Architecture Myths #3: Futurist Early Deaths
In response to a question posted by Francisco, I checked up on the dates and cause of death of the main Futurists. Most of them were born in the early 1880s and most of them lived to be about 70. That they all died young and when at war is true of only one, Antonio Sant’ Elia – who is lumped with the Futurists by virtue of having lived around the same time and by being forward looking, rather than “futurist” per-se. Umberto Boccioni died young and while in the army, but prior to seeing active duty.
It seems I’m guilty of having perpetrated the myth that The Futurists “characteristically” died young as a result of their aesthetic beliefs. I’m not even sure if this was even true of Sant’ Elia. Wikipedia says he was a nationalist as well as an irredentist (= people who say “give us back that land it belongs to us!”) so it’s possible he would have been keen to fight anyway.
On page 447 of his book “Space, Time & Architecture”, Sigfried Gideon notes the following.
Le Corbusier was born in 1887 and Sant’Elia was born in 1888. In 1916 nobody knew if Le Corbusier’s talent would have developed either but, on the basis of what they were doing in 1916, I’d have put my money on Sant’Elia to come up with useful ways for the future of buildings to be. Gideon uses Sant’Elia as an excuse to write about Le Corbusier whose ‘vision’, come to think of it, not only didn’t direct the way architecture then went, but also didn’t present any viewpoint that hadn’t already been presented.
“the Futurist house must be like a gigantic machine”
Antonio Sant’Elia, Futurist Manifesto, 1914
“a house is a machine for living in”
Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architeture, 1923
There’s an English translation of Sant’Elia’s Futurist Manifesto of Architecture here.