Thirty-Two Elements

Architecture, from System to Fragment

Luis Fernández-Galiano 

“In some paintings by Hans Memling, as in others by Juan de Flandes, one can see the exceptional and powerful image of the warrior – be it Saint George or the Exterminating Angel – spearing his enemies while the silhouette of a faraway city is fleetingly reflected in his shining armor. History gives no other consolation than that serene and unreachable community momentarily captured in the winner’s merciless breastplate.” Fernando Savater

Architecture Before History

Any critical or pedagogical examination of architecture must begin by clarifying its position with regard to history. Many associate ‘history’ only with past events. However, we interpret the past in accordance with the interests of the present and the expectations for the future: it seems trivial to remember that histories throw more light on their writers than on the events, works, and people they refer to. At the same time, both the future and the present bear the indelible marks of the past, in the crucible of which the forms of today and the imagined shadows of tomorrow are created. History moves in both directions of time, and this ambiguous backward and forward motion is what makes it a palimpsest that each generation erases and partly rewrites. In this Sisyphus work, forever unfinished and perhaps unfounded, the sense of becoming is blurred; each event transforms previous ones, and grandchildren give birth to their grandparents. T.S. Eliot already warned us that every new writer changes the history of Literature: parodying Borges, we too could take Aldo Rossi as a precursor of Adolf Loos, Paolo Portoghesi as a precedent of Guarino Guarini, or Michael Graves as a significant predecessor of Giulio Romano...

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