Non-Compositional Architecture

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Non-Compositional Architecture


Pier Vittorio Aureli


‘THE MARRIAGE OF REASON AND SQUALOR’ is a set of 30 drawings produced by the architect and educator, Pier Vittorio Aureli, since 2001, as ongoing investigation into what, in the absence of a better definition, Aureli has called ‘non-compositional architecture’. The concept itself comes from the art historian Yve-Alain Bois, who used the term – prompted by the ambitions of the constructivist Alexander Rodchenko – to categorise works that aspired to the abandonment of composition and even the self of the artist.

Aureli reinterprets this art history through the making of a set of drawings whose ordering principle, as far as possible, tries to deny all forms of subjective choice. And so each drawing begins as an exercise in constraint: starting always with a 50 x 50cm piece of paper, Aureli then draws in pencil and ink the schematic outline of a building plan without any specific programme. Instead, the drawing has to start with the simplest geometrical form (typically a square), and then continues to work out its further articulation from the logic of this initial form. The rules of the game are such that the organisation of plans and elevations must be the logical consequence of this first step. Similarly, all proportions, symmetries and internal relationships must also follow the originating form.

The title Aureli gives to the series – The Marriage of Reason and Squalor – is also a reference, to one of the strip paintings produced by Frank Stella in 1959, which alongside canonic works like The Black Square by Kazimir Malevich and the zip paintings by Barnet Newman, has been cited by Bois as further exemplars of the non-compositional.

Aureli has long been fascinated not only by the ideologies of these works, but their material and physical forms. To him, they evoke both the abstract motifs of various ancient buildings, and the generic character of more recent, and anonymous industrial architecture. To use another of Aureli’s favoured analogies, in musical terms his drawings represent a point where Greek chours meets The Ramones.

PIER VITTORIO AURELI was born in Rome in 1973. He graduated in architecture at the IUAV in Venice and earned his PhD at the TU Delft in 2005. His main research focus is the relationship between architectural form, political theory and urban history. He teaches at the Architectural Association in London and is also Visiting Professor at Yale School of Architecture. Aureli has written many essays on architecture and the city, and is the author of several books, notably The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture (2011), The Project of Autonomy: Politics and Architecture within and Against Capitalism (2008), and is the editor of the recently published collection of essays The City as a Project (2014). Together with Martino Tattara he is the co-founder of the architectural office Dogma. Since its foundation Dogma has worked on the relationship between architecture and the city by focusing mostly on urban design and large-scale projects. In 2006 Dogma won the first Iakov Chernikhov Prize for the best emerging architectural practice. In 2013 an exhibition and accompanying catalogue, ‘Dogma: 11 Projects’ opened at the Architectural Association in London. Part of the Dogma archive of drawings and collages is in the collection of the FRAC Centre in Orleans.