Theory and Design in the First Machine Age

By Reyner Banham | Go to book overview

8: Futurism: the Foundation Manifesto

THE QUALITIES WHICH made Futurism a turning-point in the development of Modern theories of design were primarily ideological, and concerned with attitudes of mind, rather than formal or technical methods--though these attitudes of mind were often influential as vehicles in the transmission of formal and technical methods which were not, in the first place, of Futurist invention.

The new ideological orientation of the Futurists can be seen as early as the Foundation Manifesto, published in Le Figaro, 20 February 1909. This Manifesto was entirely the work of Fillipo Tomaso Marinetti, the founder and continuous animator of the Futurist Movement. Though originally written in French ( Marinetti was a graduate of the Sorbonne, in Letters) and only subsequently translated into Italian, it was apparently written in Milan, and is, certainly, substantially ∣autobiographical.1 It consists of three parts, not separately titled but different in structure and style. The first (or Prologue) is narrative, the second sets out a programme of action and beliefs in tabulated form, and the third is a reflective Epilogue.

The first and second sections are of the greatest interest in the present context, the Prologue in identifying Marinetti's state of mind and the social setting that enframed it, the second in formulating the Futurist attitude to various aesthetic and cultural problems.

The Prologue opens with a piece of fin-de-siçcle stage-setting

We had been awake all night my friends and I, under the mosque-lamps whose filigree copper bowls were constellated like our very souls... we had trampled out our ancestral ennui on opulent turkey carpets, arguing to the limits of reasoning, and blackening innumerable sheets of paper with our frantic scribblings....

In the middle of the next paragraph, the tone of voice begins to change

We were alone before the hostile stars... alone with the stokers who sweat

____________________
8.1
The two best sources on early Futurism are the contributions of Paolo Buzzi and Benedetta Marinetti to the special issue of Cahiers d'Art devoted to Italian painting ( Paris, 1950), and Libero di Libera "Antologia Futurista" in Civiltà delle Macchine ( Rome, March 1954).

-99-

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Theory and Design in the First Machine Age
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • Acknowledgements 6
  • Illustrations 7
  • Introduction--The Machine Age 9
  • Section One 13
  • 1: the Academic Tradition and the Concept of Elementary Composition 14
  • 2: Choisy 23
  • 3: the Academic Succession 35
  • 4:England:Lethaby and Scott 44
  • 5: Germany 68
  • 6: the Factory Aesthetic 79
  • 7: Adolf Loos and the Problem of Ornament 88
  • Section Two 98
  • 8: Futurism 99
  • 9: Futurism: Theory and Development 106
  • 10: Sant'Elia and Futurist Architecture 127
  • Section Three 138
  • 11: Holland 139
  • 12: De Stijl: the Dutch Phase 148
  • 13: Expressionism 163
  • 14: De Stijl 185
  • Section Four 201
  • 15: Architecture and the Cubist Tradition 202
  • 16: Progressive Building in Paris 214
  • 17: Vers Une Architecture 220
  • 18: Le Corbusier 247
  • Section Five 264
  • 19: the Berlin School 265
  • 20: the Bauhaus 276
  • 21: Germany: the Encyclopaedics 305
  • 22: Conclusion 320
  • Index to Proper Names and Buildings 331
  • Index, to Topics, Publications, and Organisations 335
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