Totalitarian Immunization

Piet Mondrian Broadway Boogie Woogie 1942-43

“All blocks are the same; their equivalence invalidates, at once, all the systems of articulation and differentiation that have guided the design of traditional cities. The Grid makes the history of architecture and all previous lessons of urbanism irrelevant. It forces Manhattan’s builders to develop a new system of formal values, to invent strategies for the distinction of one block to another. The Grid’s two dimensional discipline also creates undreamt of freedom for three dimensional anarchy. The Grid defines a new balance between control and decontrol in which the city can be at the same time ordered and fluid, a metropolis of rigid chaos.
With its imposition, Manhattan is forever immunized against any (further), totalitarian intervention. In the single block-the largest possible area that can fall under architectural control – it develops a maximum unit of urbanistic Ego. Since there is no hope that larger parts of the island can ever be dominated by a single client or architect, each intention – each architectural ideology – has to be realized fully within the limitations of the block. Since Manhattan is finite and the number of its blocks forever fixed, the city cannot grow in any conventional manner.” [Rem Koolhaas Delirious New York]

Piet Mondrian Composition in Red, Blue, and Yellow 1937-42

“In spite of all, both art and reality around us show this precisely as the coming of a new life — man’s ultimate liberation. For although art is created by the flowering of our predominantly physical being (‘feeling’), basically it is the pure plastic expression of harmony. A product of life’s tragedy — due to the domination of the physical (the natural) in us and around us — art expresses the still imperfect state of our innermost ‘being.’  The latter (as ‘intuition,’) tries to close the eternally unbridgeable gap that separates it from the material-as-nature: it seeks to change disharmony to harmony.  Art’s freedom ‘allows’ harmony to be realized, despite the fact that the physically dominated being cannot directly express or attain pure harmony.  The evolution of art in fact consists in achieving the pure expression of harmony: outwardly, art appeared as an expression that (in time) reduced individual feeling.  Thus art is both expression and the (involuntary) means of material evolution: of attaining equilibrium between nature and the non-natural — between what is in us and what is around us. Art will remain both expression and means of expression until (relative) equilibrium is reached. Then its task will be fulfilled and harmony will be realized in our outward surroundings and in our outward life.  The domination of the tragic in life will be ended.” [Mondrian on Neoplasticism in Architecture]

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