Actors and Vehicles of Architectural Criticism (15)

On Via Gluck: Adriano Celentano as Architectural Critic
Erik Wegerhoff
Technische Universität, München

Italian superstar Adriano Celentano’s well-known hit Il ragazzo della via Gluck (1966) is not the only song in which the singer-songwriter criticizes modern architecture and urbanization; his I want to know (1976) about the lack of space in modern apartments being at least nationally just as famous. My contribution proposes a perspective on the Italian pop star as a critic of architecture, analyzing Celentano’s lyrics and music as well as their extraordinarily successful dissemination. What such pop-criticism (obviously) lacks in expertise, I will argue, it gains in proximity to the audience and acute awareness of the experience of architecture in the everyday. What is more, the Ragazzo della Via Gluck addresses the post-war suburban reality of Italian cities at a time when key figures of the professional debate such as Robert Venturi or Colin Rowe were idealizing the Italian inner city and its piazza. With its spot-on polemics and ignorance of professional concerns and terms, Celentano’s criticism seems more informed and actually was at the spearhead postmodern critique.
What is particularly interesting regarding the workshop’s focus on competencies is Celentano’s incompetence in architecture and his competence in music. Already the title of his I want to know brings up his lack of understanding, in this case the incapacity of a lay person to grasp the aims of modern architecture. Celentano’s music, on the other hand, perfectly mirrors the design and experience of the modern housing estates he criticizes with its pronounced repetitiveness and almost annoyingly slow rhythm.
I thus propose to extend the notion of the actors and vehicles of architectural criticism to singer-songwriters and pop songs. Not least their capacity to reach an audience far beyond the limits of the discipline underlines their status as central contributors and contributions to a debate on architecture beyond elite circles.


Erik Wegerhoff (* 1974) is Senior Assistant at the Chair for the History and Theory of Architecture (professor Maarten Delbeke) at the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta) at ETH Zurich, Switzerland. He studied architecture at the Technische Universität Berlin with a year abroad at the Architectural Association in London. 2004-2005 fixed-term lecturer at Habitat Unit, TU Berlin. 2005 Grand Tour along the classical eighteenth-century route bymotorino. 2006-2010 PhD at ETH Zurich supervised by Andreas Tönnesmann and Norbert Miller on the re-uses and re-interpretations of the Colosseum after antiquity, supported by grants of the Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max Planck Institute for Art History), Rome, and the Gerda Henkel Foundation, and published as Das Kolosseum: Bewundert, bewohnt, ramponiert, Berlin: Wagenbach, 2012. 2010-2017 fixed-term lecturer at the Chair for the History and Theory or Architecture, Art and Design (professor Dietrich Erben) at Technische Universität München. 2012-2013 postdoctoral fellow of the Centre allemand d’histore de l’art in Paris with a research project on the automobile in architectural discourse of the twentieth century. Erik continues to work on this (second book) project, and has published essays on post-criticality in contemporary architecture (Future Anterior, Kritische Berichte) as well as architecture crits (Baumeister). His most recent edited book examines roads and how these are featured in genres such as literature, music, and photography (On the Road / Über die Strasse, Berlin 2016).

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