Edited by: Riccardo Del Fabbro – Architecture Department Editor – firstname.lastname@example.org
Proofreading: Bianca Baroni
Where : ?
Artworks: “a terrible beauty is born”: top five about ugliness.
Some weeks have passed, but here we go again with “a terrible beauty is born: top five about ugliness”.
This time we have to face the position number 2.
What could it be?
“Something not bad at all”.
It’s an utilitarian architecture, which finds its strong point in its utility, exploitation, lack of subjectivity and brutality.
Someone could ask: “Why this building, why not any other nobler, why not a really brutal and ugly building?”.
Exactly this one.
I must break the rules I gave to myself for this architectural zapping about bad taste, to tell you that this building was the seat of the central statistical centers of a certain state, during a certain “cold” period, some years ago.
Hundreds of people worked there and had to deal with surveys, questions to make, answers to decode, numbers, loads of numbers.
It’s the fact that this box, this huge volume, was the seat of statistical information that makes it monstrous.
Monstrous not for what it was, but for what it represents now.
Nowadays, efficiency and precision are vague memories.
Thanks to statistics, and statistically, this concrete block has become a ruin.
It could be interesting to think about Constant’s concept on utilitarian society and his New Babylon:
“The term designates all known forms of society, including the modern capitalist and socialist State. It asserts a fundamental reality, the same for all these forms of community life, old and new, namely the exploitation of the human being’s capacity for work. ‘Utility’ is the principle criterion in appreciating man and his activity. The creative man, Homo Ludens, can only claim his rights on rare occasions.The opposite of utilitarian society is ludic society, where the human being, freed by automation from productive work, is at least in a position to develop his creativity. The terms ‘class society’ or ‘classless society’ do not express, or imperfectly so, this conflict. But it is clear that a ludic society can only be a classless society. Social justice is no guarantee of freedom, or creativity, which is the realization of freedom. Freedom depends not only on the social structure, but also on productivity; and the increase in productivity depends on technology. ‘Ludic society’ is in this sense a new concept.” *
This building represents what societies have become historically: intrepid monuments of nothing, never-really-existed places.
That’s what makes it “ugly”.
Not its shape, but the cause of its decay. Once again, the identity of this architecture is not having one: not for its fault, but because it can’t express its own identity and its qualities and deficiencies are so ephemeral that they dematerialize.
(Reader: “Yes, but in the last lines they say nothing about the progress of societies or the architectural evolution involved. Right?”).
The fact of being in front of something, in front of a physical entity which cannot completely pull out an historical or current truth/notion about architecture, way of living, past or present costumes, is the actual indicator of what the society is and doesn’t know to be.
Polemic finale with no objective defence.
* New Babylon is the work of the New Babylonians alone, the product of their culture. For us, it is only a model of reflection and play.
(Written by Constant, for the exhibition catalogue published by the Haags Gemeetenmuseum, The Hague, 1974.)