Karin Jaschke: 'Mythopoetic Modernism: Aldo van Eyck: Architecture as/and Art', in E. Laaksonen and M. Vainio (eds.), Architecture and Art: New Visions, New Strategies, Helsinki: Alvar Aalto Foundation/Alvar Aalto Academy, 2005, pp56-62. ISBN 952-5371-22-0.
This paper is part of a larger body of research and writing that I have worked on since 2000 and which investigates the influence of the humanities and the fine arts on post-Second World War architecture, with particular focus on Aldo van Eyck's work. Research included field trips to Mali and Morocco and archival research in the Netherlands, supported by financial grants and teaching relief from Princeton University and Bauhaus University Weimar respectively.
The paper in question here takes its cue from van Eyck's assertion that architecture must be conceived 'as art,' and examines this statement in the context of his connections with key avant-garde artists such as Hans Arp, Paul Klee, Alberto Giacometti, and Constantin Brancusi. The paper argues that van Eyck's notion of 'elementary form' is central to this and that formal exploration and philosophical and theoretical concerns are inseparably linked in his attempts to infuse the avant-garde's early 'mythopoetic' ideas into late modernist architecture. This represents a shift in the interpretation of van Eyck's work from predominantly structural and conceptual to formal and phenomenal. Closely related to this investigation is another published paper, Architecture as Artifice which specifically addresses van Eyck's relationship with surrealist artists and ideas, and a paper entitled 'City is House and House is City: Aldo van Eyck, Piet Blom, and the Architecture of Homecoming' that will be published in a forthcoming book from Routledge, edited by Marina Lathouri, Intimate Metropolis.
In parallel to, and complementing the above, I have written a number of papers on van Eyck's and other architects' ethnographic and archaeological activities. These include 'The Dogon Journey/ Writing about the Dogon/ The "Dogon Image"' and 'Herman Haan: Archaeology as Performance'. Versions of these papers have been presented at the Primitive conference (Cardiff University, Sept. 04) and the 3. European SLS Conference (Paris, June 04), amongst others, and a printed version was published in the Bauhaus-University research journal Thesis (Spring 03).
In 2001, in conjunction with this work, and together with my then-student Eva Nickel, I organised a one-day symposium at the University of Weimar, entitled African Architecture Forms, about the interaction between European and African building traditions and practices, as well as an exhibition of work by members of the student organisation 'Africa Présence', of Grenoble University.
I am presently working on a third aspect of the subject, the literary and philosophical influences on van Eyck's work and the architectural circle close to him.
While this work started out from an interest in architectural travel, considered from a post-colonial point of view with particular interest in the still under-thematised subject of primitivist tendencies in modern architecture (see Karin Jaschke, 'Conventions, Tours, and Other Journeys: Why Architects Must Travel,' Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, Summer 98), my ongoing research has led me to expand my interpretation of the material at hand in light of current debates on 'ethical' and 'sustainable' approaches in architecture.
It appears that as much as van Eyck's work and that of his collaborators and close colleagues was indebted to the productive yet often problematic 'mythopoetic' ideas of the early avant-garde, it is also stunningly prescient of themes such as sustainability and ecology which are presently moving to centre-stage in architectural debates.
I intend to rework these papers and prepare them for publication in book format in the near future.