Manfredo Tafuri ‘Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology’ (1969)

Manfredo Tafuri was a Marxist architectural historian of the Renaissance and modern era and Italian architectural theorist. He is noted for his pointed critiques of the partisan “operative criticism” of previous architectural historians and critics like Bruno Zevi and Siegfried Giedion. He was influenced by the political turmoil and ascent of the radical left. He challenged ideas that Renaissance was the golden age and he believed architectural theory was a continuous toil played out on critical, theoretical, and ideological levels.

After Manfredo Tafuri received his architectural degree, he worked as a teaching asistant under Saul Greco, Adalberto Libera and Ludovico Quaroni.

Contemporary architecture’s circumstance was never more significantly theorised than by Manfredo Tafuri. Locating architecture’s intellectual project in the historical matrix of the bourgeois metropolis, Tafuri details the entire cycle of modernism as a unitary progression in which the avantgardes‘ visions of utopia come to be seen as an idealization of capitalism, last’s rationality into the rationality of autonomous form – architecture’s “plan,” its ideology. Getting together the strings that relation the sociology of Georg Simmel and Max Weber, critical theory of Georg Lukacs, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno, the structuralism of Louis Althusser and Roland Barthes, and the negative opinion of Massimo Cacciari, Tafuri recognizes what for him is contemporary architecture’s simply state of probability to collapse into the very system that warrants its demise or retreat into hypnotic solitude (Hays, 1998, p. 2).

Tafuri’s book Theory and History of Architecture concentrated on the architectural historian’s obligation to alter architecture substantially, rebuking the inadequacies of architects as historians. Tafuri has drawn on the work of Walter Benjamin along these lines, this book also foresees the failure of modernism, referring to modern architecture’s complicity with capitalism. As Mallgrave and Contandriopoulos said this book addressed not only the perceived crisis of modern theory but also question of whether modernism could in fact be interpreted as a unified body of ideas (Mallgrave & Contandriopoulos, 2008, p. 396). After this book his inventive book subjects proceeded and amid the 1970’s, Tafuri distributed his imperative works in Oppositions journal.

In the most recent decade of his career he embraced an extensive reassessment of the theory and practice of Renaissance architecture, investigating its different social, intellectual and social connections, while giving an expansive comprehension of uses of representation that shaped the whole time. Interpreting the Renaissance: Princes, Cities, Architects blends the historical background of architectural thoughts and projects through arguments of the great centres of architectural innovation in Italy.

Tafuri’s essay Toward a Critique of Architectural Ideology published in the Marxist journal Contropiano. In this essay, Tafuri investigates architecture as an element within the city and changes of architectural ideology from the Enlightenment period to late Modernism through the lens of putting architecture inside the urban setting and additionally the part of urban planning on architecture. Concentrating on the genesis of the rational plan as manifested in metropolitan structure, Tafuri refers to seventeenth and eighteenth century ideas of the city and its connections to the nature, in other words city as a natural object; nineteenth and twentieth century modernism and pragmatism, in other words city as a rational object; then ideologies of Le Corbusier that architecture as a cellular object which totals and forms into an entire; in conclusion, architecture in present day and its relation to economy and capitalism as characterizing components. He brings the issue of architecture’s false awareness into more keen political focus and he makes a few claims with respect to the death of architecture’s avant-garde or utopian ideals despite its usurpation by late capitalist powers (Mallgrave & Contandriopoulos, 2008, p. 396).

The essay starts with the Enlightenment and the urban design theories of Marc-Antoine Laugier, an advocate of aesthetics of the pleasant, and his naturalism conception in planning and in addition the idea of the city as forest. Laugier writes “Anyone who knows how to design a park well will draw up a plan according to which a city must be built in relation to its area and situation. There must be squares, intersections, streets. There must be regularity and whimsy, relationships and oppositions, chance elements that lend variety to the tableau, precise order in the details and confusion, chaos and tumult in the whole.” (Bao, 2015, para.2). From Laugier, in order to discover an answer for the problems created by the cities, Tafuri brings up the increasingly political role obtruded Enlightenment architects.

Piranesi’s Campo Marzio introduced an experimental design struggle the problem of balancing opposites with regards to the city. This political role was shown in the urban design of Milan by Antolini, and his desire to infuse a totalizing message through bound unified architectural form.

