Crítica necesaria

Rafael Moneo, In & Out

Eduardo Prieto 

Architecture is in crisis. So is criticism. Fragmented into narratives and poetics, the former can’t quite find its place in late-stage capitalism. The latter, ignored by the public, media, and architects themselves, has lost the regulatory role it once played. The double crisis renders indispensable the attitude of one who is a master of both architecture and criticism.

A protagonist in his time and a connoisseur of history, Moneo has always had the generosity – and courage –to judge the work of fellow architects, not only to get to the bottom of their buildings by putting himself in the mind of each one of them, but also to try to put in order the bustle of works and trends that make up the contemporary scene.

Equally throbbing beneath all this are Moneo’s undying intellectual curiosity and his firm, almost unnegotiable commitment to the real world, to which he notwithstanding never gives himself up completely, convinced as this Zevi disciple is that the present takes on meaning when regarded from the angle of the past, even recent past.

Such an atittude becomes extremely valuable the rarer it gets, and the interested reader can learn about it in Consideraciones sobre la obra de Rafael Moneo, a compilation of conferences given by various experts in 2017, in connection with the exhibition ‘Rafael Moneo: A Theoretical Reflection from the Professional Practice.’

Perhaps it is not in products generated by the small but influential ‘Moneo cultural industry’ that the master’s attitude is best appreciated, but in his own writings, especially critiques. So we also welcome Nuevos intereses, otros discursos. Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, David Chipperfield: lectures Moneo delivered in 2012 at the University of Navarre in which he paid analytical tribute to four practices while taking stock of what is happening, in general, in architecture today.

For this double endeavor Moneo follows the method of Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects, also a fruit of classes taught, in which he deployed all the critical capacity he could muster to unravel the oeuvre of colleagues, in an attempt to identify the ruptures between postmodernity and the new order that had cropped up in the late 1980s. In Nuevos intereses, otros discursos, Moneo reduces the scope of examination to focus on four. If Koolhaas as today’s Le Corbusier detaches himself from modernity while proclaiming himself an exegete of late capitalism, H&deM keeps within construction and methods, SANAA works with atmospheric poetry, and Chipperfield epitomizes the professional who is able to offer quality solutions in every arena of globalization.

Besides the joy of reading Moneo talking about colleagues, the book’s interest lies in its division of modernity into periods, and in its conclusion that the modern principles are no longer of service in the making of architecture. Canonical categories are outdated, and the question to ask is this: within which coordinates can contemporary architecture fit? To hit upon the answer, read Moneo.

Reviewed books:

Nuevos intereses, otros discursos

Rem Koolhaas, Herzog & de Meuron, SANAA, David Chipperfield

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