PLAYING GOD

(above) Alpine architecture, by architect Bruno Taut, c. 1918

The Expressionist architect Bruno Taut envisioned, a century ago, the reconstruction of the Alps into a crystalline architecture that would bring the human world into closer harmony with the forces and processes of nature. His work on this project, while admired by a few, was widely derided and dismissed as foolish and absurd, at the very least an overestimation of the power of architects and of architecture to reshape the world for the better. Even worse, from today’s perspective, reshaping mountain peaks into glittering, glass cities, is not only a travesty of nature, but also an ecological disaster. Still, we must admit that anytime an architect alters a natural site, or builds using materials taken from nature, he or she is ‘playing god,’ that is, rearranging the natural order of things. Taut’s sin—and my own, below—is only a difference of scale, not of substance, from what architects do every day. By dramatizing the human necessity to alter nature, such mega-projects confront us with an essence of the human condition.

(above) Cosmic reconstruction.

LW


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