Italy Under Construction
Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto
Italy Under Construction
FORM MATTERS PUBLIC AMBITIONS PALIMPSESTS AND INTERFACES EMERGING ECOLOGIES
LUSON BRESSANONE PIANCAVALLO POLCENIGO ERBA SAN QUIRINO BUDOIA BERGAMO MILAN TURIN CHIERI TORRAZZA PIEMONTE TASSAROLO
JESOLO GRADO VENICE
MONTALTO DI CASTRO
Stefano Pujatti, Beniamino Servino: Form Matters 23
Public Ambitions 49
Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi 79
Emerging Ecologies 107
Alessandro Ruggera, Director Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto This publication collects the texts and documents produced for Italy Under Construction, a series of exhibitions dedicated to contemporary Italian architecture organized between 2005 and 2020 by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto and curated by Roberto Damiani. The series was inspired by the belief that— to paraphrase Aldo Rossi in The Architecture of the City—architecture is a human creation inseparable from civic life. As the fixed stage of the everyday activities of a community, architecture is a collective project in which multiple desire lines converge: aesthetic and formal ambitions, efficient material organization, striving for social progress and transformation, and meaningful representation of the past and so of the history of a community. Starting from this conviction, through the cycle of exhibitions an attempt was made to draw a sketch, albeit fragmented and provisional, of the contemporary
architectural landscape in Italy, offering the Toronto public the opportunity to take a look beyond Italy’s well-known architectural heritage or work by more established Italian architectural firms that is already known in Canada. The latest of the exhibitions presented, Emerging Ecologies, combines the work of four Italian offices with as many Canadian ones, making even more explicit the aspiration of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in presenting Italy Under Construction: to strengthen the dialogue and cultural exchange between Italy and Canada. On this note, the crucial collaboration with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design at the University of Toronto made it possible to organize a series of conferences and presentations that complemented the exhibitions, giving students and the public the opportunity to engage in conversation with the invited Italian architects. As it often happens, this series is also the result of fortuitous conversations and 8
encounters. Among the many inspiring people I met through it, I would like to mention the architects Roberto Damiani and Stefano Pujatti. Without them, this project would not have been possible. The conversation and exchange of ideas with both has proven to be fundamental, as was the tireless work of the staff of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. My thanks to them, as well as to all the architects and offices that have accepted our invitation to join the Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto in this exciting journey.
Roberto Damiani, Curator Italy Under Construction Italy Under Construction is a series of exhibitions and public lectures on contemporary architecture in Italy sponsored and promoted by the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto. With the Canadian city serving as a venue for transatlantic exchange, the exhibitions open up a conversation on the relevance of new architecture in Italy in relation to the following questions: In a globalized yet fragmented world, how can architecture re-evaluate its cultural and political role and enable practices of identification and belonging? What role does architecture play in shaping the relationship between regional and global cultures? Between the global hunger for architectural icons and claims for the authenticity of regional expressions, what is the architect’s agency within and against contemporary modes of architectural production? This book documents the first four exhibitions, hosted in the Istituto’s gallery between 2015 and 2020. The series was brought
about by circumstance in summer 2015. The original idea for it came from the newly appointed director, Alessandro Ruggera. He it had in mind to present Italy not just as a unique repository of architectural history but also as a very active laboratory of architectural design practices. Some conversations with the architect Stefano Pujatti provided extra input. Also new to Toronto, Pujatti became involved with several projects that brought Italian artists and architects to Canada’s largest city; as a sort of liaison, he kept us up to date with the most interesting developments in Italian architecture. Since our first conversation, we had agreed on using the series to introduce lesser known firms—the large number of digital and physical publications were already extensively covering the work of well-established international firms such as Renzo Piano and Massimiliano Fuksas. The series takes as a starting point other curatorial experiences, such as the exhibition Italy Now? promoted by the Department of Architecture, Art, and Planning at Cornell University and hosted in Ithaca in 2007.1 Displaying the work of twenty younger 1
Alberto Alessi, ed., Italy Now? Country Positions in Architecture (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007).
firms, Italy Now? presented a newly emerging landscape of architectures whose formal approaches and agendas follow different ideological and aesthetic paths. Aware of the impossibility of presenting a national lingua franca, the series Italy Under Construction adopted two different, yet related curatorial formats. The first one, adopted for the exhibitions pairing the work of Elastico and Beniamino Servino and of Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi, is a backto-back presentation of the dialects between the two architects showing certain similarities but inherently different from each other. The second format, that of Public Ambitions and Emerging Ecologies, displays a selection of individual built projects designed by different firms arranged thematically. By presenting Italian and Canadian projects together, Emerging Ecologies, also the latest chronologically, aims to discuss not just the specificity of Italian architecture but also what it shares with design ideas and practices in Canada. The choice to show mostly built work came after one of my senior colleagues at the University of Toronto, right after my arrival here, asked me, “What happened to
Italian architecture? We haven’t heard anything since Aldo Rossi.” The decision proved successful in making the series accessible to a broader public beyond architects and scholars. Seen from far away, what does contemporary Italian architecture look like? What is it that makes it Italian? As assessed by Italian architectural historians like Manfredo Tafuri and Marco De Michelis,2 and restated by the recent exhibition at Cornell, if there is an identity in contemporary Italian architecture it should not be sought in a common architectural language. The controversial legacy of the work of Aldo Rossi, the last architect whose approach had a large consensus in Italy, the new extradisciplinary influences coming from European and global networks of intellectual exchange, and the regional specificities have informed a quite heterogenous patchwork of architectural practices. Despite the cultural fragmentation, the four exhibitions made visible three topics of 2
Marco De Michelis, “Observations on Italian Architecture at the End of the Century,” in “Postwar Italian Architecture 1944-1960,” ed. Luca Molinari, special issue, 2G (Barcelona, 2000): 131–43.
intellectual exchange. Although they don’t define an aesthetic or intellectual canon, they can be of some help to delineate a common ground across the multiple architectural communities in Italy. The first topic is the awareness of architecture as a social practice that implies a critical understanding of the context and its many different forms, not just as a physical manifestation but also a political, social, and cultural one. Both Public Ambitions and Emerging Ecologies highlighted this significant aspect in the fourteen projects on display. The second topic is the urban vocation: Italian architects have seen the city as a territory of constant aspiration and inspiration. The urban typologies of Cino Zucchi and Secchi and Viganò are just two of the most engaging examples of a consistent attention to the fast-changing urban environment which is far from the 1980s’ fascination with pre-modern urban fabrics. Another example is the church in Rome by Garofalo Miura. Inspired by the ancient archetype of the acropolis, the complex aims to function as a core of one of the recent new towns built around the capital city.
