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Third Vienna Architecture Congress

Common Places - Conventional Thoughts in the CHAOS of EUROPE

Thu 02.11.1995 – Sun 05.11.1995

opening: Thursday, November 2, 1995, 7:30 p.m.

Scientists, experts, writers, and journalists diagnose a multi-facetted image of “general chaos” and independently observe problems on their own, providing new ideas for new positions.

Open issues in city planning and architecture are investigated, the acute contemporary needs of the human being are carefully and comprehensively reflected upon while the social, psychological, and aesthetic dimensions are explored. The 3rd Vienna Architecture Congress features the following topics:

– Physical chaos in connection with our body and space experience
– Everyday Buildings in Europe
– The chaotic Development of Cities and Villages
– New Conventions in Building in Europe


November 2, 1995

7.30 p.m. Opening: Dietmar Steiner, Director of Architecture Center Vienna
Ullrich Schwarz, Chamber of Architects, Hamburg
Introducory Lecture:
“Die Zeit der Architektur” (The Moment of Architecture)
8 p.m. Peter Eisenman, architect and theorist
“Critical Architecture in the Geopolitical Present” (Architektur im Verhältnis zur heutigen Geopolitik)

Friday, November 3, 1995

11 a.m. Liane Lefaivre, literary historian, Netherlands,
“Dirty Realism in Architecture”, (Dirty Realism in der Architektur)
12 a.m. Ralph Abraham, mathematician and editor of various technical journals “, professor at the University of Santa Cruz, USA
“The Mathematics of Chaos and the Urban Revolution” (Mathematisches Chaos und urbane Revolution)

3 p.m. Michel Korinman, director of the geopolitical magazine “Limes”, professor at the University of Nanterre, France
“Architectures de l’Europe” (Europa im Grundriss/ Architectures of Europe)
4 p.m. Stefano Boeri, architect and professor of Urban Design at the Universities of Genua and Milan, Italy
“Risonanza, variazione, contrappunto. L’architettura e il territorio che cambia.” (Resonanzen, Variationen, Kontrapunkte. Architektur und Region in Veränderung”/ Resonance, Variation, Counterpoint. Architecture and the Changing Territory)

Saturday, November 4, 1995

11 a.m. Stanislaus von Moos, art historian and professor at the University of Zurich, founder of “archithese”, Switzerland
“Das Disney-Syndrom” (The Disney-Syndrome)
12 noon Dzevad Karahasan, author and drama critic, Sarajevo, living in Berlin
“Markt und Mahala. Dramaturgie der Stadt. Spannung zwischen Zentrum und Peripherie in der urbanen Struktur Sarajevos.” (Market and Mahala. Dramaturgy of the City. Tension between Down-Town and the Outskirts of the Urban Structure in Sarajevo)

3 p.m. Richard Ingersoll, cultural critic and editor of the “Design Book Review”, teaches at the Rice University, Texas, USA
“Of Tourism and Survival of Reality” (Tourismus und Wirklichkeit)
4 p.m. Michael Mönninger, journalist and author, art critic of the weekly magazine
“Der Spiegel “, Germany
“Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Urbanität” (Searching for the Lost Urbanity)
5 p.m. Otto E. Rössler, professor for theoretical biochemistry and nonlinear dynamic at the university of Tübingen, Germany
“Für was ist das Chaos der Schlüsssel?” (Chaos is the key to what?)

