Are Architectural Manifestos Important?

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Do you think that Architectural Manifestos are useful

tools for Architecture? Why or why not? Be specific.

Architectural manifestos are public declarations that are created in order to have a specific intention

and opinion about a certain issue within architecture, that the writer wants to tackle. Manifestos can

be seen useful or not useful by, specific audiences and the topics they cover. In exploring this

question, I would like to compare between manifestos written by architects exploring: Classical

Architecture, Modernism, Post-Modernism and Futurism. Through comparing between these

differing manifestos, I hope to become aware to the effectiveness of each one and how they

affected the style of architecture at a specific period. Some believe that architecture cannot be

made without organizing people to help make it, as it is thought that the birth of architecture

mirrors the birth of organized societies. Therefore architecture, politics and civilization are all

extremely intimately connected. Written manifestos can be defined by the writing style and political

view that takes place within some manifestos. A manifesto isn’t distinguished by the length, it is

distinguished between other writing styles by the language, grammar and punctuation used, thus I

will explore the particular ways each manifesto is written and find what distinguishes them from

other forms of writing.

Andrea Palladio inspired the European style of Palladian architecture in the early 14th century. In

Palladio’s book ‘The Four Books of Architecture’, he discusses a specific way in which to build and use

the materials in order to create a strong and solid building or structure. Palladio states that the

strength and duration of a structure depends on its “walls [being] thicker below than above” [1] which

will make the walls be “carried directly upright” [2]. Additionally, he declares that all “the upper

columns [be] directly perpendicular to the those that are underneath” [3] and all “openings of doors

and windows be one on top of the other” [4], as then “the solid is on top of the solid… and void on top

of the void” [5], showing architect how to build a structure through his ‘correct’ way to do so. To my

knowledge and understanding Palladio’s manifesto involves the declaration of the style and way in

which he believes structures should be built, but this is done in a long and less effective way then

the more recent manifestos that I will explore.

Although Andrea Palladio was inspired by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio’s work on classical architecture

and how he tends to gloss over much contemporary variation in architectural form and his view of

the Greek history that he bases his modes of architecture on. Vitruvius’ book, ‘The 10 Books on

Architecture’ encapsulates in book IV the three modes of architecture that present part of his

manifesto. The first mode was invented by Dorus, ruler of Achaia and Peloponnesus, he built several

temples which were then copied by Athenians following further expansion. As the builders were

unsure of the proportions used by Dorus, they turned to the form of the herculean male was foot

was supposed to be one sixth of his height. Therefore, the Doric column was created to be in height

six times the width of the column at its base. Thus, the figurative idea of the human form derives

from here and was then further created to make the Ionic and Corinthian column; which were the

classical order of columns in Ancient Greek Architecture. Vitruvius believed that architects focus

ought to be around the three themes when designing any structure; firmitas (strength), utiitas

(functionality), and venustas (beauty). Many abided by these three themes in Ancient Greece, this

was what his manifesto was mainly based on at the start of his 10 books.

A manifesto by a famous architect may be read by anyone studying or exploring the relationship

between politics and architecture. Manifestos are believed to be created to distinguish between the

different eras within architecture and how they changed through the political background of the

writing architect or through the change in style of building. Architectural manifestos can be the

length of 10 books, as Vitruvius’ manifesto is, or as short as one book that goes into enough detail.

Palladio’s and Vitruvius’ manifestos differ in many ways, although one is based on the other, both

people have had different defining experiences that they believe in and differing inspiration,

 including the background of architectural knowledge of both architects. This is shown through the

differing themes in which their manifestos are both focused on. As Vitruvius has three main themes

of architecture while Palladio’s architecture was thought to be “governed by reason and by the

principles of classical antiquity” [6], which the principles are based of Vitruvius’ theories so do stand for

similar reasoning but were developed by Palladio in the latter 16th century. Therefore, it is believed

that their manifestos had an interconnecting link between architectural writing and politics, while

some other manifestos might have a weaker link between the two.

