The “Open Form” Manifesto



The “Open Form” Manifesto

Poland, 1959

Author: Oskar Hansen

“Is the difference between contemporary sculpture and the works of Michelangelo in terms of difference and their relation to space still a matter of superficial changes? … Was the primary idea behind the compositional design of the housing structures of the Interbau estate in Berlin (1957) focused on the representation of the differences between the individualities of their inhabitants? Were those buildings ready to absorb the changes and events taking place during the lifetime of the form? I characterize here various kinds of visual intervention just to call attention to their helplessness in meeting our contemporary needs. Those works are above all personal monuments to their authors. Therefore, it seems, they ought to be more or less alien to each of us. As hermetic compositions, filled up to the brim, they become peremptory, and thus evoke imperviousness on various levels … Those monuments are the corollary of composing by way of closed form, in which the formal and often also the contextual components are fixed. They are passive towards changes in time. The moment they are born they become antiques … Closed form. The decision taken in my name. I am standing next to the process. There is no way to find your identity here – your own self. All these are somebody else’s souvenirs, feelings, somebody else’s houses and housing settlements.

How to find the way out of this situation? It seems that, today – utilizing the large output of the closed form, with the support of new ways of visual education, and with the new organisation of resources – right now we are able to begin the creation of a new organic art of our time, the art that is compositionally based on the open form. It will awake the desire of existence for every one of us, it will help us to define ourselves and find ourselves in the space and time in which we live. (This new art) will become the space which suits our complex and yet not unexplored psyche, and it will become so because we will constitute the organic elements of this art. We will walk through it, and not around it. Diverse individuality, in all its randomness and bustling, will become the wealth of this space, its participant.

Being a composition of spatial sub-text – it will become a multi-layered phenomenon, constantly alive. In relation to the conventions of the closed form, entailing mainly the craftsmanship of the manufactured object, the conventions of the open composition will imply the activity defined (as) “passe-partout” to the changes taking place in space. It will be the art of events. Time acts more forcefully than it used to, when we could still trust the wholly unchangeable, the once-for-all fixed relation between the elements (of form). The open form is not exclusively a speculative discovery of our times. It is above all the post-observational conclusion of the existing configurations.”

Oskar Hansen, Forma Otwarta, 1959

VIA open-form


Oskar Hansen’s “Open Form” manifesto links with the previous idea of housing as part of an environment and in interaction with it and, in particular, facing the concept of “closed” that had marked up to this moment, according to Hansen, whole history of architecture. It should be clarified that the term open is originally a thermodynamic notion. They are systems whose intelligibility is due not only to the system itself, but also to its relationship with the environment. Entropy could only arise in open systems, resulting from interactions between the system and the ecosystem. The open concept is defined as opposed to the closed systems of classical physics. The latter could be explained exclusively from the internal structure of the system, since they were considered in isolated and idealized situations. The transition from simple systems to complex systems coincides with the birth of thermodynamics and the consequent opening of enclosures to the eco-system. Faced with the minimal interactions of an isolated system, open systems are complex by their very nature.

El manifiesto de la “Forma abierta”de Oskar Hansen enlaza con la idea anterior de la vivienda como parte de un entorno y en interacción con éste y en concreto en oposición al concepto de “cerrado” que había marcado hasta este momento, según Hansen, a toda la historia de la arquitectura. Conviene aclarar que el término abierto es, originalmente, una noción termodinámica.  Son  sistemas  cuya  inteligilidad  se  debe  no  sólo  al  sistema mismo, sino también a su relación con el ambiente. La entropía sólo podía surgir en sistemas abiertos, resultado de las interacciones entre el sistema y el eco-sistema. El  concepto  abierto  se  define  por  oposición  a  los  sistemas  cerrados  de la física clásica. Estos últimos podían ser explicados exclusivamente desde la propia estructura interior del sistema, ya que se les consideraba en situaciones  aisladas  e  idealizadas.  El  paso  de  los  sistemas  simples  a  los sistemas complejos coincide con el inicio de la termodinámica y la consiguiente apertura de los recintos cerrados hacia el eco-sistema. Frente a las mínimas interacciones de un sistema aislado, los sistemas abiertos son complejos por su propia naturaleza.

Manuel Pérez Romero – nodo17



“The “Open Form” Manifesto”. Evolutionary Urbanism

2 thoughts on “The “Open Form” Manifesto

  1. Pingback: L’Urbanisme Mobile | EVOLUTIONARY URBANISM

  2. Pingback: Metabolism 1960 | EVOLUTIONARY URBANISM

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