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Tradition and the Individual Talent in Architecture

We would like to thank Motiv for their support of this evening! And thanks to all the students that joined us upon this intellectual expedition.

A blog by Harm Tilman on the Night can be found here (in Dutch).

This Night of Philosophy & History organized by Argus we dealt with the dialectics of tradition and individual talent in architecture.

We wonder how the individual student in 2013 copes with a sense of tradition. What are the lessons to be learned from our history classes? Is history once again something to reject, a load on our shoulders? Or is it still significant to investigate the past and learn from it? Is it true that we dwell with satisfaction upon the architect’s difference from his predecessors and that we endeavor to find something that can be isolated in order to be enjoyed? Does our present time somehow no longer necessitate a sense of tradition? Did we transcend history?
On the Argus’ Night of Philosophy & History we to dwelled upon these matters and discovered with the help of various experts how our generation deals with its history.The speakers of the evening were philosopher Jacob Voorthuis (TU Eindhoven), architecture critic Hans van Dijk, philosopher and urbanist Jan den Boer (i.a. Cobouw), architect Matthijs Bouw (One Architecture) and architect Peter Drijver (Scala Architecten). The evening will be moderated by Harm Tilman (editor in chief ‘De Architect’). This we all will took place 29th of May at gallery Kadmium, Delft.

No architect ever designs with only his own history in his bones. He has no relevance seen as an isolated individual; you must put him, for contrast and comparison, in a long row of predecessors. In that way one could say that context, from an architectural perspective, is as much historical as it is topographical and physical.

We would like to state that history is a reinterpretation of the past that is meaningful to the present, therefore every present has his own way of dealing and interpreting history:

Modernist architects in the 1920’s believed architecture’s historical component was something to be exorcised; Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin is an extreme example of this tabula rasa approach. As long as architecture was chained by its history, no progress could be made. Of course in their ambition to abolish history, it became an obsession in itself. The establishment of a modernist history to justify modernism became inevitability there. The result was a rupture from the past and systematic evolution. Once established, modernism was to remain triumphant and history would come to an end.

As a consequence, in the 1960s and 70s post-modernist architects revived the appreciation for history, and focused on her existence in the present. They felt modernism had been harping so drastically on what was different in their time, that they had lost touch with what was not different, with what was exactly the same.

If we ponder on these and other examples, it is safe to conclude that the strength and value of our contact with past, present and future architecture will depend upon the quality of our historical knowledge. A sense of tradition if you will.


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