Manfredo Tafuri is probably one of the most ostracised and least known of the architecture critics from the second half of the twentieth century. His profoundly deep historical and critical project, complex and dense prose, and convoluted and Marxist vocabulary have taken the greatest of the architectural critics from the '70s gradually into retirement and oblivion.
However, the consequences of his fierce criticism of modern architecture (and by extension to postmodern architecture) are not negligible. Tafuri showed us that, since Brunelleschi, all architecture is pure ideology; he situated history (historical criticism) as the only valid method for understanding the fundamentals of architecture (now we would call it "deconstruction"); he used this method to uncover critical problems intrinsic to the architecture of the modern movement and to put an end to its "utopian project", explaining how it became that very thing it wanted to overcome: a tool for capitalist rationality, an instrument that, although intent on being “significant” and "changing the world" (hence its "utopia") became “irrelevant and unnecessary”. Since then, as predicted by Tafuri, architecture has roamed around countless theories (in plural), failing to understand its relation to history and ideology.
It is very likely that contemporary architecture will enjoy a much better life without that annoying and inconvenient presence over its consciousness, continually reminding it of its failure as a mechanism for social change. And perhaps that's why amnesia and forgetfulness are the best remedies to ward off the "anguish of bourgeois art": the unconscious response for accommodating the shock (and this is a concept shared by Benjamin, Simmel and Tafuri) to which contemporary experience is subjugated is to do away with history and to take refuge in autonomous art and architecture.
As difficult as it may seem at first glance, however impenetrable it may be, Tafuri's text —we believe— is a fundamental piece of theory for modern and contemporary historiography. Other authors have shared the same thinking by recovering, in the late twentieth century, Tafuri’s ideas and contributions as the work of one of the last theorists of modernity and the first of postmodernism. We would like to make an effort to make it accessible to the majority of people. We will explain what historical criticism is, what Tafuri’s project entailed, and how he used this method to put an end to modern architecture. | © Pau de Solà-Morales CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0
Allontanare l'angoscia comprendendone e introiettandone le cause: questo sembra essere uno dei principali imperativi etici dell'arte borghese”. Manfredo Tafuri: Per una crítica dell’ideología architettonica. Contropiano n.1, 1969. Published in English as Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology, in Hays, Michael: Architecture Theory Since 1968. pp6-34. MIT Press, 2000.