As Andrew mention in his article Technology, Authenticity and Architectural Ideology, through investigating the course of the modern movement as an ideological instrument of capital, Tafuri breaks the history into three successive stages from 1901 to 1939:

  • Formation of urban ideology as a method for overcoming architectural romanticism
  • The increase of artistic avant-gardes as ideological activities, which then hand those activities over to architecture and urban planning to understand those ideals in tangible form
  • Architectural ideology turns into the ideology of plan

Tafuri proposes that architecture started to seem unnecessary and marginal regarding financial and political powers which tackled more prominent positions of power in the planning and dispersion of capitalism. Stage one is depicted by the usage of work of art by the avant-gardes as a field on which to project the sense of shock typical of the urban experience and of living in a city which functions as a machine whose gain is to concentrate esteem from its citizens and to provide a place to collect and to consume on a mass scale. That is the city is an instrument for organizing the cycle of production-distribution-consumption (Pun, A., 2011, para.7). Starting with nineteenth, form should considered as a creation of logic of subjective reaction with objective unity of production. Dialectic explanation of individualism shows itself as cubism, futurism, Dadaism and De Stijl. This comprehension of the city as an instrument can be found in the cubism of Picasso and Braque, in the work of the De Stijl like work of Mondrian and Futurist movements.

The ideals of the avant-gardes slowly merged into one vision of the city as a place of tumult and order, and into a single ideal of translating tumult into meaning and value. Tafuri defines the Bauhaus as the decantation chamber of the Avant-gardes, in which their goals were handed over to architecture and planning to be interpreted into reality. The first and clearest sample of this interpretation into the reality was Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin. Once the city was comprehended as an instrument of production, a tremendous social machine where the building is no more an object, rather it is individual cells that make physical form (Bao, 2015, para.7). The architect starts to play the part of production for an assembly line and turns into an organizer of the process. Tafuri proposes that Le Corbusier tested and improved the most extensive system of rational plans at different scales, and implemented them into different projects. He saw his project as the rationalization of the total organization of the urban machine utilizing the strategy of organic unity. The city’s arrangement must happen so that the magnificence of the entire will be subdivided into infinity of details. Each is not quite the same as each other so that there are always new interpretations arising; it is through this clear tumult or irregularity that characterizes great cities.

Through time the architect has slowly become removed from the creation and process associated with architectural design, and the first stages of this is exhibited by the architect as a manger of the process that create the architecture, not so must the creator of the built environment. This disassociation between architect and building is further intensified through the realization of vast potential of technology in the rationalization of the city and outlying areas. 1930’s architects afraid to share their ideological approach in the terms of political circumstance then they started to focus on technology. All this development brings to mind the idea of the proletarianization of the architect

Tafuri suggests that the after 1930, architectural ideology basically entered a stage of regression. He argues that ‘’the entire course of modern architecture… was born, developed and brought into crisis in a grandiose attempt…to resolve the imbalances, contradictions and delays typical of the capitalistic reorganization of the world market.’’ (Mallgrave & Contandriopoulos, 2008, p. 397).

Furthermore, he says that there can be no such thing as a political financial aspects of class, but just a class critique of political financial aspects and similarly there can never be an aesthetics, art or architecture of class, but just a class critique of aesthetics, art, architecture and the city and Marxist critique of architectural and urbanistic ideology can just demystify history behind the unifying classifications of the term art, architecture and city (Hays, 1998, p. 32).

In conclusion, Tafuri defines modernism period as a part of evaluation of the avant-garde’s utopian perspective which can identify as an idealization of capitalism. He analyses the architectural form and plans, failures and crisis of modernism under ideology.


Bao, D., (2015, March 17). Toward a critique of architectural ideology Retrieved April 9, 2016, from

Hays, K. M. (Eds.). (1998). Architecture theory since 1968. England: The MIT Press

Mallgrave, H. F., & Contandriopoulos C. (Eds.). (2008). Architectural theory: volume II-an anthology from 1871 to 2005. USA: Blackwell Publishing

Pun, A., (2011, November 26). Technology, authenticity and architectural ideology presentation Retrieved April 9, 2016, from

The Popes As Planners: Rome, 1450-1650

Feudal system brought duality to authority (duality between aristocracy and church). In the end of middle ages, the popes gained importance on all issues: social, political and architectural. I mean, in this period ,  men of the god had enlarged power on management to affect all economy, education, design of cities and building etc. So they built grand churches in the center of cities. Large and high churches was build in city centers to show the power of god and show the strength of Christianity. By building cathedrals, they ignored planning of the city as whole. However, they reorganized streets, residential and urban areas according to the location of churches. Therefore, they created a main axis that stretch aloung the churches.

