Ian Ritchie Architects

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Silvain Bleeckere on Ritchie, RFR + Gustafson’s Pylon Design, November 15, 1994

Three lines of thought meant as a first commentary on Ian Ritchie’s “Electricity pylons: summary of collected thoughts” (15 November 1994)

Progress beyond optimism:

Ian Ritchie maps out the present-day situation of the modernistic value of progress.  Progress as defined in the ideological spirit of the Enlightenment was still a chapter of the big Book of western metaphysics and its technological worldview.  The idea and the ideal of the modernistic progress have their roots in the dangerous optimistic view on human happiness.  Dangerous?  yes, because of its crazy belief in an everlasting orgasm of power, luck and satisfaction.  That modern kind of progress is self-destructive.  I agree with Ian Ritchie when he sees the post-modern, especially the deconstructive architectural design not as an adequate answer to the present-day problem of progress. That kind of design accepts the self-destructive power of modernistic progress as an inevitable fate.  It can only stay with its feet in the dark waters of pessimism that pour out of the modernistic sewers of progress. Today modern mankind needs intellectual force and responsibility that reach beyond optimism, that means: frees itself from any kind of post-modern apocalyptic pessimism.

Progress for the Earth

Ian Ritchie refers to the Eiffel Tower.  For European culture it was the icon of modernistic progress.  The enlightened man built a powerful statue in the new metropolis of Industrial Age.  The euphoric ideology was building a culture against the earth.  It wanted even to conquer the sky.  It became the paradigm of the modernistic pylon of the Industrial Age, a gesture of aggression against the landscape and its inhabitants.  Like Ian Ritchie says: the pylons as signs of modernistic progress “harms the viewer”.  The implication of this “harm” is reflected in the eye of the post-modern viewer: his eye mirrors the consciousness that the Earth, seen as his natural mother and also experienced as his first home, is in great danger.  Real progress for mankind and real future for the earth are becoming really the same.

Metaphorical Age

Why harms the aesthetic poverty of the technological paradigma, visible in the current pylon designs?  Because of its iconoclastic nature!  In our democratic and universal culture of the image the perception of an iconoclastic design hurts the human eye and soul.  The same would occur when human beings should only speak with each other in symbols of mathematical logic. The cultural richness of human mankind lies in its metaphorical intelligence, source of anthropological energy and inspiration.  The democratic value of progress can only have a long-term life when it grafts itself onto the strong metaphorical stem of the human spirit.  In the true core of our post-modern soul and perception the metaphorical intelligence is arising from its modernistic grave.  What was numb and straight, becomes alive, moves and curves: again the soul becomes body and body becomes landscape.  In Ian Ritchie’s aesthetic concept for transmission lines and pylons, I see a great concern about the true post-modern way of dealing with progress and its metaphorical as well as earthly value.

Sylvain de Bleeckere
Dr. Phil.
20 December 1994