San Francisco

“Visionary Architecture”

University Gallery, U. C., Berkeley

Buildings never raised are on photographic display here and the impact is strong, in spite of the show’s many flaws. The Museum of Modern Art in New York assembled the exhibit and rightly stress ed visual themes rather than chronology. The var­ied approaches to traditional forms (such as the tunnel, the cave, the pyra­mid, the spire, the elevated street, the labyrinth, etc.) are the keynote of the show. Thus, Leonardo’s multi-level city is placed next to that of the Futurist, Sant’ella. From Boullée (1750’s) to Ent­wistle (1940’s) the pyramid-cone, symbol of death and autocracy, has attracted many to try to overcome these implica­tions, or to take advantage of them.

The magnitude of the ideas on dis­play is astounding, but poses some dis­turbing questions. Most of these cities are beautiful solutions for enormous quantities of space and material, but they are uninhabitable, except on the architect’s terms. Men such as Bruno Taut and Paoli Soleri have decided the spiritual comforts of their citizens as well as their physical relief. The Fascist idea that men should live to glorify the city is implied in a large number of these works. Only Kahn, Le Corbusier and a few others come off here as liv­ing exponents of humanistic city-plan­ning.

The show is intellectually exciting, but visually flat. The original photo­graphs and drawings are not uniformly good and enlargement makes them fuz­zier. Layouts may be confusing, but elevations are not. Instead of these, photographs of rough models and rough­er sketches are offered and it is often impossible to get a plain idea of the architect’s intention. Arthur Drexler’s text, for all its distracting length, is low on information and high on opinion. Buckminster Fuller is not really repre­sented, because only an analogy from his ideas is shown, not a concrete in­stance of them. There is only one house (Kiesler’s) and one bridge (Soleri’s). It would have been better to have restrict­ed the display to the city planners or to have extended its scope. If fewer themes had been more fully documented, the exhibit would have been a clearer state­ment about the power of great archi­tecture. 

Jo­anna C. Magloff