The Renaissance: Ideal and Fad

The Islmaic culture were realized  and spread. It takes its part from the as of now exists culture and some of the monuments lost its place and some of the building’s interiors, exteriors or both of them were adopted in Islamic culture. For example, Gothic chapel turned into the mosque of Cordoba.

In the beginning of 1500s, ancient Rome traditions were reinterpreted and modernized. Leon Battista Alberti was the fountainhead of the new architecture of the new way of thinking in this period. In the city there was a past we could disassemble ourselves from and look at critically. We could analize by looking two types of the past, one is glorious past and the other is  the study of humanities. Therefore, it compounded the modernization fact not just in architecture also in art. For example, there were examples that Brunellesci learnt from art and applied to architecture. After the Brunelleschi, Gothic architecture functioned according to an abstract system of proportions. Individual elements of the building had no fixed proportions within themselves or with respect to overall measurements, but instead relied on internal correlations that followed from initial geometric choices. Therefore, we can interpret that people became getting away Gothic architecture trends and they were approaching the architecture with an innovative perspective.

Alberti says that Architecture cannot be the consist of only function. Because if it was be like that people do not need architect, a builder can build the structures.

After the some development in the architecture, we can say that architect, armed with the science of linear perspective and new mathematics. The Piccolomini palace as the example of the largest structure. At the same time, the church has the central place of honor. At the visual level, seen form within the piazza, the papal block obscures most of itself in order to insure bilateral symmetry. The main entrance shifts for relating and centering the square. Also, the proportions of buildings defined and locked in place by the intervening space and its grid. Therefore, we can observe the foundation of rational and proportional order in this structure.

Draft Proposal For The Final Assignment of The History of Architecture Course

From the past to present, we can see alteration and improvement of the courts. While the term court transforms a semi-open space where the political meeting and judgements did like Basilicas in The Roman Forums and we can see this transformation from the late 12 century. For example, The Scandinavian Mead Hall or Westminister Hall in England used a typical meet hall for king’s judgement or as an assembly of King. However the usage of courts transforms as a garden. Also we can easily see the change from private to the semi-public usage of courts.

In Ancient Roman Insula, which is a kind of today’s apartment, there was a court at the centre of the insula and the court surrounded with vertical and horizontal circulation so they can always reach the court for fresh air and get light inside the Insula and also it becomes a semi-public space that they used a kind of semi-public garden. Also in Roman Domus we can observe the variation of courtyards like atrium and peristylium. However, peristylium was more like court garden. It has opening to the sky and flowers and shrubs, fountains, benches and sculptures. It is also centre of the house and spaces which are important for people like dining room, bedrooms are located around it so it creates a transition space between them and also helps them to complete horizontal circulation.

In Greek house the court has not directly entered from the street to increase the level of privacy. The courts are the space where the daily life take place. There is also transition between the room and court but an inner balcony surround the whole strengthen this transition idea.

In the typical house of Athangudi -an Indus Valley civilization-, also, the central courtyard is surrounded by a corridor which provides transition (access) to the rooms and the other parts of the house. The courts were generally designed for lightning, ventilation and thermal comfort but in here people also use courts to collect rain water for regular usage.

Evolving over the centuries, courtyards have been used for a variety purpose. It also plays a major role in creating a social space rather than just for lightning and ventilation.

Therefore, I interpret the courts as the central space and there was a circulation around it. It creates always a transition space between the other parts of the house and between exterior and interior (from the heat, noise and sometimes smell of the streets to the cool, shaded and quite central space).

The Urbanization of Europe, 1100-1300

In the 12.Century, at the Rome there was a revolution to the patriarchs. Therefore, in this situation, France made some changes in religious to not undergo this revolution and France is affected from this situation in a positive way. At the same time, the changes about the Feudal structure create a new society class. People were against to the nobility and the church. They worked on trade so they built new structure styles such as; guild halls, tore houses, market building, shop etc. and also streets and public places were getting shape with the help of these structures.