Perhaps the 2008 financial crisis is the most important event since the Italy Now? exhibition. Most of the promising firms did not have many opportunities to build and had to look for alternative ways to produce architecture. The shared interest in exploring the practice of architecture outside of the conventional professional boundaries could be seen as the third topic of cultural exchange. As a consequence of the lack of professional commissions and the increasing popularity of new digital platforms, Italian architects have been using writing and drawing as a means of architectural investigation and production—an approach well represented in the work of Beniamino Servino and Renato Rizzi. Along with the three topics, there is another key factor that may help understand the specificity of contemporary Italian architecture: a system of mandatory public design competitions. Compared to North America, the existence of public competitions facilitates the production of buildings that exceed the standard of vernacular architecture and offer unique opportunities to rethink 16
architecture’s civic role through design experimentation. Design competitions have proven to be a unique resource for younger, small architecture firms to enter a professional market driven more and more by large design consultancies often chosen because of their managerial expertise. The exhibition Public Ambitions showed how the generational mix of the Italian professional landscape is one of the positive outcomes of the large number of design competitions. In the lecture for Public Ambitions, Paola Viganò clearly stated that the Italian architectural discourse must be understood in connection with the larger European one. Are open public competitions that make the exchange of ideas across European countries possible, as exemplified by Renato Rizzi’s theatre in Gdańsk, Secchi and Vigano’s square in Antwerpen, and Peter Latz’s Parco Dora in Turin. I feel that a critical understanding of architectural design as a cultural act, the city, the courage to test alternative approaches to more conventional modes of architectural practice, and the system of public
design competitions are the four features that characterize the singularity of contemporary Italian architecture. The lack of clear directions of Italian architecture took Italian observers like De Michelis, among others, by surprise, and they related it to the ongoing social and political decay of the country. More than twenty years later, despite the worsening of the social and political scene, the broad range of outlooks on architecture should be seen rather as an unavoidable condition of a globalized world and as a promising hint of the architect’s will to expand the boundaries of architectural investigation. In the power plant by MoDus architects and the parking garage by CeZ, the themes of monumentality and the ordinary that informed Italian modernism are inflected by a sensibility for visual arts and landscape architecture that shows the worldliness of a discipline that is open to change. While the exhibitions tried to document the rich regional distribution of Italian architecture, the majority of modern architecture on display still came from 18
large cities such as Rome, Milan, and Turin. Some thoughtful architecture in smaller urban contexts could not hide the gap between northern and southern regions, which has become wider than it was before the 2008 financial crisis. Nonetheless, the four shows confirmed that despite the still plodding economy, slowed down by bureaucracy and lack of political vision, Italian architects are producing new, engaging buildings and landscape architecture without disavowing the country’s long architectural history. The series is a collective project that has benefited from the talent, passion, and commitment of many people. I want to thank the Alessandro Ruggera for his passion for contemporary architecture and commitment to sponsoring the series throughout the five years; the invited architects for their availability and constant help with providing the required material; the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design for hosting the public lectures; George Baird, Anne Bordeleau, and Vivian Lee for joining our panel discussions; Renato Rizzi,
Stefano Pujatti, Cino Zucchi, and Paola Viganò for their guest lectures; AZURE for being our media partner; Nuria Montblanch for sharing her exhibition design expertise; ZEEMA for their graphic talent, and Andrea e Giacomo of bruno for the design of the catalogue; Kevin Murray and Craig Rodmore for copyediting the texts; Meghan Burke and Alistair Grierson for their invaluable help in building the show Public Ambitions; and, last but not least, a group of very passionate students from the Daniels Faculty and the staff of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.
Director Alessandro Ruggera Curator Roberto Damiani Exhibition Design Nuria Montblanch Roberto Damiani Graphics and Web ZEEMA Copy editing Kevin Murray Media partner AZURE Magazine Photography Mina Hanna
Stefano Pujatti, Beniamino Servino: Form Matters
November 20, 2015 January 22, 2016
Italy Under Construction
The Istituto Italiano di Cultura is pleased to present Stefano Pujatti, Beniamino Servino: Form Matters, the first exhibition of the new series Italy Under Construction. Through the work of these two Italian architects, the exhibition explores the building’s complex role as a cultural and artistic artifact against two contemporary popular trends: the building as a performative “machine” and as self-referential “object.” The first trend emphasizes the technical aspects of the building—for example, energy—while the second retreats from expressing site specificity and rhetoric. As a result, architectural form as a cultural and political manifestation occupies the margins of architectural discourse. Yet in a country such as Italy, these two global trends have met with a certain resistance. The resistance can be understood in part as the continuation of a long tradition of criticism that praises architecture’s symbolic value and rejects its reduction to an instrumental expression of function, technique, or finance. A building is understood as a cultural and artistic artifact. Stefano Pujatti (Elastico SPA, Turin) and Beniamino Servino (Caserta) share this understanding of architecture as an artistic practice linking design and local culture. Their notion of practice sees the building as both a space maker and a means of communication. By drawing new forms and techniques from as-found architectural elements and materials, they disclose the marvelous within the ordinary, and suggest how small-scale interventions can improve our everyday life. Stefano Pujatti’s work explores architecture as a process of an ongoing interaction with a site, shaped by an attitude that embraces the “circumstantial.” The configuration of his buildings suggests a work in progress, reflecting the tension between the designer’s ambitions, the client’s brief, and the site conditions. In works such as the Atelier Fleuriste, Pujatti reassembles as-found pieces without resisting the visual chaos that characterizes the vernacular architecture 24
25 of Italian urban sprawl. The tectonics of the firm’s single-family houses don’t abstract the visual excesses of the vernacular, but rather try to reframe its visual complexity through the juxtaposition of new and existing geometries. The ability to reuse the ordinary in terms of materiality, technology, and building typology reveals Pujatti’s passion for the visual arts and the vernacular architecture he has visited during his many travels. Beniamino Servino’s work focuses on exploring the potential monumentality hidden in the ordinariness of the abandoned urban landscape of Caserta, his hometown. His drawings and collages take the building types of the church, the water tower, and the pennata and transform them into monuments of everyday life. Against the current obsession to “invent” brand new forms, his practice aims to generate new meanings by mixing existing pieces. A building such as the house for two carpenter brothers demonstrates that the process of metamorphosis can happen without nostalgia. Stefano Pujatti and Beniamino Servino worked together to envision a room. In between the intimate atmosphere of a studiolo and the surprise of entering in a wunderkammer, visitors will experience a fictional Italian landscape assembled from the two architects’ built and unbuilt work.
Stefano Pujatti (b. 1968) was born and raised in northeastern Italy. He graduated in 1992 from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, where he studied with Vittorio Gregotti, Aldo Rossi, and Manfredo Tafuri. Two years later, he received a Fulbright scholarship to study at SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. After working for Coop- Himmelblau in Los Angeles and Gino Valle Architetti in Paris, he founded Elastico Spa in 2004. Elastico’s work was shortlisted for the Mies van der Rohe Award in 2013, the In/ Arch-ANCE Young Architect award in 2006. They have been invited to exhibit their work at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2006, 2010, 2014), at the London Festival of Architecture (2008), and at the Architectural Biennale in Brasilia (2006). Stefano Pujatti has lectured and juried in Italy, as well as in France, Switzerland, Japan, Australia. He was a visiting professor at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, University of Toronto.
