November 29th, Harvard GSD, 2016
The outgoing Chair of the Architecture Department at Harvard Graduate School of Design Iñaki Ábalos, who is completing a tenure of five years, will give the celebratory Walter Gropius lecture under the title Architecture for the Search of Knowledge.
Architecture for the Search of Knowledge is the title of an aphorism included by Friedrich Nietzsche in the Gay Science (1882). Since I was a student at the ETSAM in Madrid it has been like a mantra for me, quoted in mostly all my books and used in many of the firm,s projects. Its words summarize much of what I have pursued as an architect, an educator and an essayist, and its words became very close to a mandate in the years I have been responsible of directing the Department of Architecture at the GSD:
One day, and probably soon, we need some recognition of what above all is lacking in our big cities; quiet and wide, expansive places for reflection. Places with high, glazed cloisters for rainy or sunny weather where no street-vendor’s cry or horse-drawn traffic noise can reach, and where good manners would prohibit even priests from praying aloud -buildings and sites that would altogether give expression to the sublimity of thoughtfulness and of stepping aside-. The time is past when church possessed a monopoly on reflection, when the vita contemplativa always had to be first of all vita religiosa; and everything built by the church gives expression to that idea. I do not see how we could remain content with such buildings even if they were stripped of their churchly purposes. The language spoken by these buildings is far too rhetorical and unfree, reminding us that they are houses of God and ostentatious monuments of some supra-wordly intercourse; we who are godless could not think our thoughts in such surroundings. We wish to see ourselves translated into stone and plants, we want to take walks in ourselves when we stroll around these buildings and gardens.
Iñaki Abalos, Abalos+Sentkiewicz (AS+)
The Walter Gropius lecture is traditionally given by outgoing chairs of architecture. It was established to commemorate Gropius, who was the chair of architecture in the late 1930s and advocated for modern architecture both in the school and in Harvard.