcosm, a bubble. No image, no statement can plumb its depth. You have to be there to experience it, to believe it. It is an expansion of our world at a time when that world is getting smaller. At a time when we rush across the world faster and faster, when we listen to and watch the same global networks, share feelings about the same disasters, when we dance to the same hits, watch the same matches, when they flood us with the same films, in which the star is global, when the president of one country wants to rule the world, when we shop in cloned shopping centres, work behind the same eternal curtain walls... and when whatever good might come of this forms no part of global priorities ... Why, for instance, shouldn’t education eradicate illiteracy more quickly and surely? Why don’t the medicines that save the victims of pandemics get to them in time? Architecture is by no means spared these new conditions of an efficient, profitable world increasingly marked by an ideology delivered as the baggage of the economy. The global economy is accentuating the effects of the dominant architecture, the type that claims “we don’t need context”.

And yet debate on this galloping frenzy does not exist: architectural criticism, invoking the limits of the discipline, is content with aesthetic and stylistic reflections devoid of any analysis of the real, and ignores the crucial historical clash that - more insistently every day - sets a global architecture against an architecture of situations, generic architecture against an architecture of specificity. Is our modernity today simply the direct descendant of the modernity of the 20th century, devoid of any spirit of criticism? Does it consist simply of parachuting solitary objects on to the face of the planet? Shouldn’t it rather be looking for reasons, correspondences, harmonies, differences in order to propose an ad-hoc architecture, here and now? Louisiana is the symbolic arena for this new struggle of David and Goliath, between the partisans of situation architecture and the profiteers of decontextualized architecture. Undoubtedly this confrontation runs deeper and is more complex than the issue of local against global. Specificity is linked to the actualization of knowledge. Architectural knowledge is by nature diverse, given its links with all civilizations. Travel is an essential element in the cultivation of any builder. We are familiar with the importance to architects of journeys to Egypt, Greece and Rome. Louisiana is the result of a journey to California: the fruit of the grafting of information gathered from afar on to the interpretation of a unique location. Generic architecture is certainly thriving on the compost, the Functionalist droppings of the simplistic modern ideology of the 20th century. The Athens Charter set out to be just as humanist as Communism in Moscow, but the equally dogmatic caricatures realized by the submissive or the corrupt have left us with an oppressive political and urban heritage. In the name of the pleasure of living on this Earth, we must resist the urbanism of zones, networks and grids, the automatic rot that is obliterating the identity of the cities of all continents, in all climates, feeding on cloned offices, cloned dwellings, cloned shops, thirsting for the already thought, the already seen in order to avoid thinking and seeing.

We must replace these generic rules, territorial and architectural (yes, architectural! For architecture exists on all scales, and urbanism does not: it is nothing but the mocked-up travesty of a servile architecture on the macro-scale, advancing to prepare the way for the myriad of generic architectures) with other rules based on the structural analysis of the lived landscape. We must establish sensitive, poetic rules, approaches that will speak of colours, essences, characters, the anomalies of the act of creation, the specificities of rain, wind, sea and mountain. Rules that speak of the temporal and spatial continuum, that will turn the tide towards a mutation, a modification of the inherited chaos, and take account of all the fractal scales of our cities. These sensitive rules cannot but defy the generic ideology that leads to the proliferation of hegemonic, dominant technologies, creating dependencies, thus tending to hypertrophy all our networks of transport, energy, hygiene, to go for the bottom line. By contrast, the ideology of the specific aspires to autonomy, to the use of the resources of the place and the time, to the privileging of the non-material. How can we use what is here and nowhere else? How can we differentiate without caricaturing? How can we achieve depth? Architectural design on the large scale does not mean inventing ex nihilo.Architecture means transformation, organizing the mutations of what is already there. Architecture means encouraging the embedding in the landscape of places that anyway have a tendency to invent themselves. It means to reveal, to give direction. It means prolonging lived history and its traces of past lives. It means listening to the breathing of a living place, to its pulsations. It means interpreting its rhythms in order to create. Architecture should be seen as the modification of a physical, atomic, biological continuum.

