Futuri possibili | L’utopia immateriale di Yves Klein

Quando, tra la fine degli anni ’50 e l’inizio dei ’60, la questione ambientale e le controversie sociali del dopoguerra divennero sempre più pressanti a livello globale, molte furono le proposte architettoniche (termine riduttivo in verità, dal momento che l’intenzione prima di tali progetti era proprio l’invenzione, la contaminazione, l’apertura verso possibilità fino ad allora inesplorate) avanguardistiche, fantascientifiche, utopiche di gruppi radicali come Archigram, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Haus-Rucker-Co, Superstudio, e molti altri.

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Una risposta che si provò a dare fu il ritorno ad un’architettura ‘leggera’, che si rifacesse ad una tradizione nomadica e formalmente organica, piuttosto che ad una contemporaneità invasiva e permanente, fatta di compartimenti rigidi e distinzioni nette fra spazi privati e spazi condivisi. Si svilupparono dunque proposte e ricerche basate su strutture pneumatiche che vedevano nell’aria, nonché negli innovativi e soprattutto economici e facilmente reperibili materiali plastici, i principali elementi costruttivi. La trasparenza, la leggerezza, l’essenzialità, divennero un linguaggio di riappropriazione di quell’umanità persa a causa dell’eccessiva razionalità modernista.

Fu Yves Klein, da personalità visionaria qual era, ad esplorare inizialmente tale ambito, ancora prima della pubblicazione del saggio di Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (1969), e probabilmente ispirato, o comunque in linea, con la New Babylon (1956) del situazionista olandese Constant.

Klein ridusse l’architettura a elementi essenziali, principalmente aria e terra, affiancate da fuoco e acqua. L’obiettivo era ambizioso, e l’architettura solo un mezzo per portare a compimento un progetto olistico che ripensasse totalmente il nostro modo di vivere ed interagire.

Air conditioning on the surface of our globe… The technical and scientific conclusion of our civilization is buried in the depths of the earth and ensures the absolute control of the Climate on the surface of all the continents which have become vast communal living rooms… It is a sort of return to the garden of Eden of the legend (1951)… The advent of a new society destined to undergo deep transformations in its very condition itself. Intimacy, both personal and in the family, will disappear. An impersonal ontology will be developed. The willpower of Man will at last regulate life on a constantly ‘wonderful’ level. Man is so free he can even levitate! His occupation: leisure. The obstacles that traditional architecture used to put up with will be eliminated.
Yves Klein, Architecture de l’air (ANT 102), 1961

Furono innumerevoli gli schizzi, i disegni tecnici, i saggi, i modelli, le sculture, che Klein, grazie ad una serie di collaborazioni con gli architetti Werner Ruhnau e Claude Parent, il designer Roger Tallon, l’artista Jean Tinguely, realizzò per studiare e, paradossalmente, concretizzare l’idea di un’architettura immateriale, fatta d’aria. Una visione paradisiaca, la sua, che come New Babylon o come il Fun Palace di Cedric Price, puntava ad una liberazione dell’essere umano, ad una semplificazione dell’esistenza che trovasse nella creatività e nel divertimento la sua vera realizzazione.

L’apparato urbano tradizionale si sarebbe disintegrato, assieme agli stantii modelli sociali che l’avevano originato. Il programma e le funzioni avrebbero rivestito un ruolo di primo piano nella gerarchia progettuale, togliendo ogni significato a forma e materia. Il ruolo dell’architetto sarebbe stato inutile, in quanto dell’elaborazione e gestione di tali sistemi si sarebbero occupati artisti, musicisti ed ingegneri.

La definizione dello spazio sarebbe avvenuta tramite dispositivi non tangibili ovviamente, come suoni, luci e riflessi. Una copertura di flussi d’aria continui avrebbe protetto sezioni estese di territorio, creando una sorta di nuovo eden climatizzato. Tutti i servizi sarebbero stati racchiusi in spazi sotterranei. Ciò avrebbe permesso di controllare il benessere ambientale, di ripararsi dalle intemperie, e allo stesso tempo di abbattere tutte quelle barriere fisiche e visive che normalmente si interpongono tra gli abitanti. Tutto sarebbe stato architettura, e l’architettura sarebbe scomparsa.

