Critics’ Picks

View of “La Tendenza: Italian Architectures, 1965–1985,” 2012.


La Tendenza: Italian Architectures, 1965–1985”

Centre Pompidou
Place Georges-Pompidou
June 20 - September 10

With 250 drawings, photographs, painting, maquettes, and photographs from one of the postwar period’s more influential architectural movements, “La Tendenza” foregrounds the prominence of visual imagery in architectural innovation in the 1960s through the 1980s, when the Tendenza group—including Alessandro Anselmi, Carlo Aymonino, Paolo Portoghesi, Ernesto N. Rogers, and Aldo Rossi—tackled the daunting landscape that was postwar Italy. The burden of devising an urbanism that could transcend Fascist legacy—learning from its innovations without falling into a dehistoricized functionalism—proved an ideological minefield as much as a practical challenge. How to invoke an architectural history while remaining free of ideological bombast? How to inflect modernist functionalism with levity? Precisely during a time when Italian architects—not least the designer of the Pompidou itself, Renzo Piano—found more adventurous commissions abroad, such questions proved urgent.

Designed on the cusp of the historical arc that the exhibition traces, the Velasca Tower—represented in this show by an original model—speaks aptly to the larger questions addressed in Tendenza history. A modern high-rise in Milan erected in the image of the city’s Sforzesco Castle, the structure forms a kind of postwar, postmodernist manifesto. If any architect takes pride of place in the exhibition, it is Aldo Rossi, whose prominence as both a designer and a theorist anchored La Tendenza. Proposing what he deemed “the analogous city”—lent spare form here in Arduino Cantafora’s 1973 painting by that name—Rossi produced work that was at once playfully historicist and wary of utopic trappings. Also included is a section from the wood facade of Rossi’s Hotel Palazzo in Fukuoka, Japan, 1987–89, along with a playful maquette for his Petite Théatre Scientifique, 1978. And the endless number of journals on display—from Controspazio to Quaderni Rossi (Red Notebooks)—reveals the amount of ink spilled by critics like Manfredo Tafuri and Bruno Zevi.

For all of La Tendenza’s ostensible rejection of avant-garde ideals, its images appeal repeatedly to an earlier avant-garde imagination. Antonio Tresca and Ettore Molon invoke the paintings of René Magritte in their postmodern landscapes from the late 1970s. Haunting many of the images on display are Giorgio de Chirico’s early-twentieth-century cityscapes, which refused modernism’s tabula rasa but incorporated its sensibility and surfaces into their spare rehearsals of antiquity. Whether in Rossi’s postmodern capricci or Cantafora’s melancholic, evacuated scenes, those precedents inform a wide range of spatial fantasies, poised somewhere between blueprint and whimsy.