As the modification of a fragment situated at the heart of our immense universe amidst the dizzying discoveries made by macro- and nanophysics. Whatever the scale of the transformation, of a site or of a place, how are we to communicate the unpredictability of the mutation of a living fragment? Can we domesticate the visible components - clouds, plant-life, living organisms of every size - with signs, reflections, new plantings? How does one create a vibration that evokes a hidden depth, a soul? This is surely a task for poetry, since only poetry can produce “the metaphysics of the instant”. To work at the limits of the achievable - with the mysterious, the fragile, the natural. To anticipate the weathering of time, patina, materials that change, that age with character. To work with imperfection as a revelation of the limits of the accessible. These architectures that kill emotion are not Louisianan.They are the work of globe-trotting artist-architects, princes of repetition. Specialists in the perfect, dry, perennial detail, the true confession of emotional impotence! The repetition of the ‘controlled’ detail as proof of their insensitivity to the possible nature of an architecture in-the-world. Mass construction as misconstruction! Weight and emphasis as vectors of architectural pedantry! The detail - like the totality - is an opportunity to invent, to dislocate, to enrich the world, to recompose, to reassemble, to provoke confrontations of textures, lights, of unlikely techniques. But generic detail, like generic architecture, manifests the prefabricated, the absence of doubt - that which takes no risks, which holds as far back as possible from the limits of the feasible and sensitive. Its vocation is to exist everywhere, to sell itself everywhere, to spread uniformity, to kill differences, to proliferate. We are in the domain of simplistic thinking - of the systemic, the reassuring.

We are far from the sine qua non of seduction: the natural. An architecture that creates singularity in duality, that invents it in the confrontation with a situation, is Louisianan. It opposes the attitude of these artist-architects of the recipe, of the repetition of formal order passed off as the “signature of the artist”. It opposes what can be dropped down on the landscape on any occasion, in any place. This global phenomenon perpetuates an artistic tradition of the 20th century art that is in essence unsituated, dislocated, designed to take its place among the mathematical white boxes of the museums. Autonomous architectures, unlike these works of art that can function in isolation, are doomed to the status of static interference, of absurd collages and sudden sneezes that disturb their surroundings; and unfortunately the Surrealist sensibility is rarely part of the mix... Architecture means the adaptation of the condition of a place to a given time by the willpower, desire and knowledge of certain human beings. We never do this alone. We always do it somewhere - certainly for some person or persons, but always also for everyone. It is time we stopped limiting architecture to the appropriation of a style. The age needs architects who doubt, who seek without thinking they have found, who put themselves at risk, who rediscover the values of empiricism, who invent architecture as they design it, who surprise themselves, who notice the mildew on their windows and know how to interpret it. Let’s leave the cosmetics of vain cities to the architects who think of themselves as aesthetes. From now on, let architecture rediscover its aura in the inexpressible, in the cloudy. In the imperfection of what is invented!

The architect is not aware of having come to the end of his work until he slips and slides from creation to modification, from assertion to allusion, from building-up to filling-in, from construction to infiltration, from imposition to superimposition, from the neat to the nebulous, from addition to deviation, from calligraphy to etching, to erasure ... Instead of the archaic architectural goal of domination, of making a permanent mark, today we should prefer to seek the pleasure of living somewhere. Let us remember that architecture can also be an instrument of oppression, a tool for conditioning behaviour. Let us never permit anyone to censure this pursuit of pleasure, especially in the domain of the familiar and intimate that is so necessary to our wellbeing. Let us identify ourselves. Everyone bears a potential world within himself or herself. Let us be aware of our potential, which is equal to that of any human being - largely unexplored, often poetic, therefore disquieting. No more corsets, no more ready-to-wear lives! No more architecture-by-numbers that turns us into numbers! No more cloned cities, global offices, pre-occupied homes!

We want to be able to keep on travelling, to listen to spontaneous music, to live in landscapes as inhabited as a personality, to meet men and women who invent their own culture, to discover unknown colours. Architecture is the vehicle for variations. A permanence changed by life and events. Unchangeable architecture is not involved with the place and those who live there. Architecture has to be impregnated and to impregnate to be impressionable and impress to absorb and emit. Let us love architecture that knows how to navigate, that shines like a light, that can let you read the topography, the lie of the land, feel the wind, the skies, the soils, the waters, the fires, the smells, the trees, the grass, the flowers, the mosses... that remembers the usages and customs of the place and at the same time interfaces with the information terminals ofour world, that shows us the ages and those who have journeyed through them. such architecture is built up in harmony with its time. The stragglers who are still constructing the archetypes of the 20th century are diachronically ill, refusing to live their lives. Architecture dates. We know it to be mortal, imperilled, as sure as we know it is alive.