Beniamino Servino (b. 1960) lives and practises in Caserta, his hometown. After he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture Federico II at the University of Naples (1985), he started his own firm with a specific interest in the monumental in architecture in the context of abandoned territory. He has been invited to exhibit his work internationally including at the Venice Biennale of Architecture (2006, 2014) and at Cornell University in Ithaca (Italy Now? Counter-Positions in Architecture, 2005). His drawings and collages are widely published. His work was recently exhibited at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City (Cut ’n’ Paste: From Architectural Assemblage to Collage City, 2014). Servino’s most recent publications include the books Monumental Need (2012) and Obvius (2014).
Elastico Spa works together with the studio Elastico 3 of the architect Alberto Del Maschio, located in Budoia (PN), and with the design office Elastico Disegno of Sara Dal Gallo and Guido Chierici, located in Chieri (TO). In 2014 Elastico Spa opened a new office in Toronto, Canada.
Davide Tommaso Ferrando* Proactive Uncertainty
In a well-known 1934 essay published in the Italian magazine Domus, Edoardo Persico criticized Italian architects for being unable to “believe in specific ideologies,”1 claiming that the struggle against “anti-modernism” could only be pursued by taking a position of moral and stylistic consistency. Far from defining a weakening condition, the voluntary rejection of any kind of ideology becomes instead of point for strength for Elasticospa+3. Based on processes of trial and error, the firm has freely developed an empirical and personal design method. If there is a recurrent theme in Elastico’s projects, it lies in the dissatisfaction with accepted practices. Driven by an innate, child-like curiosity for the unknown, they are a led on an obsessive search for unconventional solutions, all the while realistically rooted in the conventional techniques of the construction industry. It is the encounter between the American myth of the frontier with Pop Art, Land Art, and Arte Povera’s interest in the poetics of the everyday: how to reach new degrees of poetic freedom through the transfiguration of the banal. To understand Elastico’s design, it is first of all necessary to briefly dig into the life of its founder, Stefano Pujatti. Born in 1968 in Aviano (Pordenone), a small town in the northeast of Italy. In 1992, Pujatti graduated from Venezia’s IUAV, having studied with internationally renowned architects such as Vittorio Gregotti, Aldo Rossi, Manfredo Tafuri, and Gino Valle, with whom he prepared his final thesis and *
Davide Tommaso Ferrando is an architectural scholar and critic, particularly interested in the intersections between architecture, city, and media. He is research fellow in the Faculty of Design and Art, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano. He is one of the founders of the curatorial project Unfolding Pavilion. Editor of several publications, in 2018 he published his first monographic book, The City in the Image. Edoardo Persico, “Punto e a capo per l’architettura,” in Profezia dell’architettura (Milan: Skira, 2012), 27–65.
Davide Tommaso Ferrando
then worked through the first stage of his professional career. In 1994, Pujatti moved to Los Angeles to pursue his postgraduate studies at SCI-Arc, where he met Deconstructivism’s paladins Thom Mayne and Wolf Prix—the latter being also his thesis advisor. In 1995, with former SCI-Arc colleague Simone Carena and former IUAV colleague Alberto Del Maschio, Pujatti started the architecture practice Elastico. Based in Cambiano (Turin), the office’s early activity developed in a fertile relationship with Simone’s father, Cesario, an architect, owner of a brick factory, and artist close to the Arte Povera movement. In 2005, Pujatti initiated his own firm Elastico.2 The studio is located in an isolated country house— where Pujatti also lives—built at the top of a hill overlooking the fields that surround the city of Turin. The mix of all these experiences—the small hometown, the prestigious universities, the American years, the proximity to art, the current life in the ex-burb—is functional to the comprehension of the rich and diverse imaginary that nurtures the research of Elastico. Elasticospa’s attempts to explore the challenges of architecture without bringing back predetermined formulas shouldn’t be misunderstood as a stance of relativism. On the contrary, it defines the same kind of “preoccupation with multiplicity of stimuli” that Colin Rowe attributes to architects such as Giulio Romano, John Nash, or Edwin Lutyens, and to which he opposes the psychological orientation of those who—like Andrea Palladio, John Soane, or Frank Lloyd Wright—are rather “concerned with the primacy of the single idea.”3 It is in this sense that, when talking about his firm’s working method, Pujatti succinctly refers to doubt—doubting conventional ways of doing things, as well as the securities and routines 2
Simone Carena has moved to Seoul, where he has founded the studio MOTOELASTICO in partnership with Marco Bruno. Alberto Del Maschio is now the owner of Elastico 3, an architecture practice based in Budoia (Pordenone) that often collaborates with Elastico SPA, whose other members are Daniele Almondo, Valeria Brero, and Serena Nano. Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter, Collage City (London and Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1983), 91.
29 related to what would be a more traditional process. As a consequence of being open to calling (almost) everything into question, Elastico’s projects differ widely each other, although they are clearly all related. Yet, as Pujatti ironically states, “our buildings are like the cows of a herd, they are all different but they all belong to the same family.” As a matter of fact, it is altogether possible to isolate some common traits in the architectural production of Elastico, which can be found in some or all of their projects, and which, rather than a “style,” define a series of key points through which their work can be better understood. First: many of their buildings possess an organic, inside-out spatiality, achieved through interiors that are defined by a sequence of sensual spaces full of light, matter and time. It is a four-dimensional space, meant to be experienced dynamically by the eye of the observer, whose moving body is the generator of the surrounding geometry, bringing about a kinesthetic effect that is not so far from that of the promenade architecturale (e.g., the Yuppie Ranch House, Top Gun, and the Golf House). Second: architecture and place, artificial and natural, they all play together in Elastico’s buildings, which organically react to the specific conditions of their context—intended in the widest possible sense of climate, topography, materials, building techniques and regulations, collective imaginary, budget, etc. As a result, their architecture seems to emerge naturally from the cultural landscape, reinforcing a coherent—but often unexpected— genius loci (e.g., the Atelier Fleuriste, Slow Horse, and Jesolo). Third: a picturesque kind of beauty can be found in the projects of Elastico, which is achieved through the rough treatment of textures, the creation of material contrasts, the combination of artificial and natural elements and the fascination with poor/aging/ruined materials. The work is also composed along sinuous lines of force, the construction of spatial intricacy and the juxtaposition of extraordinary and ordinary elements (e.g., the Yuppie Ranch House, Proactive Uncertainty
Davide Tommaso Ferrando
Top Gun, and the Thermal Baths). Fourth: if it is commonly accepted that architecture changes with time, in the work of Elastico this condition assumes a crucial role, as their buildings are specifically designed in order to interact with their surroundings. Architectural form, in this sense, is not intended to be perfect or complete, but rather adaptable to future changes in use and need as well as its poetic transformation by the effects of time and weathering (e.g., the Atelier Fleuriste, Slow Horse, and the Thermal Baths). Fifth: the formal research of Elastico is strictly tied to the economy of construction. Their buildings, in this sense, are complex because they are conceived to be built in complex ways, aiming at expressing the beauty of tectonics in powerful but smart ways (e.g., Slow Horse, Jesolo, and Cani & Gatti). Today that the idea of architecture seems to be evaporating into air more than ever, having its fundamentals being broken apart and rearranged in a variety of alternative practices that can indifferently be spatial, political, or editorial (but is it true that everything is architecture?), Elastico claims that the core of their profession lies in the poetics of the built dimension. Seen in the context of today’s disciplinary big bang, this is just one of many possible statements, and surely not an avantgarde one. Nevertheless, the work of Elastico—similarly to that of architects such as René van Zuuk, Smiljan Radic, or Solano Benitez—reaffirms the great cultural value that architecture, intended as a “mythology of the real,”4 can still express.
