Published in DASH #06 - Living in a New Past
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From Critical Regionalism to Critical Realism

Challenging the Commodification of Tradition

In 1990, Dutch architecture critic Hans van Dijk declared that the concept of ‘critical regionalism’ had become obsolete. This was stated in his review of the debates that occurred during the seminar ‘Context and Modernity. The Delft International Working Seminar on Critical Regionalism’, held at the Faculty of Architecture of Delft University of Technology. ‘After being used for ten years’, van Dijk argued, ‘too many negative and incorrect meanings have become attached to this pair of notions for it to serve as a trustworthy vehicle for an idea anymore, let alone an attitude, code of ethics or a source of hope and expectation.’1 There is a precise moment when, according to van Dijk, the banner of critical regionalism was hauled down. It was when Alexander Tzonis, one of the inventors of the term, concluded his lecture at the seminar by crossing out some letters in ‘critical regionalism’, forming a new term: ‘critical realism’. Van Dijk reports that, for Tzonis, the word ‘region’ should be understood metaphorically and thus regionalism could be better expressed by realism.2

  • This review was originally published in the journal Archis (July 1990). Trans-lated to English in Hans van Dijk, ‘The banner Critical Regionalism hauled down’, in: Gerard Bergers (ed.), Context and Modernity. A Post-Seminar Reading (Delft: Stylos, 1991), 18.
  • Ibid., 19.

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