Current Year Program

The Historical Project: Whatever Happened to Operative History?

Open Seminars 2010-2011

The Open Seminars aim to question the relationship between the role of historical knowledge and the practice of architecture. Forty years after Manfredo Tafuri’s critique of operative criticism – the tradition of historical research represented by historians such as Nikolaus Pevsner, Sigfried Giedion, Emil Kaufmann, and Bruno Zevi – perhaps the time is ripe to re-consider the problematic (but also vital) relationship between History and architectural design. If for Tafuri operative history was an ideological way to approach historical facts and thus a way to conceal the complexities and contradictions inherent in any historical formations, what would be, today, a critique to such an approach at the time when ideological “great narratives” such as those of the Modern Movement are no longer a fundamental concern of architectural discourse? Or perhaps we could ask ourselves a more fruitful question such as what would be the critical role of history within a discourse that has made of historical amnesia its fundamental “ideology”. At the Berlage Institute the “City as a Project” PhD program, we are interested in to question historians of Architecture from the “operative” point of view of contemporary concerns about the city and its (potential) project. What could be the role of architectural knowledge vis-à-vis architectural praxis today? What are the themes, categories and historical examples that are relevant in our present? What sort of critical genealogies are possible or even needed in order to define and frame pressing questions about the contemporary city and its architecture? Can History become again a “project” that aims to interfere not only on how, but also on why we practice architecture?

The seminar is made of presentations by, and discussions with:

Sebastien Marot
Cesare Birignani
Mario Carpo
Jean-Louis Cohen
Felicity D. Scott
Lukasz Stanek
Anthony Vidler
Sarah Whiting