chapter  14
11 Pages

Architecture and the neo avant-garde: some theories of history in architectural criticism

Peter Bürger’s 1974 book Theory of the Avant-Garde (first translated in 1984), made the

argument that certain strategies of the historical avant-garde of the 1920s were repeated

(in a depoliticised form) in the creative production of the 1960s in art, and specifically the

paintings of Pop Art.1 The 1970s were replete with theoretical projects that sought to

critically connect contemporary practices with historical precedents, and, most

specifically, those of the historical avant-garde. The historical positioning of a neo-avant-

garde gained a degree of traction in architectural criticism in the same period,having

been theorised by Manfredo Tafuri in the seminal Architecture and Utopia: Design and

Capitalist Development (1973; English, 1976), which then percolated through the

theoretical New York wanderings of Oppositions and October, and then culminated in

the high-profile Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition at MoMA, curated by Philip

Johnson and Mark Wigley.2 Featuring the work of seven architects, the exhibition

showcased an array of critical and conceptually rigorous projects from a wave of (mostly)

young and ambitious international practitioners who would, in the coming decade,

emerge as one of the dominant paradigms in architectural production at the turn of the

millennium. Each of the seven are now frequently positioned as agents of a resurgent

neo-avant-garde in architectural design which has, in tandem with a number of other

emerging international practices, reshaped the relationship between architecture and its

expanded popular audience.