Sunday, November 5, 1995

11 a.m. Richard Sennett, author and sociologist, professor at the University of New York, USA,
“Flesh and Stone. Architecture and the Body” (Fleisch und Stein. Körper und Architektur)
12 noon Michael Rutschky, sociologist and journalist, editor of the magazine “Der Alltag”, Germany
“Die geträumte innerhalb der wirklichen Stadt. Ein Platz für alle und keinen” (The Dreamed City in the Real City. A Place for Everybody and Nobody)

3 p.m. Angelo Bolaffi, germanist und philosoph, Italien
“Ein Land auf der Suche nach der politischen Normalität: Il caso Italia oder
die Schwierigkeit politisch normal zu werden” (A Country on the Search for Political Normality: Il Caso Italia or the Difficulty of Becoming Politically Normal)
4 p.m. Luis Fernández-Galiano, architect and professor at the University of Madrid, editor of the magazine “Arquitectura Viva”, Spain
“Plain (-Common-) Spain” (“Gemeines” Spanien)

6 p.m. Panel discussion (in English and German)

Final report

Do we live in chaos if society, if architecture no longer follows stringent lines? “The thread has snapped” is the motto of Ullrich Schwarz, who quoted the German architect Hans Kollhoff in his introduction to the topic “The Age of Architecture”. We are shamelessly confronted by the architects’ dire lack of arguments, the crisis of legitimisation is all too obvious.
These are only a few of the characteristics of contemporary architecture since the 80s. Arbitrariness, cynicism, and the waning of a reflection impulse – is architecture threatened with cultural irrelevance? Rem Koolhaas suggests “light architecture”. Modern art for Jürgen Habermas means being on one’s own. For Ullrich Schwarz, this results in an architecture that draws from its inherent resources, an “architecture per se”.

One of the most significant representatives of this “architecture per se”, an architecture that needs no parallel scenarios, is the New York architect Peter Eisenman. His architecture is an attempt at “post-metaphysical architecture”, an architecture that finds no hold, neither in nature nor in history. The “presence of absence” becomes Eisenman’s leitmotiv, the changes he calls for from outside guarantee the survival of architecture.
In his early work, Eisenman already attempted to free architecture of meaning. As of the mid-80s, after the initial dispute between Eisenman and the French philosopher Jacques Derrida and his criticism of logocentrism, he also abandons the idea of an essential subject in favour of a textual subject and textual architecture. There is no ’a priori’ at the beginning of the architectural process.
Eisenman calls it the “end of the beginning”. Just as ’a priori’ and ’subject’ are questioned, he also questions the stable identity of the place, the topos: architecture no longer has objectives, it is unforeseeable. As the place of invention, architecture becomes text without reconstructible centres of meaning. This process goes hand in hand with the acknowledgement of the dissonant, a point supported by the Dutch theoretician Liane Lefaivre with her analysis of “dirty realism”.
Eisenman’s concern is something he calls the “in-between”, For him, an architecture of the uncertain is the necessary expansion of freedom. Since architecture can no longer find its way by relying on a stable pattern of order, new ideas of matter, space, and time are necessary, a demand not unfamiliar to the observer in modern physics and mathematics: the paradigm change of architecture was preceded by the paradigm change in the field of natural sciences where nature was discovered to evolute by “leaps” after all.
The end of linearity infers that the system becomes dynamic and organises itself. Chance becomes a decisive factor in this process. A phenomenon dealt with in the context of chaos theory. Architecture as “unplannable singularity”, as an “act of excess”, as “fathomless depth”, these are the motifs of Peter Eisenman.

For a long time, the paradigm of harmony, especially harmony with the environment, with the surroundings, was a key element of architecture. The “stepping into the wild” was to be understood as a form of symbiosis, the morphology of building corresponding to the natural geological order. What happens, however, when the surroundings show no positive context? What happens when the context constitutes a tomb of urbanity, hollowed shells, when chaos is the message in a deserted landscape of urban mega-machines? Which way to go? To the chaos of the ruins, the chaos of the devastated city?
These are questions Liane Lefaivre poses. Disappointed by the post-modern flight from realism, architects such as Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, Renzo Piano, Enric Miralles, and Carmé Pinos, as well as their American colleagues Frank Gehry and Eric Owen Moss returned to realism, to a “dirty realism”. Their plan corresponds to the aesthetics of crudeness, a fragmentation, the purposeful setting of contrasts against a dilapidated environment.
Contextuality, in their eyes, has gained new significance, the defamiliarisation of the context. Like a cyclone, architecture will grow beyond the familiar, fascinated by the attraction of the negative, the harsh, the crude and unfinished. Liane Lefaivre finds this fascination as early as in the Renaissance, in the concept of the “non-finito”, in the grotesquery and in the fascination of stone formations, in the romantic period in Ruskin’s love for ruins and in the late 19th and early 20th century in the enthusiasm for the mechanic, for industry as the source of new attraction.

