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Home arrow ZOOM arrow 16. BIENNALE ARCHITETTURA | The voice of modern Architecture. Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Kenneth Frampton
16. BIENNALE ARCHITETTURA | The voice of modern Architecture. Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Kenneth Frampton
Written by Giovanni Vio   



«Through his work, Kenneth Frampton occupies a position of extraordinary insight and intelligence combined with a unique sense of integrity. He stands out as the voice of truth in the promotion of key values of architecture and its role in society [...]».

(Yvonne Farrell, Shelley McNamara)


Today we rarely ever read text on paper; we’d rather look at it on a screen, maybe just extracts or even just the images. In this world, however, Modern Architecture: A Critical History, first published in 1980, still enjoys considerable success both as a student textbook in design or history, and to peruse, skim or scan at will.


Author Kenneth Frampton says of himself that he is no theoretician but simply someone who writes about architecture. As Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara have incisively pointed out, Frampton’s analysis is humanistic in spirit. He deserves acclaim for deconstructing the product of architecture to explore the bi-directional relationships between the built object, the space, society and the individual person, to identify the motivations and stimuli that bring about certain choices and determine the destiny of a project.

In any culture, innovation and tradition are strongly interwoven; and as he argued in Towards a Critical Regionalism: Six Points for an Architecture of Resistance (1983), they turn projects into a bridge between the present and the past, or multiple pasts.


This critical acuity is partly derived from Frampton’s experience as a practising architect before he switched to teaching.

Certainly, we are looking at practical knowledge involving asking fundamental questions, detached from philosophies that, particularly when applied to the contemporary, risk irrelevance. Materials, technology and tradition as it impacts a project’s location are some of the elements on which any design depends, as he affirmed in Studies in Tectonic Structures (1995).


The citation for awarding the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement to Kenneth Frampton acknowledges his intellectual integrity and his efforts to highlight the dysfunctional aspects of several, often misguided, architectural trends of the 20th and 21st centuries. The abandonment of the essentials of architecture, in favour of superficial commercial advantage or shallow ideologies, still compromises contemporary architecture criticism to this day. It ignores the experience and knowledge of the individual and further distances students from the key values of architecture.


To describe the impact of Kenneth Frampton’s work, it is said that there is no architecture student unfamiliar with his works. Outside the world of English-speaking schools of architecture, it may seem idealistic – but we can certainly recognise it as an act of faith and hope for a better future.