Nevertheless, although Andrea Palladio was originally inspired by Vitruvius, his architectural

platform was specifically surrounding the laws of symmetry, the use of pediments and proportions,

which a few centuries later were rivalled by the Gothic form of architecture. As Augustus Pugin

believed it to be unsuitable for Anglican and Anglo-Catholic worship structures. Alas, Le Corbusier’s

modernism became widely recognized by architects a few centuries later. Conflicting with classical

architecture, Le Corbusier’s minimalistic architecture became popular among architects as a new

approach to creating structures.

Le Corbusier was an influential key role in the modernization of urbanism. As mentioned by

Frederick Etchells in the introduction of Le Corbusier’s book ‘Towards A New Architecture’, Etchells

mentions that the book may “annoy” [7] people, as Le Corbusier isn’t many peoples favourite due to

his manifesto of architecture. Although the book is said to “certainly stimulate” [8] as it is a significant

influence on the modern understanding and study of architecture. Le Corbusier’s ‘guiding principles’

of a new architecture discuss “the two things that march together” [9]; the engineer and the architect.

The engineer is thought to be an individual inspired by the “law of economy and governed by

mathematical calculation” [10], while the architect builds a structure that is dependent on the feelings

of the person as then it creates a relationship that echoes within the person, as Le Corbusier states

“in accordance with…heart and our understanding” [11], implying that only one this connection is made

then the architect has fulfilled their purpose and abided by Le Corbusier’s principles.

Additionally, he talks of “three reminders to architects” [12]; mass, surface and plan, which some would

say are the underlying basis of what his architecture is built upon. Le Corbusier’s manifesto that

starts in the first chapter of his book, titled ‘argument’, he brings about some of the key arguments

of modernist architecture and his beliefs within constructing and building. These arguments are

mainly bought about in short and straight to the point sentences, such as; “the ‘styles’ are a lie” [13],

“the necessity for order” [14] and “the plan is the generator” [15]. These key arguments that Le Corbusier believes in connect architecture to politics and to his beliefs of what people should believe in,

according to him. In this first chapter, there are headings to each ‘argument’, that are short

paragraphs explaining his exact views on each matter. For example, the last sentence within the

paragraph headed ‘plan’ states that “modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan,

both for the house and for the city” [16], encapsulating his views on architecture but again, on politics

too. Thus, making Le Corbusier’s manifesto a useful tool for architecture and for people who are

interested and read about the topics, as it can help define the different expectations and needs of

each architect within architectural manifestos.

Robert Venturi’s ‘Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture’ gives us a ‘gentle manifesto’

explaining to the readers that the “increasing dimension and scale of architecture in urban and

regional planning add[s] to the difficulties” [17] that were not around in the previously simple single

buildings. In Venturi’s book he talks of the contradictory levels of the “both-and” [18] phenomenon

within architecture. Venturi criticises Le Corbusier’s Shodhan House and Villa Savoye which both

imply the “both-and”; as both structures are opened and closed in their architectural curtain. Having

the both rather than, “either-or” [19], implies the way in which Venturi is trying to teach and explain to

 architects how to build structures; without the contradictory and complexity within architecture,

within the post-modernist era. Through his manifesto about the contradictions of how “even flowing

spaces [have] implied being outside when inside and inside when outside, rather than both at the

same time” [20], showing that manifestations about the contradiction and complexity are unknown to

architecture that includes “both-and” rather than excluding “either-or”. As Venturi studied in Rome

his primary inspiration came from the urban facades in Italy rather than the “Greeks Temple’s

historical and archetypal” [21] style that Le Corbusier was inspired by. Therefore, Venturi’s conclusions

create an essential antidote to the “cataclysmic purism of contemporary urban renewal” [22] that

nearly ruined many cities. Consequently, presenting to us the need for change between eras

through new manifestos of architects, but also the old manifestos that the new have been

developed from.