The American mathematician and chaos researcher Ralph Abraham compares the chaos of cities to mathematical chaos. The paradigm change in the history of science was marked by the end of the linear, rigid system. Mathematic models no longer sufficed to explain the complexity of nature.
Ralph Abraham believes that with the chaos theory, the language of nature has regained access to mathematics that was separated from nature with the beginning of modern mathematics. His thesis provokes by purporting that the architecture of the future must move in dynamic systems. He calls for the replacement of Euclidean geometry as the sacred theory of architecture by fractional theory.

For Otto E. Rössler, professor of theoretical biochemistry, chaos is a self-referential term. As soon as the term is spoken, it has already been banned. As a natural scientist, he ponders on whether there are any possibilities of recovering chaos.

The Italian architect Stefano Boeri asserts that we have been searching for order and have found chaos. Satellites have allowed a global view, but, at the same time, more and more has come out of focus, we no longer see anything anymore. The architect has been appointed the task of deciphering urban chaos. Boeri demands the introduction of eclectic atlases that reflect the different stratifications.

For the author and critic Dzevad Karahasan, the dramatic market place represents the chaos and drama of a city. In the birth of cities he sees the birth of drama and the supersedure of the epic song. In his eyes, the market place becomes dramatic through the encounters between different identities. This dramatic cultural diversity of a city becomes whole through the market place, strikingly demonstrated by Sarajevo.

Can European cities, however, still meet this pretension? Are they not being reduced to empty hulls for mass tourism? The Swiss art historian Stanislaus von Moos compares Disneyland to the city of Lucerne. The city is being reduced to a tourist attraction, to an amusement park with international shopping malls and some historical appliqués, which serve to attract and thus, in his view, convey the typical message of the “Disney syndrome” in cities like Lucerne and Venice.

Tourism has reshaped cities: anyone concerned by urban issues must deal with tourism just like the American cultural scientist Richard Ingersoll. Modern city centres are merely symbolic because their inhabitants have become tourists. Especially in large American cities such as Houston we can see that the streets are empty. Where does life take place if not in a city? Richard Ingersoll calls for a new life programme for cities.

The German critic and journalist Michael Mönninger sees the drama of modern European cities especially in their spatial spread. He concludes that instead of urbanisation, ruralisation has been the result.
This anti-urban campaign has destroyed the last remains of architecture, construction takes place mainly in the city periphery. Germany as a spread-out settlement, as we know it from the third world but in a luxury version? Will political balkanisation follow this wild growth of new settlements and the destruction of landscapes? – According to Mönninger, the building codes prohibit a densification of cities. The great fear of densification, the ideology of a “dispersed society”, this political madness with a methodology hardly allows for an intelligent project.
The megacity of Tokio is a different case: for Mönninger, Tokio is the post-modern city; without stability and with a short life. Total exploitation of spatial construction, architecture for free in a city that is reshaped every 20 years. A proliferating rhizome according to Gilles Deleuze. But total densification guarantees a city the vital increase in information, sociological information. So Mönninger theorises: a return to densification will become a matter of life and death for European cities, since only constraints resulting from encounters guarantee the necessary sociological information.

