Monday, August 1, 2011

Toward a New Architectural Aesthetic, by Buckminster Fuller

Reposted from

How much for the goat?
Invisible as possible environment controlling instruments for all humanity

— r. buckminster fuller —

I think that concepts of architecture have gone through and are as yet to go through great transformation. What humans a century hence will identify retrospectively as what they consider to be the architecture of the late twentieth century may not as yet have been so recognized in 1972.

Architecture in the past has often been spoken of as ‘frozen music’. Now the architectural music is being unfrozen and is ultimately to be freed from its embodiment exclusively within the physical structure. The music of the emerging architecture is to be entirely weightless, abstract. It will be the sense of gratification and inspiration of living freedom and potential initiatives of the human occupants disembarrassed of their slavery to the production and maintenance of the buildings and emancipated from exploitation of land, buildings and occupants as ‘money makers’ etc. The architectural music will be the metaphysical regeneration of the spirit to be experienced by the buildings’ users.

Commissioned by a powerfully dominant armed land baron, an architect of yesterday designed the master’s palace primarily as a fortress. He then designed integral psychological additions to the surface of the fortress in order, for instance, to dismay any potential enemies traveling near the castle. The architect designed emblazements which indicated the master of the castle to be so ferocious a fighter as to be best represented by a red and gold tiger, or a dragon on a black foreboding field. This psychology worked two ways for it also bolstered the master’s courage and confidence to act, indeed, as a tiger. This architect accomplished these psychological effects by skillful coordination of mass, height, line, and integral symbology. In a like manner architects designed temples, cathedrals, and other buildings as permanent symbolic communication devices. With the advent of the music box, and later the automatic piano playing ‘pianola’, the record and tape players, music was produced which like symbolic architecture could not be altered by the audience. In effect the form and the rendering of the music was as frozen as or ‘canned’ as architecture has been.

In contradistinction to ‘frozen’ we have ‘live’ music produced by the singing or playing of individual artists, where the instrument and the music are separate phenomena and many individuals can play separately or together and thus communicate directly through the instruments. Even though they play the same notes written by others they have the freedom and controls to reveal their individual depth, and sensitivity of conceptioning as well as ability to articulate competently and to do so in infinitely unique ways. When the individual composes his own music and plays it with instruments, great individual artistry may be manifest and it is non-frozen music, it is utterly ephemeral, fleeting, live.

When the artist invents both his own music and his own instruments and plays the music himself he is a complete artist, but this same complete artist can produce instruments or compositions for others to play. A great artist can also, play the instruments or compositions invented entirely by others. Here the music is completely unfrozen and it is the freedom of live conceptioning of the individual who uses the instruments which resonates and regenerates the sensitivity and innate compositional competence of the listener. And the artist whose music is recorded can communicate through the electronic circuitry to inspire audiences remote in time and space. Here the art is that of the live artist. The radio set is not the music. Musical instrument and electronic circuitry making are arts themselves but they are not music. Neither the lions feet on the piano legs of yesterday nor the angel’s head on the harp have naught to do with music. Any overall sculptural shaping of buildings by self-professed and legally established modern ‘architects’ is ‘frozen styling’ but it is not architecture.

I feel that the new architectural era is one in which world society is to be furnished with dwellings, working and other environment controlling instruments invented by other artists, produced by tools and processes invented and composed by other anonymous artists and that the ‘aesthetics’ will no longer be commodities to be purchased, vicariously commanded or lured forth from captive artists. Ancient Pharoes, kings or nobles as patrons of the frozen musics’ architectural era were often ruthless, gross, selfish individuals who with lethal authority could command the artist to design buildings which deceived the public by suggesting that the overlord was what he was not. What inspired the emerging architect of today is the task of producing invisible as possible environment controlling instruments for all humanity, conceived and realized with such integrity and competence as to make possible the unself-conscious enjoyment not only of the environment controlled by all its people in an economically and happily sustainable manner. But just as music is not the musical instrument, the architecture of tomorrow (which can and is now only invisibly emerging) also will not be the architectural instruments or gadgets, but will be the abstract harmony of living which its individual users may articulate.

When you bite your tongue or cut your finger or get a cinder in your eye you become acutely aware of these otherwise only subconsciously operating organic parts. When people say ‘I feel great’, it is because they don’t feel anything at all. Life is fully potential and the entirely sublimated human organism coordinates omni-subconsciously. The new era architecture will operate in the same way making itself ever less obtrusive. Architecture will not only be life itself but that the life will be strictly LIVE-IT-YOURSELF. It cannot be lived vicariously through others.

When a fleet of one-of-a-kind racing sail boats is performing they usually are beautiful to watch unless one is being incompetently sailed. The winner often appears the most beautiful because it is most inspiringly and capably sailed. The winning boat of yesterday’s race may be sailed today by an incompetent careless helmsman and appear ugly though it is the same boat that yesterday appeared to be so beautiful. So too will the architecture of the new era be the inadvertent qualities and attitudes manifest directly or indirectly by its occupants. While one of two identically designed dwellings may appear beautiful because of its dwellers competence and consideration for others the identical dwelling may appear ugly because selfishly and incompetently occupied. Architecture, like music will be a verb and not a noun. The new Architecture will not be for sale. The aesthetic of architecture henceforth will be

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