Yves Klein morì nel 1962, senza poter sviluppare ulteriormente le sue ricerche estetiche, proprio dopo aver annunciato che da quel momento in avanti si sarebbe dedicato esclusivamente alla produzione di opere immateriali, unico compito possibile per l’artista del futuro.

When, in the late 50s and early 60s, the environmental issue and the postwar social controversies became globally urgent, there were many avant-garde, science fictional, utopian architectural proposals (a reductive term actually, since the prime intention of these projects was precisely that of inventing, contaminating, opening to hitherto unexplored possibilities), developed by radical groups such as Archigram, Coop Himmelb(l)au, Haus-Rucker-Co, Superstudio, and many others.

One of the answers that was found was the return to a ‘lightweight’ architecture, which would draw its inspiration from the nomadic, formally organic tradition, rather than from an invasive and heavy modernity, made of rigid compartments and sharp distinctions between private and collective spaces. Therefore, proposals and researches based on pneumatic structures were carried on, where the air -together with the innovative, and above all cheap and readily available, plastic materials- were the main building elements. Transparency, lightness, essentiality, became the symbols for reappropriation of a humanity that had been lost because of the excessive modernist rationality.

It was a personality ahead of his time, Yves Klein, who initially explored the topic, before the publication of Reyner Banham’s essay The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (1969), and probably inspired -or at least in line with- Dutch situationist Constant’s New Babylon (1956). Klein reduced architecture to just a few essential elements, mainly air and earth, alongside fire and water. The goal was ambitious, and architecture was just a mean to bring to completion a holistic project that would totally rethink the way we live and interact.

Air conditioning on the surface of our globe… The technical and scientific conclusion of our civilization is buried in the depths of the earth and ensures the absolute control of the Climate on the surface of all the continents which have become vast communal living rooms… It is a sort of return to the garden of Eden of the legend (1951)… The advent of a new society destined to undergo deep transformations in its very condition itself. Intimacy, both personal and in the family, will disappear. An impersonal ontology will be developed. The willpower of Man will at last regulate life on a constantly ‘wonderful’ level. Man is so free he can even levitate! His occupation: leisure. The obstacles that traditional architecture used to put up with will be eliminated.
Yves Klein, Architecture de l’air (ANT 102), 1961

There were innumerable sketches, technical drawings, essays, models, sculptures, created by Klein, thanks to a series of collaborations with architects Werner Ruhnau and Claude Parent, designer Roger Tallon, artist Jean Tinguely, in order to study and, paradoxically, materialize the idea of an immaterial architecture, made of air. It was a heavenly vision, that, like New Babylon or Cedric Price’s Fun Palace, aimed to liberate the human being, simplify the existence and let people find their true fulfillment in creativity and fun.

The traditional urban mechanism would disintegrate, together with the outdated social models that had originated it. Program and functions would play a major role in the design hierarchy, depriving form and matter of their meaning. Architects would be of no more use, since the development and management of these systems would be in the hands of artists, musicians and engineers.

Space, as one may expect, would be defined through intangible devices like sound, light and reflections. Continuos air flow roofing would protect extended territorial sections, creating a sort of new, air-conditioned eden. All facilities would be placed underground.

This would allow the inhabitants to control their environmental well-being, to protect themselves from bad weather, and at the same time to break down all the physical and visual barriers, that are normally interposed between them. Everything would be architecture, and architecture would disappear.

Yves Klein died in 1962, without being able to further develop his aesthetic research, just after announcing that from that moment on he would have devoted himself exclusively to the production of immaterial works, which he foresaw as the only possible task for the artist of the future.

Translation by Federica Zatta.