The well-known American sociologist Richard Sennett uses this contact and meeting point as his point of departure. Is the lack of physical links the root of chaos in cities? The fear of physical contact, the loss of an understanding of the body has been characteristic for our society since the age of enlightenment. Architecture must be seen as a contribution to this physical (lack of) understanding.
More and more fences are creating divisions. The fear of physical contact is also reflected in city planning. Here, speed is a decisive factor. “Being a site” was replaced by “movement in space”, as a means of escape. For Richard Sennett, the best example for this development is the modern Paris planned by Hausmann. Hausmann’s ideas aimed at substantially weakening the city centre, and he discussed the question of how the city can be abandoned.
Sennett does not call for cities that are user-friendly but for cities and an architecture that stimulate and excite. The architectural question must therefore be: how can we create an environment that is more stimulating for its inhabitants, how can we create urban worlds?

Michael Rutschky proves in his autobiographical essay on the dream city in the real city that every inhabitant creates his/her own city.

The chaos in cities is followed by chaos in Europe: this is the pessimistic conclusion of the French philosopher Michel Korinman after having carried out a geopolitical analysis of Europe. From a geopolitical point of view – in his theory – an integration of Eastern Europe into the state structure of Western Europe is impossible. Apart from the market economy, there is too much that separates Eastern Europe from Western Europe.

For the political scientist Angelo Bolaffi, Italy plays a special role in the geopolitical map of Europe. In Italy, the opposition of order and disorder is no longer valid. Catholic Italy, according to Bolaffi, needs an ethnic revolution, a piece of Protestantism for political reformation.

Luis Fernández-Galiano demonstrated in a journey through the Spanish architecture of the last 20 years how Spain has rediscovered “normality”, a normality that also includes the trivial and the simulacrum. Possibly, the paradox lies in the fact that Spain, with its rush of modern art also lost sight of its future. Even in Spain where architecture is experiencing a boom, good architecture – according to Fernández-Galiano – is hard to get by.

So chaos is the key to what? In the final round of discussion, Richard Ingersoll asked whether the architecture of chaos, of unforeseeability, as called for by Peter Eisenman, is the key to the problems architecture faces today. He also finds Richard Sennett’s concern for the incapability of architecture to excite contradictory, since architecture is continuously being criticised for not being cosy enough.
According to Ingersoll, architecture is much more in need of life programmes that create links. Links between functions, between life. The architecture of the periphery is an empty shell because it does not create links. In the city centre, however, the inhabitants have become tourists.

What must the architect of today be? Critic? Social reformer? asks Luis Fernández-Galliano. We cannot accept, continues Intersoll, that people are instilled the feeling that they must “endure” a building.

Recommended literature to the topic “Chaos”

Thinking in Complexity: The Complex Dynamics of Matter, Mind, and Mankind.
Von Klaus Mainzer. Springer, Heidelberg, New York, 1994.

Nature’s Imagination: The Frontiers of Scientific Vision.
Herausgegeben von John Cornwell. Oxford University Press, 1995.

Das Quark und der Jaguar. Vom Einfachen zum Komplexen-Die Suche nach der neuen Erklärung der Welt.
Von Murray Gell-Mann. Piper, München, 1994.

Inseln im Chaos.
Von M. Mitchell Waldrop. Rowohlt, Reinbek, 1993.

Die Komplexitätstheorie: Die Wissenschaft nach der Chaosforschung.
Von Roger Lewin. Hoffmann und Campe, Hamburg. 1993.

KL-Künstliches Leben im Computer.
Von Stephen Levy. Droemer Knaur, München, 1993.

Das digitale Universum – Zelluläre Automaten als Modelle der Natur.
Von Martin Gerhardt und Heike Schuster. Vieweg, Braunschweig, 1995.

Das Paradox der Zeit. Zeit, Chaos und Quanten.
Von Ilya Prigogine und Isabelle Stengers. Piper, München, 1993.

Die Erforschung des Komplexen. Auf dem Weg zu einem neuen Verständnis der Naturwissenschaften.
Von Grégoire Nicolis und Ilya Prigogine. Piper, München, 1987.

Die Entdeckung des Chaos.
John Briggs und F. David Peat, dtv Sachbuch, München, 1993.