An Architecture Maestro: Kenneth Frampton, Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement 2018
Kenneth Frampton, an absolute “maestro” of the contemporary Architecture scenery, is the recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia.
Mr. Frampton is a British architect, critic, historian. With his life devoted to Architecture, he gained a place in the Pantheon of the living personalities of the Architecture World.
He’s a real master, a “maestro“, in the strict sense.
Of course, the term “maestro” may seem a little outmoded, perhaps slightly old and almost rhetorical.
But the term, in this case, is really appropriate. Because “master” does not mean only someone who teaches.
A “maestro” is instead the one who has intimately understood the “notions” learned, and who knows how to transmit them using not only his “erudition” but, also and above all, his “wisdom“.
The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement
The Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement highlights the role of Frampton as a “master“. A role that the English professor and architect has held for almost half a century. Whether directly at Columbia University, at the Royal College of Art in London, at the ETH in Zurich and so forth, both indirectly through his writings and his thoughts as historian and critic of architecture.
As Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara said, suggesting Frampton for the award, «he stands out as the voice of truth in the promotion of key values of architecture and its role in society. His humanistic philosophy in relation to architecture is embedded in his writing».
Frampton’s “voice of truth“, that today is so, so lacking. And then they correctly talked about the “promotion of key values of architecture“.
As the president of the Venice Biennale, Paolo Baratta, said, «there is no student of the faculties of architecture who is unfamiliar with his “Modern Architecture: A Critical History“. The Golden Lion goes this year to a “maestro”, and in this sense it is also intended to be a recognition of the importance of the critical approach to the teaching of architecture».
Kenneth Frampton’s Critical Regionalism
Not only Architecture History but, above all, Architecture Critique: in the work “Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six points for an architecture of resistance“, Frampton expressed all his wisdom.
Not refusing, in a dumb way, the technical achievements of the XX and XXI centuries, but also not reducing the “Architectural process“ to them.
The “Critical Regionalism” is a wise attempt to join the achievements of the International Style with the cultural aspects (in the broadest sense) concerning the building. Its geographical location, the specific context, the climate, the building material, the topography, the use of light and the tectonic process beyond the empty formal approach.
It is something that deals with the “wisdom“ in architecture, as a close and real bond with the place where and for which the buildings are designed.
Something you cannot almost see anymore, nowadays. Something that, anyway, architects like Alvar Aalto, Eduardo Souto de Moura, Alvaro Siza, Tadao Ando (exemplary is his work in Venice, for Punta della Dogana), Alberto Campo Baeza, Peter Zumthor, Rafael Moneo and few others, did and still do.
Kenneth Frampton’s teaching
Kenneth Frampton represents the voice and the critique of an Architecture that has to be “meditated“ before it was designed or modeled on CAD.
It doesn’t mean an Architecture that refuses the innovation, as someone can superficially think. It’s just an Architecture that follows the “Reason“.
For many members of the current generation of architects, the importance of the “Reason“ in Architecture is one of the most difficult concepts. Too difficult to understand. The idea that Architecture could have few “rules“ is almost unthinkable.
These rules are conceived only as “Art Thinking” limitations. Instead, without any kind of superstructure, they are just the starting points of a “utilitarian discipline” as Architecture is.
Architecture was born definitely for practical reasons connected to the human life, and so, to achieve its goals, a kind of rules are needed. Rules that should be not necessarily strict. Anyway, they still exist, and that’s what separate other Art Fields (that could have also not a practical use) from Architecture.
The work of Kenneth Frampton is focused on that, trying to re-read Architecture in a “natural” humanistic way.
According to the Biennale curators:
«His humanistic philosophy in relation to architecture is embedded in his writing and he has consistently argued for this humanistic component throughout all the various ‘movements’ and trends often misguided in architecture in the 20th and 21st century. […] His consistent values in relation to the impact of architecture on society, together with his intellectual generosity, position him as a uniquely important presence in the world of architecture».
That’s the indisputable importance of Kenneth Frampton’s work in the Architecture World. And that’s why such an important award like the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement for this great “maestro”, is exactly the public thanksgiving that Mr. Frampton deserves.
Text by Domenico Fallacara | the PhotoPhore