March 29, 2011
During this break, various things have happened, but I’d say that the main is I graduated.
To resume the work of the blog, it seems the case, after several requests, post here some logos of NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura available to those bloggers who want to put a in their home page.
Above you can see thumbnails of the two versions, black and white. Please note that they are both .png, with transparent background (the white and the black backgrounds that you see here are only to highlight the text, will not find them in the file where I’m addressing you to).
Here is the code to insert into your blog / website. It already has links to the Facebook group. Simply copy the code and place it in your sidebar (or wherever you like) within a generic widget.
I’ve made it in three sizes. To get an idea of their proportions, keep in mind that the preview that you see on the beginning of the post are about 200 pixels wide.
Large (300×250 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img835.imageshack.us/img835/989/grandenero.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
Medium (180×150 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img853.imageshack.us/img853/4595/medionero.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
Small (120×90 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img832.imageshack.us/img832/2959/piccolonero.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
Large (300×250 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img862.imageshack.us/img862/7420/grandebianco.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
Medium (180×150 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img651.imageshack.us/img651/2245/mediobianco.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
Small (120×90 pixel):
<a href="http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_191424117536163&ap=1"><img src="http://img51.imageshack.us/img51/1742/piccolobianco.png" alt="NIBA | Network Italiano Blog di Architettura" /></a>
February 11, 2011
Things said and things unsaid, one evening, in Milan
Today it is possible to see the video on domusweb, but I would like to draw a kind of incomplete summary (incomplete for the narrowness of the notes I took and for my impartiality, being one of the participants) of the evening, and then draw some consideration to compare the event with the episode of London and some notes. I think it could be useful to those who were not there and haven’t got an hour to spend seeing the video, as well as in this English version, for those who do not speak Italian. If you don’t mind the guide and want to go directly to the comments, click here.
[Bizarre place, the Design Library. It starts as (1) a lounge bar, goes on as (2) a library, melts in (3) a study hall and ends as (4) a dark room for conferences, but also works as (2) (3) (4) (3) (1).]
Joseph Grima: We want to talk about the new “flattened” playing field of the architectural critic at the era of the blog. About how this affects the autonomy of the authors, how the critical turns in the profession through the proliferation of voices, especially in Italy, the home par excellence of the prestigious architectural magazines. Professor de Michelis?
Marco de Michelis: The critic is a figure dramatically relevant and in crisis today, that by now doesn’t know how to respond to the questions of our times, but with hagiography or digressing. By citing Benjamin in The author as producer, we could say that the critic examines the how of the objects to reach their why.
Today the images [as stated in London citing ArchDaily and the question of “pornography”, Ed.] are everywhere. Consequently, it is no more the duty of the critic to find the news, because the network gives us them.
But the non-specialized press, when dealing with architecture, only public triumphs [he makes the instance of the unconditional adoration for Piano, Ed.]. This is why the world needs critics! It is narrative and autonomy.
J. G.: Rossella, in what the network can then be news in the function of criticism?
Rossella Ferorelli: [not having notes of what I said, I'm going from memory, Ed.] I think it’s right in the overturning of the mechanism mentioned by Professor de Michelis by Benjamin. If the critic can no longer be the seeker of novelty, and while it is true that most of the blogs of architecture are in the hands of the same architects who design, then the use of the network moves the intellectual tasks of architecture from criticism more specifically to theory. That is, from an ex post activitiy, starting after the object being produced, switching to an activity that is ex ante, referring to the project / product. In other words, the work of a blogger is especially valuable if it is the explanation of the processes that led him to conceive the project, answering first the question about why, and only after asking about how. Designing proposing everyone’s theoretical and critical paths to a continuous feedback relationship with those who follow the blog is what will truly innovate the cultural process of architecture in the coming years.
J. G.: A cloud [crowd? Ed.] sourcing way to the project?
R. F: Exactly. It is precisely to facilitate this feedback process that NIBA was born, or to exceed the limit of integrability that afflicts the “locked” blog platforms. The blog is still similar to the paper pages [less than subscribe to RSS feeds, Ed.] in that they are basically to be “searched” on the web. With NIBA we could better find one another, and of course amplify the comparison level.