However, Le Corbusier and Venturi are mostly different but have a few concepts and places where

they hold similarities that many are unaware too. Venturi’s inspiration of the city facades in Italy and

their complexity of spatial vessels, resemble that of Le Corbusier in their intensely visual and artistic

way of focusing on an individual structure and “not the schematic or two dimensionally diagrammatic view toward which many planners” [23] come to use. In this way they are similar due to

their symbolic attitude towards urbanism. While Vincent Scully, in the introduction of Venturi’s

‘Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture’, mentions the way in which they are “diametrically

opposed” [24] as Venturi holds a more fragmented approach, as his “conclusions are general only by

implication” [25]. Le Corbusier and Venturi were also similar through their irony used in both their

qualifying recommendations. Although Venturi is an easier and more flowing architect, while Le

Corbusier was a sharp and tough character, that mainly united with Venturi only through their

inspiration on Michelangelo. Le Corbusier and Venturi hold similar beliefs of the nature of the world

and its vanishing civilisation, that can be seen by comparing both manifestos. Therefore, manifestos

can create the way in which we compare and contrast to become aware of the similarity’s and

differences of such influential architects that impact us all until today, through their useful

architectural manifestos.

Futuristic architecture came about in the early 20th century but wasn’t so popular or well-known till

the later 20th century. Antonio Sant’Elia who brings about a futurist manifesto of architecture,

inspired by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti; who began futurism, believes that “no architecture has

existed since 1700” [26] as Sant’Elia explains that the modern style is “mask[s]… and skeletons” [27] over

architecture. Sant’Elia describes vigorously his hatred towards the earlier styles within architecture

and their “idiotic flowering of stupidity and impotence” [28] especially that of “neoclassicism” [29] as he

believes these architects that created “Gothic pointed arches, Egyptian pilasters, rococo scrolls…” [30]

are all people who continue to “stamp the image of imbecility on our cities, our cities which should

be the immediate and faithful projection of ourselves” [31]. This express his strong feelings of

‘incorrect’ architecture and explains via his manifesto what architecture should not do. Thus,

although this manifesto is strong worded and formatted in paragraphs, combined of short and long

sentences that attack other architects, this manifesto can help bring about the change that futurist

architects wanted to see within our cities. Sant’Elia’s manifesto argues that of Le Corbusier in a

sense that Sant’Elia believes architecture should not be filled by Le Corbusier’s “tradition, style,

aesthetics, proportion…” [32] rather by a futuristic way in “resources of technology and science,

satisfying magisterially all the demands of our habits and spirit” [33]. Therefore, the creation of these

manifestos help to bring about change in an effective manner through writings and studies that argue

with one another.

The futuristic philosophy is that everything should be made of “scientific and technical expertise.

Everything must be revolutionised” [34]. The strong opinionated and argumentative way of writing in

manifestos create an impactful read and can help to bring about change architecture, thus being

useful. But some may argue that we are at a stage where we have so many manifestos from many

influential and not so influential architects. Which brings about the opinion of some, that a large

number of architectural manifestos are not effective or useful tools for architecture, as they don’t

implement change and are not written by influential architects; meaning they don’t change styles of

architecture within a period of time, but they are just there to create a political agenda to

architecture.

On the other hand, I do believe that manifestos are useful tools for all and any designers to have, as

they are a declaration of the beliefs and views that an architect stands on when planning and

creating structures. This can be seen through all manifestos, every person should have their own

manifesto, whether it be an architect or a politician, all people have the right to share their opinion

and argument in a manifesto whether it becomes useful or not, depends on the person who has

written it and what the intend on doing with their manifesto. An architectural manifesto is useful for

all architects and designers; as each person is unique and different and has different understandings

about architecture, which can then be implemented in their structural, planning or even lecturing

work that one might do in an architectural environment. Architectural manifestos help students

studying in architectural field, to think about what they would change in architecture, what they like

or dislike or even despise like Antonio Sant’Elia.

When comparing and contrasting between the four manifestos I have mentioned above, one can

portray that Le Corbusier’s and Venturi manifestos are similar in the way they are broken down into

paragraphs with subheadings for each and short sentences that are mostly statements. While

Palladio and Sant’Elia’s are different from each other and the rest, they provide a more content

heavy text. Palladio’s manifesto is written in a more formal way in order to suit a specific type of

audience he wanted to reach. Whereas, Sant’Elia had a more informal approach while stronger use

of language and images to accompany his statements and accusations. Manifestos provide us as

readers with a new perspective when exploring architecture and the problems surrounding it.