This expression is borrowed from Peter Wilson.
Alberto Iacovoni* Despite Servino
We live in a period of great resistance. Resistance to the pervasiveness of the spectacular, to the digital hypertrophy, and to urban marketing’s easy slogans. It is a reaction supported by the new generations who exhume architects and discourses wiped out in the early nineties, such as the nostalgia for the “architecture of the city” moment. From those architects who propose through Illustrator a bare and frozen imaginary like undercover amanuenses, to those who resurrect political theories from half a century ago to support improbable urban scenarios, we see a strong return of the ideas, references, and stylistic features that openly aspire to resist the unbearable lightness of the architectonic spectacle that is changing the face of our planet, from east to west, north to south. Beniamino Servino rightfully belongs to this reaction. If we browse his boundless production of hand drawings, watercolours, and texts it becomes apparent that he reclaims concepts buried in the glorious years of the Tendenza such as archetype, monument, and tradition—a cultural belonging that is attested to by one of his recent Facebook page posts, entitled “Manifesto on the Supremacy of Architecture (Introduction to Italy’s next Venice Biennale pavillion, 2016)”. In the post, he dismisses with a series of “me ne fregos” (I don’t give a damns), all the extra-architectural urgencies that have polluted the discourse on architecture in recent years (ecology, participation, connectivity, among others). His declaration (having gained 117 likes) was a sort of *
Alberto Iacovoni is an architect and a founding member of the architecture firm ma0/emmeazero. Between 1999 and 2004 he was a member of Stalker/Osservatorio Nomade. He has lectured at various universities and institutes, such as the Cornell Program in Rome. He is the author of Game Zone: Playgrounds Between Virtual Scenarios and Reality (Birkhauser, 2003) and Playscape (Libria, 2010).
declaration of war for a champion, and talented provocateur, of the resistance that appears to be fighting a lost battle against the inevitable global spectacularization of architecture. Servino’s reaction works to not only widen the gap between architectural thinking and the major issues that affect our planet, but also the distance between the recent past and its projection into the future, between the cultured discourse on architecture and those contemporary landscapes that were until a few years ago the subject of endless, desperate, often tautological mappings. These landscapes have now been replaced—again—with erudite speculations on the classic Palladio, the pure Mies van der Rohe, or the cadaverous Giorgio Grassi, and a cultural heritage where Italy appears to find its roots, with a return to the international scene and great praise from all. But there is a profound difference that sharply dissociates Servino’s work from this wave of reaction, and keeps it clearly rooted in reality. It is a specificity that he declares, the signature he puts to his drawings: “Architect in Caserta.” Claiming a strong programmatic link with the territory, that of the Campania and southern Italy in general, ravaged by widespread buildings without norm and without culture, by unfinished projects, scattered with ruins of disused industrial and agricultural activities. It is what he defines as the landscape of abandon that is the great inspiration and strength of Servino’s research: a culturally poor landscape from which he obsessively collects and reinterprets as-found buildings. From here, he pulls out the traces of the themes that feed a repertoire—such as the pennata. In a state of abandon, the ruins are peers. Grafted on a multiform and incoherent territory where past and present are combined, the archetypes turn alive and real, as evidenced by his most famous built work, the house in Pozzovetere. In the state of abandonment there are no hierarchies, the 32
33 noble and the upstart deserve the same attention and demand the same dignity. According to Beniamino Servino, the beauty of built landscapes is the outcome of a process of continuous translation, as the transposition and betrayal of the tradition of another time, into a new meaningful constellation. And the value of the gaze that he offers us through his drawings, which make layers using the derelict fragments of the existing, abandoned factories, houses in the suburbs, goes beyond the talent of their author. It is a point of view that can become a common belief, a model for the interventions of other authors. Servino is an exception in the latest wave of resistance. Through his reactionary attitude he performs a sort of miracle: while he furiously circumscribes the operating range of architecture in the domain of pure and vacuous form, he provides possible answers to major questions external to architecture, indicating a potential way to reintegrate into a virtuous cycle what seems forever condemned to a condition of waste, not only aesthetic, but also environmental and social. His work produces the prodigious paradox of an architecture that comes from a specific context, which claims a splendid disciplinary exile, while offering a model for others. Can the landscape of abandonment—in Italy as well as in a certain southern world—offer strategies for improving suburban conditions from within? That’s the paradox of the most environmentally aware architect that I know, despite the fact that he doesn’t give a damn.
