|Alison en Peter Smithson. Golden Lane projected on the destroyed Coventry 1952||/1|
The relationship between modern architecture and history is a highly complex one: one that goes much deeper than the superficial contrasts between past and future, tradition and modernism. On Thursday, 5 September, The New Institute will host a lecture by Dirk van den Heuvel on this subject. The lecture is part of The New Institute’s summer programme entitled ‘The Ruin’.
The references to the Acropolis in Le Corbusier’s work are common knowledge. What is less widely known is that almost every modern architect of the post-War generation worked to develop a new agenda, implicitly and explicitly, in dialogue with the ruins of World War II: from Alison and Peter Smithson in the free West to Oskar Hansen behind the Iron Curtain and Arata Isozaki in the Far East. Structuralism, Brutalism and Metabolism create a concept of space and time that presents a new and productive relationship between history, memory and imagination.
Ruins, during the post-War era, were more than simple memory machines: they also helped people to step outside their own times and view them in a new light. All ruins are utopian, in that sense, and they allow their visitors to imagine a different age. After the War, they helped create a vision of the future in which society was renewed, egalitarian and open: inclusive and comprehensive. Ruins form one of the memory models for achieving what Reyner Banham called une architecture autre, alongside network and archive, space and interface, the Musée Imaginaire and Total Space.