Therefore, when asked if architectural manifestos are useful tools for architecture, many would

agree as they provide us with an opinion of an expert within the field or with an opinion of an

outsider that is exploring architecture.

Leslie Kanes Weisman includes a ‘Women’s environmental Rights: A manifesto’ as a prologue in a

feminist architecture book. This manifesto discusses the way in which the environment has

oppressed us (women) as “they have conditioned us to an environmental myopia” [35] which then

limits women in the field of architecture. This manifesto is structured similarly to that of Le

Corbusier’s and Venturi in its short and sub-headed paragraphs. In the first paragraph titled

‘Architecture as Icon’, Weisman converses about the way in which architecture was created in the

self-image of men as they are “the decision makers in our society” [36] and as “men have created the

built-environment in their own self-image” [37]. This portrays Weisman’s political views in her

manifesto, helping to bring readers aware of the matter and help bring change about. Weisman also

expresses the way in which skyscrapers are mirroring how men act in our societies, “the big, the

erect, the forceful” [38], this describes the way in which she delivers a message and opinion through her

manifesto. Weisman discusses in her manifesto a way in which to solve this issue which creates a

higher value and usefulness for architectural manifestos, as then they can convey a message that

forces change. She states that architecture reflects on people so a building with new “architectural

language” [39] would help give men and women non-stereotypical roles, as a home and skyscraper do.

Architectural manifestos also discuss the issues within public architecture that can affect our society

and how genders are perceived as weaker or stronger, through the inequality of women carrying or

pushing children in push-chairs in the underground tube stations or buses. In this way she debates

that spaces give people power through the way in which they make a gender weaker or stronger.

Weisman’s architectural manifesto has stronger sense of her conveying her opinion and asking for

changes to be made and equality to be given in architectural spaces. Thus, her architectural

manifesto could seem to be the most important one out of the ones I have discussed as it discusses

a more specific point about a more specific problem in architecture. The form of her manifesto

includes a poem speaking of the way in which women experience inequality within societies

architecture. Lastly, by including this poem she creates a more powerful understanding into her

opinion and the problem women face.

In conclusion, I believe that architectural manifestos are useful tools for architecture as they provide

a declaration and thought behind why and how buildings are built, including any political agendas

behind most buildings. A manifesto is the basis of how we grow opinions and stipulations for our

work within architecture but also within our outside life, for example, the 10 commandments that

Jewish people abide by which are the backbone to Judaism, as such, architectural manifestos

provide architects with background knowledge coming in the field of architecture whether in study

or professionally. A manifesto can provide one with the historical and political background of that

period and why buildings were built in certain ways in different places. Without manifestos,

architecture wouldn’t have developed the way it did from classicalism to futuristic and modern

buildings nowadays. Therefore, I strongly believe that anyone in study or professional aspects of

architecture or design should have an architectural manifesto to help accompany the way they

present and explain their work within their field as this helps create a discussion around architecture

and create better styles of architecture that a more thought through and provocative to the world

outside of architecture. Thus, architectural manifestos are extremely important and useful tools in

Architecture.

Bibliography and References:

Books:

  1. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  2. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  3. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  4. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  5. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  6. Andrea Palladio, The Four Books of Architecture
  7. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  8. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  9. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  10. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  11. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  12. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  13. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  14. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  15. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  16. Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture
  17. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  18. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  19. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  20. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  21. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  22. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  23. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  24. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  25. Robert Venturi, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
  26. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  27. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  28. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  29. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  30. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  31. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  32. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  33. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  34. Antonio Sant’Elia, A Futurist Manifesto
  35. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Women’s Environmental Right: A manifesto
  36. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Women’s Environmental Right: A manifesto
  37. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Women’s Environmental Right: A manifesto
  38. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Women’s Environmental Right: A manifesto
  39. Leslie Kanes Weisman, Women’s Environmental Right: A manifesto

Online sources:

https://www.britannica.com/art/Palladianism

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