Starting from diverse premises and points of view, Cedric Price, Aldo Rossi, James Stirling, and Gordon Matta-Clark each engaged in a radical rethinking of the status, history, and purpose of architecture. out of the box: price rossi stirling + matta-clark brings the ideas of these four pivotal figures of the 1970s into dialogue through a group of archives that recently entered the CCA collection. Drawings, sketches, models, and texts offer new understandings of the process and development of architectural ideas.
The exhibition is only one step toward wider inquiry, as curators and others involved in this research, students and visitors included, engage in a continuing task of adjustment, correction, and changes of course. The installation is designed to reflect this “instability,” so that it will be ready to accept new materials, rearrangements, and changes of heart.
Curatorial direction: Mirko Zardini, CCA
Curators: Anthony Vidler, Cooper Union; Mark Wigley, Columbia University; Marco de Michelis, IAUV; Philip Ursprung, ETH Zurich; Hubertus von Amelunxen, CCA
Exhibition design and graphic design: Louis-Charles Lasnier, Montreal
British architect and thinker Cedric Price (1934–2003) argued against the production of monuments – permanent, static spaces organized around particular functions – and stressed instead the need for flexibility in view of the unpredictability of possible future uses. Price positioned himself within the ongoing transformations of British society in the 1960s and 1970s by adopting the role of “anti-architect.” Form was of little consequence to him; even building itself might be unnecessary.
One of the most challenging and uncompromising figures working in the field of architecture in the late 20th century, Price’s critical attitude toward professional practice, his radical but humane approach to designing buildings, and a technological bent inspired by his friend and mentor R. Buckminster Fuller have continued to excite, influence and provoke his peers over a period of more than 40 years.
Though Price built little, much of 20th-century architecture would be inconceivable without his project for a Fun Palace (London, 1963—72) and his scheme for the Potteries Thinkbelt (1963—66).
Cedric Price’s Fun Palace is presented through some 200 objects, from sketches and finished drawings to models, films, and a rich selection of correspondence and documents. For the first time it will be possible to grasp the investigative breadth, the far-reaching implications, and the serious fun with which this project was undertaken.
Aldo Rossi (1931–1997), one of the most powerful voices in Italy’s postwar architectural culture, reacted against the “over-professionalism” and “naïve functionalism” of architecture. Rossi sought a new, autobiographically-based vision, arriving at an architecture that was – through a continuous process of rearrangement and reworking – constructed from a fixed and limited number of formal elements and figures.
In his built work, Rossi was largely inspired by the architecture of his native northern Italy. From project to project, he reinterpreted a restricted architectural vocabulary involving the cone, the chimney, the silo, the gable wall, the galleria — forms that he combined and recombined in response to the nature of the given circumstances.
Aldo Rossi founded the Neo-Rationalist movement in Italy, and in 1966 published L’Architettura della città, a book that sparked international interest and initiated an important critique of Modernism in architecture. His work influenced both the practice of architecture and theories of urban planning in the 1970s and 1980s.
A selection of Rossi’s projects dating from the 1960s and 1970s focuses on his formal vocabulary and urban concerns. These are presented through the architect’s familiar and now iconic renderings, as well as virtually unknown materials and projects from the archive.
Internationally acclaimed British architect James Stirling (1926–1992), though working in the same cultural context as Cedric Price, took quite a different approach. One of the most imaginative and influential architects of the late 20th century, Stirling fostered an attitude of “listening” to the historical trajectory and urban context that a new work would inhabit. This approach allowed him to draw freely upon the architecture of recent as well as forgotten pasts, playing on Modernist and Neo-Classical themes with unparalleled virtuosity.
Stirling’s work is rooted in the Modernism of Le Corbusier, liberally inflected with an eclectic and original fusion of historical and contemporary references drawn from the world of high architecture, but equally - and importantly - from more ordinary, vernacular buildings.
Stirling’s museums of the 1970s, culminating with the Staatsgalerie at Stuttgart, form the core of this section of the exhibition. In order to explore the roots of Stirling’s radical new engagement with history, urban planning, and the Modern movement, a selection of his early works, including little-known and never-exhibited projects like his university thesis and the House for an Architect will be on view.
In the 1970s, American artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943–1978) brought a fresh gaze to bear upon architecture. Trained as an architect, he chose to make buildings and the spaces around them the subject of compelling and often witty investigations into the nature of cities, property, and the social order. His “sculptures,” produced by interfering with or cutting into the built environment, were documented in photomontages and films. Blurring the boundaries between artist and architectural theorist, Matta-Clark questioned the very concepts of architecture and space, thus challenging the fundamental assumptions of both disciplines.
The range of Gordon Matta-Clark’s activities as artist, photographer, and filmmaker is highlighted in the exhibition through screenings of his films City Slivers, Substrait, Paris Underground and selections of drawings, photographs, and documents for A W-hole House, Conical Intersect, and Anarchitecture. In addition, the visitor will be able to explore the genesis of Matta-Clark’s art practice through his original correspondence with his father, Roberto Matta-Echaurren (1911–2002), a Surrealist painter who studied architecture with Le Corbusier.
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