Without Rhetoric: An Architectural Aesthetic, 1955-1972

Front Cover
"When le Corbusier assembled Vers Une Architecture,"write the Smithsons, "he gave to young architects everywhere a way of looking at the emergent machine-served society, and from that, a way of looking at antiquity and a rationale to support his personal aesthetic. Viollet-le-Duc had performed the same service to architects before le Corbusier: the role they played is traditional to the development of architecture. In this essay, based on material written between 1955 and 1972, we try to do the same as these architects before us.

"We write to make ourselves see what we have got in the inescapable present...to give another interpretation of the same ruins...to show a glimpse of another aesthetic."

The Smithsons gained an international reputation in the early 1950s, both for their buildings and for being instrumental in the development of the "thoughtful" approach to modern architecture. Their theoretical accommodation of the economic and social context in which the architect/urbanist works was set out as succinctly as possible in Urban Structuring,published in 1967. Team 10 Primer,first published in a special issue of Architectural Designin 1962, and subsequently brought up to date and published by The MIT Press in book form in 1968, documented the Smithsons' search with other leading architect/urbanist/teachers for a technique of working together, a skill or way of thinking that past cultures obviously had but that seemed to be lost to the builders in our present cities.

Without Rhetoric—concerned with architectural form and its material embodiment—is a parallel volume to Ordinariness and Light(The MIT Press, 1970), which contained those essays concerning urban form written over the years 1952-1960. Architecture tends to be long-lasting, which makes thoughtful architects cautious, anxious to try to understand, to respond intelligently. They tend to dig into things, so that their intuition has as sound a base as possible to work on. Without Rhetoricis a refinement of the results of twenty years of such digging, intended to give the reader a real feeling for these particular architects' interests and obsessions. Among the many subjects discussed in word and image are The New Brutalism...the role of advertising in shaping what we think we need...The Rocket, a statement on the present state of architecture...Mies van der Rohe, a homage...some meditations on Braun...The use of repetition....

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About the author (1974)

The British architect Alison Smithson has produced one of the most significant and influential bodies of work of the second half of the 20th century. Her books include Urban Structuring, Ordinariness and Light, Without Rhetoric, The Shift, and the influential Team X Primer. Alison Smithson died in 1993.

The British architect Peter Simpson has produced one of the most significant and influential bodies of work of the second half of the 20th century. His books include Urban Structuring, Ordinariness and Light, Without Rhetoric, The Shift, and the influential Team X Primer.

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