Director Alessandro Ruggera Curator Roberto Damiani Exhibition Design Nuria Montblanch Roberto Damiani Atlas Meaghan Burke Models Alistair Grierson
Drawings Neal Baj Scott Carncross Sally Kassar Sungjin Lee Liheng Li John Natanek Ashkan Nazemi Cristopher Tron Nadja Uzelac Evan Wakelin Graphics and Web ZEEMA Copy editing Kevin Murray Media partner AZURE Magazine Photography Roberto Damiani
Invited architects ABDR, Rome Baukuh, Milan CeZ, Bolzano Emanuele Fidone, Siracusa Garofalo Miura, Rome ifdesign, Milan MDU Architetti, Prato Modus Architects, Bressanone Scandurra Studio, Milan Studio Secchi Viganò, Milan
April 6 May 6, 2016
Italy Under Construction
Across social and spatial boundaries, the definition and architectural expression of what is public is undergoing a profound transformation. On the one hand, as governments decrease their investments in the architecture of public spaces, social experience is demoted to the form and character of privatized environments such as shopping malls. On the other hand, the popularity of virtual platforms is extending the conventional limits of the public sphere and redefining architecture as both an inhabitable site and a fluid image. To negotiate these conditions architects must articulate strategies to reinterpret historically prominent forms of public space while pursuing new meanings to engage and represent common space. Architects have responded to shifts in the public realm by exploring new dimensions of transit and energy infrastructure while extending the traditional repertoire of public forms such as streets, squares, plazas, and institutional and sacred buildings. In order to support and legitimize public architecture as an essential aspect of everyday life, Italy and much of Europe have also pursued design quality through a mandate of design competitions. Public Ambitions exhibits ten works recently built in Italy that sensitively address the contemporary challenges of building public architecture from the three perspectives of architectural form, urban presence, and occupancy as captured through mass media images. The invited architects are: ABDR (Rome); Baukuh (Milan); CeZ (Bolzano); Emanuele Fidone (Siracusa); Garofalo Miura (Rome); ifdesign (Milan); mdu architetti (Prato); MoDus architects (Bressanone); Scandurra Studio Architettura (Milan); Studio Paola Viganò (Milan). Public Ambitions opened in Toronto at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura on April 6, 2016, followed by a lecture and discussion with the architects Paola Viganò (Studio Viganò, Milan) and Francesco Garofalo (Garofalo Miura, Rome) on April 7 at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design. 50
Giovanni Corbellini* Common Places against Commonplaces: Italian Public Architecture The top-down paradigm according to which the idea and role of the modernist architect was conceived has long since dissolved into a fragmented and contradictory landscape. Architectural design has shifted from a highly hierarchical procedure to an activity that often negotiates a “range of stakeholders.” Architects are now positioned as mediators between private interests and the public sphere. They constantly deal with their own professional interests, representing different forms of power, compliance to law, and community demands. The blurry definition of what public to address further complicates the acrobatic exercise performed upon a dialectical tightrope drawn between tradition and innovation. Subjectivities now exist via an unprecedented degree of media exposure, while public functions, facilities, and infrastructure are increasingly privatized, regulated, and surveilled. Now claimed by people who react against its commodification, the common has become a contested terrain where architectural thinking can carve out a space for experimentation. The complicated background of contemporary public design has become obscure in the homeland of urban typology, where the model of the piazza took hold and evolved. In the three paintings of The Ideal City (1470–80), an original concept of “urban space” as a holistic understanding of the relationship between buildings and open space was codified through centralized perspective. This relationship among buildings, and of buildings with the void surrounding them, is still one of urban design’s driving ideologies—even as the *
Giovanni Corbellini is an architect and architecture critic, and a professor at the Politecnico di Torino. His last book is titled Lo spazio dicibile. Architettura e narrativa (LetteraVentidue, 2016).
organization of power and society that produced it has undergone radical transformations. Yet in spite of a long continuity of urban culture, Italy as state is relatively young, assembled from many regional entities joining together. Italy is an even younger democracy— that’s probably why Italians’ sense of the common is so weak and the dialogue between central and local governments so difficult. The forces conflicting with the common include tax evasion, corruption, extensive lawlessness dimly contrasted by overregulation and inefficient bureaucracy, continuous transfer of collective resources to private ownership, pervasive individualism and local rivalry, a disinclination to share decisions and bring them to their final resolution, and a widespread tendency to exploit everything as a Trojan horse for something else (for instance design competitions, too often used only as political tools). The consequences of these factors on our architecture and urban forms are evident in a number of ways, as shown in Incompiuto Siciliano,1 an ongoing art project documenting partially built postwar public-sector architecture in Italy. The website presents a map of the Italian peninsula dotted by six hundred incomplete public buildings: evidence of private behaviours that affect the whole society and feed the paradox of the country of architects—one hundred fifty thousand, or one in four hundred inhabitants—without architecture. The first chapter of architecture critic Pippo Ciorra’s recent pamphlet Senza Architettura2 starts with a story about a modern, temporary building, set in the very centre of an Italian historical city. The pavilion was removed before its scheduled dismantling by a new mayor, who sought its removal in the name of the “people’s will.” A similar public polemic followed the erection of the Expo Gate by Scandurra Studio. The Gate’s reception reveals the pervasive hostility to transformation by advocates for historical purity (whose 1 2
For more details on Incompiuto Siciliano, see www.incompiutosiciliano.org. Pippo Ciorra, Senza Architettura (Rome and Bari: Laterza, 2011).
53 certainties stubbornly resist the sheer fact that history cannot help but happen). Temporariness becomes both symptom of and a reaction to this difficult condition for Italian contemporary design. The works exhibited in Public Ambitions reveal a toolkit for the subtle art of introducing new public forms in an Italian context. Emanuele Fidone’s intervention in a former nineteenth-century covered market in Syracuse’s city centre provides, for instance, a seamless continuity, thanks to his careful use of colour and material, managed through a modern but complementary vocabulary. Sinking the building is another strategy for preserving the visual connection to the context. The stations of the new metro line B in Rome designed by ABDR minimize their presence in the townscape through glazed and embedded structures. The stations dig deep into the ground in order to reach the rail line, and take advantage of this operation by revealing the complexity of the project’s section. Daylight and vistas, features that define these Roman projects, play a decisive role in another infrastructural intervention, placed below grade in a very different context. Luson is a little town in South Tyrol on whose beautiful outskirts Carlo Calderan and Rinaldo Zanovello built a sunken parking garage. Three “eyes” pinch the green slope, offering a view of the meadows below, the valley entrance in the distance, and the mountains behind. Both the subway stations and the parking garage house public open spaces, gardens, playgrounds and sports facilities on top of transportation infrastructure. The packaging of infrastructure with a friendly interface is a strategy shared by another South Tyrolean project, the cogeneration plant realized by MoDus Architects in Bressanone. Here, within a cool Alpine valley, the surplus heat generated in an energy plant produces a warm microclimate that serves to attract year-round use. The screening of the energy plant Common Places against Commonplaces
does not exclude the project from indulging in the symbology of the project as a monument to political ambition: the structure is equipped with LEDs that gleam through the night like a coloured lantern. Nightlife and artificial light are crucial issues in theatre design, and the one designed in Montalto di Castro by MDU Architects deals with them accordingly. Its interplay between huge walls, glass slits, and the translucent superstructure of a fly tower dematerialize the building mass at dusk, giving the concrete monolith a ruin-like appeal. Its archaic-machinist dialectic feeds upon the conflicting identities of this little town of Central Italy, suspended between the Etruscan past and the ENEL power plant, one of the biggest in Italy. An analogous peripheral situation is dealt with by the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie of Garofalo Miura Architects in Rome. A cloister typology is sampled from the city centre and grafted into a recent suburban neighbourhood. The building aims to provide both a secluded place and an acropolis-like object. Ifdesign’s NoiVoiLoro (WeYouThem) centre for disabled persons in Erba is also situated in a recent development, even more fragmented. The project chooses to turn its back on the context, recreating a complex urbanity within the plot; different buildings “hug” an open court, formalizing the welcoming ethos of the nonprofit initiative. All these proposals, even the temporary installation by Scandurra Studio, employ strategies of connecting with urban history, with the places and types produced in the incredibly rich architectural laboratory of the Italian city. Abroad, these approaches find analogous opportunities. Antwerp’s Theaterplein by Bernardo Secchi and Paola Viganò is a bold gesture that weaves together a complex central urban area—its present activities and repressed memories. The image of baukuh’s model for the House of Memory, shot in front of Milan’s Duomo, remind us that that 54
55 translating history is an ambition that Italian architects will not easily renounce. The quality of the projects presented in the exhibition, their brilliant design solutions, and the sheer fact that private and public clients fight for a project’s realization, that competition entries finally do get built, and that people use and enjoy these spaces, are all evidence of a changing scene.
