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Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky @ the CCA

Posted by Sisi / September 24, 2007

Bernard Rudofsky © Photo: Wilfried Krüger

Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky, 4 july to 30 september 2007 at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (1920 Baile)

“I believe that in the arts and architecture, the sensuous pleasures should come before the intellectual ones.” - Bernard Rudofsky (1905-1988)

After a tour of the exhibition, Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky felt less like a title and more like the truth; by the end of it, it seemed as though I’d been taught a few things by an engaging friend.

As I moved through the various multimedia offerings on display, a portrait emerged of a profoundly intelligent and compassionate personality who touched on issues in his lifetime that are still important to us today: the art of living, urbanization and the environment, and the transformation of the human body.

View of the installation "Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky"
Photo: Michel Legendre © Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal

Described as “neither an architect nor a theorist in the usual sense of these terms,” Bernard Rudofsky always sought to expose and remedy what he perceived as the lack of “sensuality” in our daily lives. His idea of the perfect home lay somewhere between the Mediterranean and Japanese houses with their respective adherence to the land’s natural topography and use of light materials such as bamboo.

My favorite part of the retrospective was the section entitled The Unfashionable Human Body, wherein Rudofsky examines the seemingly arbitrary ways in which we dress ourselves. Seeing a side-by-side comparison of a traditional Chinese lily foot and the modern-day stiletto, for example, make me wonder if we're really just suckers for punishment. In fact, the severity of women's shoe fashions led Rudofsky and his wife Berta to establish their own successful line of footwear.

Perhaps the most important thing Rudofsky can teach us is the importance of a more responsible school of architecture that doesn’t try to “conquer” nature but instead to integrate with it. With our modern-day preoccupations about environmental issues and the rise of the global warming movement, the teachings contained within Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky are more relevant than ever.



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