And so we watch it emerging from the darkness and imagine that it will return there one day. The architectures of situation, of the specific, the Louisianan architectures weave this bond between past and future, mineral and vegetal, between the instant and eternity, the visible and the invisible. They are the loci of emergence and of disappearance. They distill the essence of their own slow, poignant ruin. This consciousness of time overlays the surprises of the new lives lived in the place,the great rhythms of dawn and twilight the indifference of the inevitable hours of idleness and decay... Louisianan architectures are dreamed architectures, full of silences - places of forgetfulness but also of archaeology. They become the cue for reinterpretations of an ambivalent past. Louisianan architectures move us because they have been dreamed into life, into insecurity, into resistance, sometimes into despair; ruined or assassinated, but never forgotten, because like the Phoenix disappearing in the flames only to be reborn, they make us dream of eternally recurring points of light ... The uncertainty, the simplicity and even the modesty of the Louisianan materials and resources hold out the hope that Louisianan architecture can continue to exist in any economic conditions. That it can filter through even to the shameful shantytowns of our global politics... And to see the beauty in the precariousness of poverty is not to forget the desperate conditions. It is simply to see the power and dignity of life in extreme situations and to experience the unplumbed depths of humanity to be found there. We begin to understand why the inhabitants of shantytowns and favelas have preferred their makeshift, precious, aleatory, evolving homes to rows of concrete lockers formatted as high-density living-machines! Exploration is a duty, understanding is an intense desire, questioning is a condition of evolution. We think with our senses, we feel with our thoughts. Contradictions generate sparks. Sensations generate emotions. Emotions generate love, love the desire to live, to share, to give, to extend our life into others.

Architecture is connecting, belonging, interfering, it is yea-saying and nay-saying. But it is also harmonizing the inanimate with the living. Harmony is not always soothing; it can be a source of unimaginable pleasure, of a hope beyond hope, an elevation of our imaginative powers. Pleasure is sometimes the improbable but indispensable catalyst that transforms intelligent doubt or honest despair into a conquering force. We must discourage those who have given up, the sad cases, from speculating in the creation of irreversible depression - from repeating themselves! In architecture too, repetition is often morbid - life is to be found in change. Apprentice developers, apprentice architects, do not embark on this dangerous profession except to differentiate, not to stereotype; to build, not to destroy; do not earn your living by limiting the lives of others! If you do not like a city or a place, are not responsive to it, then spare it, spare it! Go somewhere else! If you do not want to give but to take, think about something else; even cynicism should have its limits. Architecture is a gift from the deepest part of yourself. It is the making of worlds, the invention of places, of micropleasures, microsensations, quick dips into reality. Let architecture be vibrant, perpetually echoing the changing universe! Let it build temporary oases for nomads in search of the directions, the desires that form them as long as they live! How can we mark out, how can we fence in our lifespan? How can we petrify serenity, calm, delight, far less ecstasy, intoxication, euphoria, jubilation? Let us abandon forever these cold living-machines! There are depths to be sounded, heights on which to breathe the air, landscapes to bejewel. Let us denounce automatic architecture, the architecture of our serial production systems! Let us attack it! Engulf it! This soulless architecture crying out to be contradicted, to be finished in both senses of the word!

Chance brings us encounters to be exploited, situations to be invented! This arid architecture should be used as a support, a point of departure for odd, dislocated, exploded, inverted strategies. One of the missions of Louisianan architecture is to complete, to re-orient, to diversify, to modify and to imagine what the generic architectures can never imagine: the lifetimes to which they will give shelter. Let us be Louisianans! Let us resist! Let us reclaim the architectures of the improbable! Those that unite praxis and poetry to leave their imprint on a place, to throw in their lot with that place. Let us be Louisianans in all these territories: from Petra to Sanaa, from Venice to Manhattan, from Chartres to Ronchamp, from fishermen’s huts to the tents of the desert, from the favelas of Rio to the industrial ruins of the Ruhr, from Katsura to Louisiana … All clashes of temporalities and illuminations, all poetic paradoxes. The miraculous paradoxes that Paul Valéry summed up in this simple line: “Time scintillates and dream is knowledge”.

Jean Nouvel, June 2005

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fotografije: Grega Košak











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