background image


Built not to last
Time alters fashions... but that which is founded on geometry and real science will remain unalterable.1 Specifically referring to the artistic elements of architecture, Hendrik Petrus Berlage adopted this motto for his lectures at the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Zürich, in 1908.2 Just before the eruption of the avant-gardes, we have here — as throughout classical theory — the conviction that architecture, conceived according to what Karsten Harries calls the “perennial Platonism” of architecture, is meant to challenge eternity.3 George Steiner sees here a nostalgia for the absolute, and the artist’s audacity to compete with godhood as source of meaning, maybe a nostalgia for the absolute;4 Harries understands this as a means to cope with “the terror of time.”5 No matter the deep reasons, it has unquestionably been a conception of the Western erudite architecture to cope with immortality by designing monumental buildings that defy time through aesthetic perfection, edifices supposed permanent and worthy of the gods, thus creating and setting meaning in stone. What could be more coveted by architects’ hubris than the expectation that their design, once transformed into a building, would last forever.