In the old towns, we see the significant effect of the gothic structure. Although, in some parts we saw the imitation of Roman Empire, in the other parts we saw the imitation of Germanic Kingdom. At the Europe, we see the significant marks of the Roman Legacy. These cities were getting more safety for the pilgrims. Protection (protection of people) is an important idea in there and there was another important thing which was the stopping the increase of the population. At this situation, circular form of the cities became more suitable because it gives a chance to the natural growing of the city.

If we turn back to the individual structures from the broad urban canvases , we see two general observation. The first one is variation of building types, the other one is the town that is defined with the user and the client. Some situations (like the decline of the urban milieu and the rise of the Christian ethic) made some styles of buildings more general. Therefore, some buildings started to be used more such as, theatres, baths and circuses, amphitheatres, basilicas, forums, administrative buildings of all kinds, warehouses and brothels. This important change affected to the architectural thought in two ways. A divorce between form and function began to occur. At the same time, several functions could be gathered under a single roof. I mean as Kostof said, a hospital can be also a poorhouse, orphanage, almshouse etc.

The Birth of Nations: Europe After Charles

Romanesque architecture is the first style that can be found all parts of the Europe but there is some regional variations inside. In Carolingian Europe we see architectural products which carried both traces of tradition and tendency for modernity. Therefore, there is an architectural approach that was a temperate mix of past and that day.  In that period feudalism came to forward (the main reason behind feudalism was based on concerns for the defense of territories).

In the Romanesque, there are three main structure typology : churches, monasteries and castles. church was a significant building type with its unifying power. Castles were defensive constructions. They were generally in steep places due to increase the defense and it became easily defendable.

The Triumph of Christ

In the third century, Rome faced many problems and went through several changes. The balance between the rich and poor felt into decay. The rich was getting more rich and the poor was getting in deeper. Else, after the Christianity was legitimized, social structures had changed significantly. It has its influence over architecture.

There were many important architectural structures in Rome and one of them is Hadrian’s Villa which is used as senatorial and imperial villa. Hadrian’s Villa is a complex architectural structure that contains over 30 buildings and it is a great example of Alexandrian gardens and its complexity has strong relations with the landscape.

With Christianity, generated concepts which are baptism and cemetery required new organization. Thus we can understand that the religion shapes the way of living and their architecture.

In Roman architecture, producing apse, that had been used at long axes of halls, in the temples was a common approach. Dome form integrated with Christianity. Also in the apse, there are some important human figures and anglel representations. One example of these apse is in San Vitale. By using mosaic, they prefer to illustrate Bishop Ecclesis’s power.

The nave is the main body of the church which provides the central approach to the high altar. Also it is long, narrow, high and part of the churches. Hagia Sophia has an effective nave in itself. Hagia Sophia is an important church for the Roman architecture which is located at the top right of the center in the area of the Great Palace of the Byzantine emperor.  It has a strong axial path passing from different heights and enclosure levels and also there is a different approach of the dome usage. Dome is not there to mark an object of veneration.

Rome: Caput Mundi

Because of some characteristic forms (like vaulting and arch) and applications, we can distinguish Roman architecture in many ways. We can see these forms in substructures of terrace buildings, baths, warehouse are some of the structures. The material quality is important because it affects the perception of structure. Thus, in order to produce vaults, they prefer to use stone or brick face concrete . In this way, they could produce vaults with a single shelled way. This approach is really efficient for more light. Besides, producing and rising vaults in different heights create levels of lighting conditions which also differentiate space from one another.

In order to comprehend Roman architecture and their basis of urbanism, we should analyse  two important cities which are Rome and Pompeii in that time. Pompeii was a port town that sits on an isolated volcanic mountain and overlooking Sarno river. Pompeii was preferred and used summering place for the rich people because of landscape qualities. The walls enclosed the city which were risen all along the boundary. The streets of Pompeii were paved with dark lava stones. With lava stone’s orientation the streets are defined.

Roman domus is a typical house in cities owned by higher middle class. Producing court in the house is still a common approach however there is evolution and variation of courtyard. There is Atrium which is ‘Selamlık’ part of Roman house. It is where the entre the house and it has opening to the sky and has a pool where the opening is. Peristylium is another courtyard. It has column series inside. It is like a backyard garden.