Common Places against Commonplaces
Manuel Orazi* Public Space Dilemmas
In 2014, the Bordeaux Biennale, curated by Youssef Tohme, focused on public space.1 Public space has been placed at the centre of architectural practice for many years. I would like to argue that it is also a broad term that has been abused in architectural research and practice, and, as Thierry Paquot illustrated in an essay published after the financial crisis of 2008, its extensive use has generated many cliches.2 Public comes from the Latin word publicus, short for populicus, which translates to people in English. This etymology reveals that the appeal to populism is in some way embedded in the notion of public space, Bernard Rudofsky and Alejandro Aravena being just two of the many prominent architects who have embraced the public as a platform for virtuous architecture.3 The etymology and contemporary use of the term public also reveals that it is a concept that is different from what we experience and identify as common. Whereas we use the term common to indicate something we all share without paying for, what we define as public often has a clear legal property status—streets, squares, public buildings, etc. In turn, it can imply a fee: land taxes or user fees, for instance. Situated against the concept of the common, the public carries some advantage due to its longer history and defined legal status. In the words of the French legal expert *
1 2 3
Manuel Orazi is an architectural historian and a lecturer at the University of Ferrara. He is the editor of the architecture series for the publisher Quodlibet. After editing the Italian edition of Learning from Las Vegas (Quodlibet, 2010), his most recent book is titled Yona Friedman: The Dilution of Architecture (Park Books, 2015). He is also a columnist for the newspaper Il Foglio. See Rome Public Space Biennal, http://www.biennalespaziopubblico.it/ international/. Thierry Paquot, L’espace public (Paris: La Découverte, 2009). Jean-Louis Cohen, “Promesses et impasses du populisme,” Cahiers de la recherche architecturale et urbaine 15–16 (July 2004): 167–84.
Yan Thomas, “The ancient Roman law defined a strong proximity between what is public and what is sacred. Both terms are used to define what is excluded from any private or individual domain.”4 Since public space is deeply connected to the foundations of European political and urban history, it would be informative to remember its connection to the history of violence or conflict upon which religions and civilizations are founded.5 Today, the postwar definition of public space as “the void in between buildings” given by the Spanish architect Josep Lluís Sert at the Hoddesdon CIAM in 19516 appears without nuance or awareness of the complexity of negotiating and designing a public space. Certainly grasping public space now implies an understanding of global phenomena such as networked information systems, mass tourism, informal urbanization, or forms of urban segregation, which complicate any purely spatial definition or politically idealized notion of public space as an agora or embodiment of democracy. At the 2014 Biennale in Bordeaux, the journalist and architecture critic Karine Dana interviewed architects and planners on the topic of contemporary public space design.7 Through interviews with Pier Vittorio Aureli, Bruno Fortier, Yona Friedman, Kersten Geers, Rem Koolhaas, Lacaton and Vassal, Ugo La Pietra, Dominique Perrault, Freek Persyn, and Italo Rota, the journalist reveals how such an abstract topic can be controversial and nuanced. The discussion with Rem Koolhaas offers the following paradox: while what was once considered public space is often not free anymore (museums, parking garages, subways), access to commercial spaces often remains free. 4 5 6 7
Yan Thomas, “La valeur des choses: Le droit romain hors la religion,” Annales 57, no. 6 (2002): 1434. Joseph Rykwert, The Idea of a Town: The Anthropology of Urban Form in Rome, Italy, and The Ancient World (London: Faber & Faber, 1976). Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, Josep Lluís Sert, and Ernesto N. Rogers, eds., The Heart of the City: Towards the Humanisation of Urban Life (London: Humphries, 1952), 13. The interviews can be found at Agora Bordeaux, “Expo 2014: Interviews alvéole no. 2,” uploaded September 30, 2014, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=JGmaP8oz-No.
59 Churches, shopping malls, airports, hospitals, and waterfronts—might all be termed public spaces, even while their access is under constant surveillance and censorship. Perhaps the Italian architect Pier Vittorio Aureli comes closest to grasping the status of public space as fundamentally conflicted, a threshold between common concerns and private stakeholders. Aureli notes that public space is not an innocent concept—almost the opposite, in fact. The term is often charged with specific ambitions that are deliberately obscured. A new square or subway station may offer more benefits to developers or real estate companies than to any local inhabitant. This is in line with the concept, raised after the formation of nation states, of public space as a strategic tool to control and monitor private life. Between the 1960s and 1970s, when the relationship between the state and its citizens reached the threshold of dissatisfaction, the same public space designed as means of control became the main stage of conflict: a very fast shift that I see as a reminder of the continuous inversions and transformations of power and meaning latent in our shared urban spaces.
Public Space Dilemmas
Public Ambitions (SAW Gallery, Ottawa)
Curator Roberto Damiani Exhibition Design: Renato Rizzi Cino Zucchi Architects Roberto Damiani Graphics and Web ZEEMA Copy editing Kevin Murray Photography Scott Norsworthy
Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi
March 29 May 5, 2017
Italy Under Construction
Through models, drawings, and photographs of selected work from Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi Architects, the exhibition explores the ambition to design buildings as cultural narratives and agents in the interaction of private and collective life. Renato Rizzi is an architect based in Venice, Italy. Influenced by ancient and contemporary philosophy, literature, and the history of religion, Rizzi’s work investigates architecture’s symbolism, addressing the complex task of designing monumental buildings in our time. Rizzi’s Gdansk Shakespearean Theatre (2014), translates the history of the site into a new civic space and experimental venue for contemporary theatre. Along with the theatre and two proposals for the Italian cities of Ferrara and Parma, Rizzi will present for the first time his latest design project for a monument on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, now known to be the European entry point for immigrants arriving from North Africa. Cino Zucchi Architects is a firm based in Milan whose work ranges from architecture to urban and landscape design. For this exhibition, Zucchi will present six built projects with a particular focus on the building envelope. The firm’s attention to the outer layer of a building highlights the interface between private and public space as communicative and permeable. Zucchi’s inhabited screens enrich the experience and language of modern residential and workplace architecture, embracing variation and articulation as contextual responses to contemporary urban conditions. Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi opened on March 29, 2017, at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Toronto. The visiting architects delivered lectures on their work on March 30 at the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design.
