The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Works from the Howard Gilman Collection

Museum of Modern Art, New York | 2002
PUBLISHING info: Selected essays on Archigram, Yona Friedman, Rem Koolhaas, Kisho Kurkawa, Cedric Price, Superstudio, among others in The Changing of the Avant-Garde: Visionary Works from the Howard Gilman Collection, Terence Riley, ed., New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2002.



The exhibition was organised by Terence Riley, Chief Curator of Architecture and Design, with the assistance of Tina DiCarlo and Bevin Cline. All project texts authored by Tina DiCarlo (together with Bevin Cline). Web-site directed and all content written and produced by Tina DiCarlo (together with Bevin Cline).


This exhibition celebrates The Howard Gilman Foundation's generous gift of 205 architectural drawings to The Museum of Modern Art in November 2000. One of the foremost collections of visionary architectural drawings in the world, the collection focuses on radical projects from the 1960s and 1970s and includes some of the most famous utopian drawings of the twentieth century. The period during which it was assembled coincides with one of the greatest bursts of creative energy in architecture ever recorded on paper, in which the megastructure, the last rally of the heroic vision of prewar modernism, gave way to the first glimmers of postmodernism's roots.

Megastructures were born out of a reaction to 1950s architecture, and in particular, the modernist urban reconstruction of post-war Europe. During the 1960s there was among a younger generation of architects a general dissatisfaction with modernism's fuctionalist paradigms and exhausted social idioms. Various international groups and individuals launched stinging critiques--the Metabolists and Arata Isozaki in Japan; Archigram and Cedric Price in Britain; Yona Friedman in France; Hans Hollein, Raimund Abraham and Freidrich St. Florian in Austira; and Archizoom, Ettore Sottsass, and Superstudio in Italy--calling into question modernism's orthodoxy.

This generation looked to the Beatles, comic books, pop culture, the first stirrings of the information age, and the radical politics of the 19060s as tools to transform culture and make the world a better one. Their vision reulted in global and sometimes even nomadic projects that trumped the scale of prewar architecture, and ushered in the megastructure movement.

The first megastructures by Yona Friedman and the Metabolists proposed to reintegrate the four functional elements of the city--work, living, recreation and transportation--which had been rigidly divided within 1950s urban redevelopment schemes. They believed that this compartmentalization had stripped the urban environment of its vitality and by emphasizing the house, street, district, and city instead, the complex relationships of life would be restored.

With the escalation of the Vietnam War and the political uprising of the late 1960s, the postwar optimism of the megastructure, along with its failure to produce anything more substantial than paper architecture, no longer seemed valid. Having lost faith in the technocratic utopian visions, many architects turned away from the prewar heroic attitudes and began to experiment with new and varied references to reinfuse architecture with meaning. The megastructure, having lost much, if not all of its avant-garde appeal, gave way tot he roots of a new avant-garde: postmodernism.

Some, such as Massimo Scolari and Walter Pichler, turned inward, seeking poetic expressions and looking for inspiration in the past and in personal memory. It is not surprising that their works, like Leon Krier's House for Rita, are small and intimate, an extreme opposite to the megastructure. Others reflect the idea of architecture as an autonomous discipline as espoused in Robert Venturi's 1966 Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture and Aldo Rossi's 1966 The Architecture of the City, and look to architecture's own language and history. Michael Graves and James Stirling literally lift architectural elements and juxtapose them in innovative ways; Rem Koolhaas takes on all of architectural history in his City of the Captive Globe where within each city block a different movement or iconic structure is represented.

Work: Curating