Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism
Architecture, at least since the beginning of the twentieth century, hassuspended historical references in favor of universalized abstraction. In thedecades after the Second World War, when architectural historians began to assessthe legacy of the avant-gardes in order to construct a coherent narrative ofmodernism's development, they were inevitably influenced by contemporary concerns.In Histories of the Immediate Present, Anthony Vidler examines the work of fourhistorians of architectural modernism and the ways in which their histories wereconstructed as more or less overt programs for the theory and practice of design ina contemporary context. Vidler looks at the historical approaches of Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafuri, and the specific versions ofmodernism advanced by their historical narratives. Vidler shows that the modernismconceived by Kaufmann was, like the late Enlightenment projects he revered, one ofpure, geometrical forms and elemental composition; that of Rowe saw manneristambiguity and complexity in contemporary design; Banham's modernism took its cuefrom the aspirations of the futurists; and the "Renaissance modernism" ofTafuri found its source in the division between the technical experimentation ofBrunelleschi and the cultural nostalgia of Alberti. Vidler's investigationdemonstrates the inevitable collusion between history and design that pervades allmodern architectural discourse--and has given rise to some of the most interestingarchitectual experiments of the postwar period. Anthony Vidler is Dean and Professorof the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union, New York. He isthe author of Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (2000), The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (1992), both published byThe MIT Press, and other books.