Renato Rizzi (b. 1951) earned a bachelor of architecture from the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia (1977), where he is currently professor of architecture. Along with his books on the work of Peter Eisenman (La Fine del Classico, 1987, La muraglia ebraica: L’impero eisenmaniano, 2010) and John Hejduk (John Hejduk: Incarnatio, 2010), he is the author of many essays on architectural theory, including the trilogy Il Daìmon di Architettura, Theoria-Eresia (2014), Il cosmo della bildung (2016), and Architettura: I pregiudicati (2016).
Cino Zucchi (b. 1955) earned a bachelor of science in art and design from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1978) and a professional degree in architecture from the Politecnico di Milano (1979), where he is currently professor of architectural and urban design. In 2013, he served as the John T. Dunlop Visiting Professor in Housing and Urbanization at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is author of L’Architettura dei Cortili Milanesi, 1535-1706 (1989), and Asnago e Vender: Architetture e Progetti, 19251970 (1999).
Rizzi has designed several notable projects, including a museum dedicated to Italian Futurism—the “Fortunato Depero” in Rovereto (winner of the Italian Architecture Golden Medal, 2008)—and the Gdańsk Shakespearean Theatre (winner of the Polish Association of Architects Award, 2014). From 1984 to 1992, he worked with Peter Eisenman on several competition entries, among them Romeo and Juliet (1986) and a new garden for Parc de la Villette in Paris (1986). In 2008, he collaborated with Peter Eisenman once more on the New Research Centre in Padova, winning fourth prize. Rizzi’s long list of solo design competition entries includes the new Great Egyptian Museum in Cairo (third prize, 2002) and the new National Jewish Museum in Ferrara (honourable mention, 2010). In 2016, Rizzi’s models were exhibited at the Venice Biennale of Architecture and at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York City.
The list of recent built projects by his practice CZA includes residential and office buildings in the former Alfa Romeo neighbourhood of Milan, the office building Group M in Assago (Milan), the Salewa Headquarters in Bozen, and the new Lavazza Headquarters and the renovation of the National Automobile Museum, both in Turin. Zucchi’s design for the former industrial area of Ex Junghans in Venice received many national and international awards, including honourable mentions at the Mies van der Rohe Award—European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture (2001), and the Italian Architecture Golden Medal (1995, 2003, 2004, 2006). Zucchi’s work has been exhibited in several editions of the Venice Biennale of Architecture (6th, 8th, 10th, 13th) where he was the curator of the Italian Pavilion’s Innesti/Grafting exhibition for the 14th edition (2014).
Palimpsests and Interfaces
Roberto Damiani Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi The exhibition Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi at the Italian Cultural Institute in Toronto presents a selection of work by the Venice-based architect Renato Rizzi, and by Cino Zucchi Architetti based in Milan. By introducing Rizzi and Zucchi’s work as “palimpsests” and “interfaces,” the show presents architecture as relational and symbolic space in everyday life. Whereas relating architecture to palimpsests emphasizes the buildings’ intertwined spatial, temporal, and visual dimensions and their connection to cultural narratives, situating a building as an interface considers it as an interactive layer between the private and public realms. Rizzi’s and Zucchi’s palimpsests and interfaces can be further understood by introducing three thematic dialectics between abstraction and symbolism, opacity and transparency, and formal autonomy and urban engagement. Both Rizzi and Zucchi can be situated amidst Italian modern architecture’s regard for architecture’s high communicative value. They carry on a critical reflection on the building’s rhetorical potential which is not new to Italian architecture. Ernesto Nathan Rogers and Aldo Rossi theorized architectural forms as bearers of cultural meaning, rejecting the reading of buildings as just functional instruments or self-referential objects. Architecture can suggest publicness when buildings are accessible and their architectural language is engaging and intelligible, detachment when they are too abstract or semantically obscure. However, when compared to Rossi’s work, Rizzi’s and Zucchi’s architectures provide evidence of a more sophisticated play between abstraction and symbolism, introduce to overcome the abuse and misuse of architectural history. Palimpsests and Interfaces
Rizzi’s Gdańsk Shakespearean Theatre and Zucchi’s corner residential building in Venice combine historical and modern elements, avoiding both the nostalgia for superseded architectural features, and the fashionable infatuation with the facade as a blank canvas for graphic experimentation of meaningless decorative motives. While Rizzi and Zucchi share a common interest in symbolism and ornamentation, their buildings’ tectonics reveal different tendencies: whereas Rizzi’s architecture tends towards compact and opaque volumes, Zucchi’s projects often embrace transparency and visual interconnection. In doing so, they carry on another long-lasting Italian architectural tradition of designing through both volumes and planes. The work of two modern masters who practised between the two World Wars, the Rome-based Adalberto Libera and the Como-based Giuseppe Terragni, well represent the cultural relevance of these two different streams in Italian architecture. While Libera tended to design solid buildings as an aggregation of volumes, like the Palazzo dei Congressi in Rome (1939), Terragni’s buildings, such as the Casa del Fascio in Como (1936), display an interest in the formal strategies of transparency and layering. Rizzi’s interest in volumes and their mass as an expression of monumental character, resonant with ancient public buildings, suggests many affinities with Libera’s architecture; Zucchi’s inhabited screens, on the other hand, are closer in strategy to Terragni and his contribution to facade design as carried on by postwar Milanese architects such as Mario Asnago and Claudio Vender. As Alejandro Zaera-Polo suggests in his essay “The Politics of the Envelope” (2008), in a moment in which architects are rarely agents in large-scale projects and market forces exploit architecture’s aesthetic agenda, the building envelope is an opportunity to restore a “political agency to architecture through material agency.”1 The articulation of 1
Alejandro Zaera-Polo, “The Politics of the Envelope,” in The Sniper’s Log: Architectural Chronicles of Generation X (Barcelona and New York: Actar, 2012), 479.
