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The Return of Counterculture

Justo Isasi 

What was the counterculture? This aesthetically vintage ‘notebook’ which presents the works of the architect Banchini and the curator Feireiss for the 2021 Biennale, ponders 1970s tendencies, the idea of change in the face of the architecture and the city of official modernity. Such near-anthropological pondering legitimizes the authors’ trajectory with a comparison of works and projects of two generations.

Perhaps only some elders will understand such a question. People who in the late 1960s felt freed of postwar moral traumas and intuited something new afoot after so-called modernity’s conquest of the West and part of the rival bloc in the Cold War. People for whom the rules of architecture established by industry, abstraction, and financial logic had expired, and who set out to push for change from the springboard of new values. Freedom in autonomous collectives rather than political societies; individual creative management instead of social urban planning; models of ancestral wisdom to make modern technology friendly.

This book mixes current proposals with direct precedents, championed by Lloyd Kahn, the author of Shelter, which introduced the catechism of craftsmanship, self-building, or the wooden igloo. Kahn dazzled with his cyclostyle aesthetic, his poetics of fragility, and his lessons on how to live by the Whole Earth Catalog. And this fits with the Biennale’s ‘How will we live together?’ motto. In the 1980s, poetics of counterculture became politics of ecology, but in an ostentatious and technological postmodernity.

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