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Published in Transportable Environments: Theory, Context, Design, and Technology, edited by Robert Kronenburg (London: E & FN Spon, 1998), pp. 8-17. Copyright © 1998 E & FN Spon/Routledge/Taylor & Francis. Used by permission.


Architectural scholars and professionals have long recognized the erosion of culturally endowed architectural meaning: technology transfer has caused the relationship between form and its means, so evidently reciprocal in indigenous construction, to crumble. Natives and tourists alike now deprecate traditional architecture while applauding the pseudoauthentic. If the irreversible universalization of technology and of man constitutes “a sort of subtle destruction, not only of traditional culture … but also of what I shall call for the time being the creative nucleus of great cultures, that nucleus on the basis of which we interpret life,” is architecture doomed to lose its rneaningfulness?

Portable architecture allows us to contemplate how architecture may still be meaningful in the absence of cultural imprimatur, It may be compared to the temporal and spatial adaptation of a literary work, say, Macbeth performed by Kabuki actors in London and Tokyo, While translation and reinterpretation make the original literary piece portable, architecture, in order to make sense in a foreign land, needs to achieve portability of meaning through use of its own elements, such as color, form, and texture.

This paper will examine two portable theaters: Aldo Rossi’s “Teatro del Mondo” and Tadao Ando’s “Karaza.” Wherever they are set, they succeed in being meaningful architecture, Through their inherent properties, pure to the point of abstraction and rudiment, they ground themselves in the basic references of humanity: body, world, and time.

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