The Life of Forms

Luis Fernández-Galiano   /  Source:  El País

Function follows form. Contrary to the modern dogma that subordinated form to function, much of contemporary architecture asserts the independent life of forms, which multiply and transfigure as if in contempt for the uses they contain. In the city of Porto, the Dutch Rem Koolhaas erects an auditorium that is an exact reproduction of the polyhedron he conceived for a house near Rotterdam, without the changes of function, scale and site preventing him from reutilizing a formal concoction. And in northern California, the Swiss partners Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron are building a house whose polygonal roof is derived from the irregular perimeter of an office building near Basel – for the initial version of which, in fact, the architects had rehashed the domestic forms of previous house projects in Germany and France.

The great art historian Henri Focillon described this process of formal reproduction and metamorphosis in a small, lyrical and eloquent book published in 1934 with the title La vie des formes, and the recent projects of two of the most influential architectural practices of the world illustrate the validity of this French master’s thought. “The illusion of reproductive powers that seem to reside in things,” as his disciple George Kubler summarized, continues to impregnate the stubborn life of forms that impassively travel through space and time...[+]

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