UNPRECEDENTED REALISM: Selections from the Machado Silvetti Archive

Eight Drawings of various views of fanciful architecture proposal

Porta per Venezi Piazzale Roma, Venice, Italy, (Perspectives) [1990]; Machado, Rodolfo (Buenos Aires, 1942), Silvetti, Jorge (Buenos Aires, 1942); Project Coordinator Tehrani, Nader; Project Team Becker, Daniel and Gutierrez, Gerard and Ponce de Leon, Monica.

The exhibition marks the celebration of Jorge Silvetti’s retirement from the GSD after 46 years along with the acquisition of the Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti Collection by the Special Collections at the Frances Loeb Library.

125 pieces of two-dimensional work, 30 models, and more than 500 pieces of discursive material have been selected from the archive for the exhibition. These items stand in for the primary subject in Machado and Silvetti’s life-long production — buildings. Whether built or unbuilt, whether a vehicle for theoretical ideas or an autonomous artifact onto itself, the work of Machado and Silvetti is and has always been about buildings.

The focus on the primacy of buildings is present at the very beginning of the architectural archival collection, as it serves as a repository of secondary material compiled for use in construction.

From the earliest documents on Gothic Cathedrals traced back to the Middle Ages to the architectural models dated back to the Renaissance, the materials initially collected as evidence of construction evolved into the primary source materials for theoretical training of architects.

The materials selected from Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti’s Collection encompass the foundational mediums of the historical architectural archive. From representative architectural drawings for exhibitions, speculative drawings for design explorations, working documents for specifying the building project; to models, construction sets, material samples and mock ups; the selected archival materials reflect the entire scope of the design and building processes to enhance our understanding of a building and the mind of its architects.

50 years ago, Machado and Silvetti inaugurate “Architecture without guilt” when describing the Fountain House. While introducing their culminating seminar at the GSD, this quote is repurposed, “Architecture without guilt, or what’s wrong with splendid buildings?” The title of the exhibition reflects their appreciation of the pleasures of architecture independent of the unrealistic burden architecture had often attributed to bear at times of unrest. Conceived during an era of social and political flux, not unlike the current one, the aphorism evokes the desire for an autonomy and liberation from the notion of ‘guilt,’ referred to by Manfredo Tafuri as the impetus behind the search for ‘origins’ for Piranesi.

This exhibition aims to provide a cross section through the career of Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti that offers a series of narratives reflecting the evolution of architecture over the last five decades. While their careers extend into the domains of design history and theory, the materials in the exhibition serve notice that the output of this incomparable pair of architects/educators is obstinately centered on buildings.