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interview ISSN 2175-6708


O francês Antoine Picon, professor da Harvard Graduate School of Design e teórico preocupado com as múltiplas relações entre a arquitetura e a tecnologia digital, é entrevistado pela dupla de professores brasileiros Gabriela Celani e David Sperling.

Antoine Picon, a professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a theorist who is concerned with the multiple relationships between architecture and digital technology, is interviewed by the Brazilian duo Gabriela Celani and David Sperling.

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CELANI, Gabriela; SPERLING, David. Architecture makes life meaningful. Interview with Antoine Picon. Entrevista, São Paulo, year 19, n. 074.02, Vitruvius, jun. 2018 <>.

Siamese Towers, Campus San Joaquín da Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile, 2005, arquiteto Alejandro Aravena
Foto Cristobal Palma [Website Pritzker Prize]

Gabriela Celani and David Sperling: In the book “Ornament: The Politics of Architecture and Subjectivity” (2013) you trace a critical position about the ornament along the history of architecture, placing it between subjectivity and politics. As you say in the introduction of the book: “The return of the ornament is both about the new type of subjectivity characteristic of the digital age and about the possible contribution of architecture to emerging collective meanings and values.” If the return of the ornament is clearly linked to the digital age, in terms of subjectivity, could we say it is close connected to the very logic of digital production and to the structural forces leading the creative industry and neo-liberalism? Is this not ultimately a reinforce in the power of very few to decide and produce what is consumed as commons? If so, which kind of collective meanings and values do you see emerging of digital star architectures?

Antoine Picon: Ornament is of course linked to the logic of digital production. For example, the computer enables to play with texture, to modulate form, etc. But I think the most profound aspect has to do with new forms of subjectivity, which is also related to what I said about the competition between cities. The urban experience has become a completely strategic dimension of contemporary urbanism. So it goes much beyond the logic of digital production. It’s actually a longing for an architecture that, like fashion, like cuisine, will be part of this experiential thing. I do believe with the digital we can share experiences, sensations. Does it ultimately reinforce the power of the very few who decide and produce what we consume as commons? I think architecture is actually not democratic. It’s linked to power, whether we like it or not. It’s usually not emancipatory. It can be mobilized for emancipatory goals but it’s very seldom emancipatory. Take Aravena, for example, it’s very striking how he has been building more often for the Catholic University than for the poor.

GC/DS: ...which has been more showcased...

AP: What architecture can do is review the reality of a situation. Ornament is a good revelator of power structures, social meanings, including ideologies. This is one of the reasons I’ve been calling for the return of ornament because the denial of the ornament is even worst; it’s linked to the fiction that architecture can treat everyone as equal, which is not true.

GC/DS: Which is also related to industrialization.

AP: Probably the big ambition of the modern was that everybody could be treated the same through architecture. But it actually failed. I wish architecture was different but that’s why most of the texts on architecture and politics fail; because there is no such thing as democratic architecture.

GC/DS: One thing that I’ve been hearing a lot is that buildings have to be beautiful so that people will love them and will they keep them, and this is more sustainable than tearing them down.

AP: My interpretation of that is that in order to be livable, life needs to have meaning. Architecture participates at the deepest to create a meaningful frame for human action. What it does first and foremost is to create settings, surroundings, in which human action appear to have a meaning. Architecture makes life meaningful, which is the reason we should keep it, not just because it’s beautiful. Meaningful is deeper than beautiful. It means that the human have a place there. Without architecture there is no place for humans; there is just a place for animals and for natural phenomena. There is this story about Rome, in which Romulus traces the limits of the city, and the limits of the city transform what is inside. The place that belongs to public civic life, to a set of values, etc. For me architecture is about that. Tracing a kind of limit and creating an arena in which human action has a meaning.

GC/DS: And do you think beauty is related to ornament?

AP: Ornament has more to do with pleasure than with beauty. And above all it has to do with meaning. I wrote a book that has a counter proposition compared to Farshid’s [Moussavi], which is all about affect. I believe deeply that ornament is part of making the world meaningful. Ornament has the same etymology in latin as order, which is one of the reasons why Gombrich’s calls his book [The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art]. Ornament contributes to make an ordered world, when humans can see there is a human order. So there is a place for them.

Loja de departamentos e Cineplex John Lewis, Leicester, Inglaterra, 2008, arquiteta Farshid Moussavi
Foto divulgação [Website Farshid Moussavi Architecture]


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original: português

outros: english




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