85 the building skin in Zucchi’s residential buildings provides differentiation and variation to disrupt the repetition of floor plans driven by economic constraints. A variety of openings—from windows to loggias—contribute to enriching the typological expression of mid-rise buildings and towers. While both architects build upon the landscape of Italian architectural history, the tectonics of their buildings also resonate with contemporary international influences encountered during Rizzi’s and Zucchi’s professional and educational experiences in New York City and Boston, which were instrumental in expanding their formal vocabularies and avoiding the drift of postmodernism shared by many of their Italian peers. Rizzi completed his studies at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura in 1977 and while still a student attended the exhibition Europa-USA: Centro Storico-Suburbio, hosted at the 1976 Venice Architecture Biennale. Three years after his graduation, the famous show The Presence of the Past, curated by Paolo Portoghesi, would also profoundly influence his future professional decisions. The rise of postmodern architecture in Italy saw Rizzi travel to New York City to work for Peter Eisenman. Their professional collaboration lasted from 1984 until 1992, when Rizzi left Manhattan to focus on building his own practice in Italy. In working with Eisenman on design competitions such as Romeo and Juliet (1986) and Choral Works in Parc de la Villette (1986), Rizzi had the opportunity to expand his interest in the intersection between architecture and other intellectual paradigms from philosophy and history of religions. The proposal for the National Jewish Museum is one example. The design builds figurative analogies with Ferrara’s urban elements— the water channel, ancient city walls, the Jewish ghetto, and the municipal jail—turning the new museum into a physical device that unveils the palimpsest in which it is situated. The books La fine del classico (1987) and La muraglia ebraica: Palimpsests and Interfaces: Architecture by Renato Rizzi and Cino Zucchi
l’impero eisenmaniano (2009), also carry more than just hints of the influence of Eisenman’s anxious formalism on the Venetian architect.2 Born in Milan, Cino Zucchi earned his Bachelor of Science in Art and Design at MIT in Boston in 1977. In North America, he familiarized himself with Christopher Alexander’s research on patterns and complex urban structures along with the emerging discipline of Urban Design. Upon his return to Italy, Alexander’s studies on the relationship between architectural forms and social behaviour along with an interdisciplinary approach between architecture, landscape, and urban design offered a counterpoint to the Italian Neo-Rationalist taste for traditional urban spaces. Zucchi’s idea of transparency as a spatial connection rather than just a visual one, exemplified by the prominent use of the courtyard as urban type, are rooted not only in an Italian vernacular, but also in the sympathy with semi-enclosed urban spaces and poché urbanism as theorized in North American urban design in the 1970s by thinkers such as the British-born architectural critic Colin Rowe. Through their transatlantic influences, Rizzi and Zucchi have enriched the long trajectory of Italian architecture and are testaments to the gradual transformation of local practices by the international architectural discourse.
Renato Rizzi, La muraglia ebraica. L’impero eisenmaniano (Milan: Mimesis, 2009).
Cino Zucchi Statement
Tectonics is an art establishing its own model in nature; not in the concrete manifestation of nature, but in conformity with its laws. The setting in which this art is expressed is the phenomenal world. Its works exist in space and appear before our eyes as bodies through form and color. Tectonics is therefore a truly cosmic art. The Greek word cosmos—which has no equivalent in any of the living languages—means both universal order and ornament. There is a harmony between artistic tectonic creation and the universal laws of nature, a harmony that is also ornament. Gottfried Semper, “Theorie des Formell-Schönen,” c. 1855 Sometimes I think that by its nature, ornament is the reaction of our senses to a bare space, in which an attempt is made to place something that would best satisfy their receptive function. Paul Valéry, “Autour de Corot,” 1932 Tectonics In architecture, the concrete concept of weight and resistance precedes the very notion of technique. The physical nature of matter enters architectural thinking not as a subject of observation, but as a deep structure of thought itself. The tectonics of a building can be understood through a bodily analogy: the common condition of bodily existence Palimpsests and Interfaces
is the basis of all human potential, translating matter into architecture. But since this physical nature is axiomatic to architectural thinking, the conception of an architectural work cannot be distinguished from its construction—the latter is contained in the initial logical process. Tectonics establishes architectural thinking by avoiding the Classical esthetics of mimesis, idealist theories of expression, or the historical idea of composition. Gravity is what makes architecture a unitary phenomenon—space has weight. Texture In modernity, there is no possible ornament other than texture. This word contains both the accidents that chance has worked on the materials—the spirals of stone fossils—and the mathematical and abstract operations of uniting and joining. The union of the constituent parts of a building takes place through a gathering of material that reveals the physical impossibility of its infinite extension. Like a note that is sung and cannot be held indefinitely and requires change or interruption, building joints are simple intervals, pauses. They reveal the reciprocal relationship of building parts and the variety of constituent materials. In contrast with the high-tech poetics of the joint, decoration may only occur as an interruption. Just as the symmetry of the kaleidoscope and the inkblots of the Rorschach test transform the formless into figure, repetition transforms the figure into texture. The figurative ideal of the rug is one of the few decorative paradigms accessible in modernity. Numbers enable us to get from the figure back to the arabesque. Texture: a syntax eschewing content.
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Curator Roberto Damiani Exhibition Design Roberto Damiani Ameya Joshi Graphics and Web Emma Dunn Zoe Goodman Mina Hanna Copy editing Craig Rodmore Photography Scott Norsworthy
Invited architects C + S, Treviso LAND, Milan Latz + Partner, Kranzberg Studio Nowa , Sircacusa Claude Cormier + Associés, Montreal DTAH, Toronto Public Work, Toronto Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Brooklyn
December 2020 March 2021
109 If the origins of the global environmental crisis are uncertain, what we have agreed upon is the pivotal role of urbanization in accelerating it. As laboratories of social and technological progress since the early 1800s, cities have brought health, knowledge, and wealth to their citizens. However, the positive outcomes have relied heavily on practices of natural resource exploitation, urban land privatization, and pollution. It was only in the early 1990s, when the industrial model lost its economic prominence in Western countries and “drosscapes” materialized, that public agencies and urbanists began to recognize the terrible and unevenly distributed impact of urbanization on the environment. Despite the increasing awareness expressed by international agreements, central and local governments have been struggling to elaborate urban strategies that can reduce urbanization’s ecological footprint. As a result, with almost 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions being produced by urban environments, today cities are considered the leading cause of the global environmental crisis—with the wealthiest ones holding the highest ecological debt. If we consider urbanism as human ecology, how can landscape and urban design make cities more environmentally resilient, sustainable, and just? Emerging Ecologies presents a selection of eight built urban projects from Italy and Canada that show how public agencies and designers are working together to carve out ecologies in our dense urban landscapes. Building on a new understanding of cities as interconnected ecosystems, the eight projects, organized in four sections—earthwork, infrastructure, post-industrial regeneration, and waterfront— offer successful examples of adaptive reuse of sites in Caltagirone, Kingston, Milan, Montreal, Toronto, Turin, and Venice.
Italy Under Construction
Form Matters opening 20 November, 2015
Public Ambitions opening April 6, 2016
Palimpsests and Interfaces opening 29 March, 2017
Istituto Italiano di Cultura Toronto
Italy Under Construction 2015—2020
Director Alessandro Ruggera
Curator Roberto Damiani Co-curator Alessandro Ruggera Exhibition Design Roberto Damiani Nuria Montblanch Copy editing Kevin Murray Craig Rodmore Graphic and web design ZEEMA: Emma Dunn Mina Hanna Zoe Renaud Catalogue Design bruno, Venice Photography Roberto Damiani Mina Hanna Scott Norsworthy Collaborators Alberto Barattucci Meaghan Burke Alistair Grierson Shawn Johnston Tiziana Miano Kristina Ostian Ameya Joshi