J. G.: Salvatore, in London we have raised the issue of radical difference in the emoluments of those who write online than those who write for well known magazines. What has changed in this way?
Salvatore D’Agostino: [he rather shows his target for a narration of the real Italian "b-side" condition. Unfortunately, here I have a few notes, Ed.] The spirit of criticism online could be summed up, citing the book of Federico Zanfi Città Latenti [Latent Cities, Ed.], as with that of the presence of “latent critics”.
J. G.: Fabrizio, Abitare has chosen a blog for commercial use. Professor de Michelis said that it is impossible for the critic to make news. How does this problem affect a magazine like yours?
Fabrizio Gallanti: we have actually chosen only a few things from the concept of blogs. Surely we have not embraced the idea of blogs as a public expression of a single voice that chooses to bypass the thousands of obstacles of traditional publishingto going directly to the public. We instead are interested in exploring the possibility of survival of forms of criticism regarding a changing audience. We then asked ourselves which audience we wanted to address, and we chose those who are not satisfied with the average architecture writings in newspapers (increasingly losing credibility). We have also retained the ability to comment on every postwith absolutely minimal censorship.
Today, what is lacking are the single-focus blogs, with the author most expert in a subject up to be a “nerd” [I personally do not believe this is true, and the first thing that came to my mind at that moment was to spontaneously think to the hassle of that Emmanuele Pilia, who's always been dealing specifically with transarchitecture on his blog!!, Ed.].
J. G.: Luca Molinari, Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi in its latest newsletter talks about the economic unsustainability of the critic role today. What do you think?
Luca Molinari: it is necessary to redefine the politic instruments of criticism. Among the highest values of online critical there is not having deadlines. It is a very important value of responsibility, that makes a blog something different from a magazine, on which there are obligations, but also from the diary, on which we just write occasionally. On the contrary, it is a real public service.
J. G: It can be argued that for the marginalization of the criticism there’s also to blame the critics? We might even venture that it derives from the excess of theorizing of postmodernism and deconstructionism years?
L. M: Maybe, but it is also a matter of cultural space granted. The architecture has become a mass phenomenon, which includes interest. It is fashionable. So why in the major newspapers there is never a critic of reference? In Italy in recent years there has been great professional effort in the offices, to achieve international standards. But the road to the theory is totally lost!
S. D’A. Do not forget, however, that the story of Italian online criticism is not so young. Marco Brizzi was the first “hacker”, creating Arch’it. It is twenty years of history that nobody is considering, and this is mainly the purpose of Wilfing Architettura.
J. G.: Elisa, then what is the specifically of Italy, now that more and more Italians speak English and are open to international cultures?
Elisa Poli: [sensible and interesting intervention, unfortunately I also have a few notes here. I’ll probably look for the registration to add some more, Ed.] What’s changed is basically the absence of the overhead perspective and authorship of the magazine, in which another level of authorship, that of critic, in turn, faded. Even for images it is so, we’ve run out of the time in which the magazines were to dictate the rules of expresson of the projects and the photographs.
J. G.: Let’s close with Luca Diffuse: what you think is the difference between the relevance of a harsh critisism made online and one made on a magazine?
Luca Diffuse: the web is a more “intimate” place. Ironically, if I get a fierce criticism on the web, I feel touched deeper, closer to me [He adds some issues about how boring the ground of architecture is, unless it is open to the contemporary cultural scene as a whole: music, cinema , visual arts, etc.., Ed.]. It would be an act of great ethical significance if the magazines would accepts the request of aperiodicity of the blog, or for example do not always come out in a similar number of pages, because this means that the quality of the articles can not be homogeneous: the journals are not sincere!
M. d. M: Basically, now the critic has to reinvent his own business.
In NIBA, some pretty important questions about the nature of this debate have already emerged. In essence, the experiment was judged interesting and necessary in the Italian context. Just a few years ago this would have been inconceivable. However, the q&a technique of moderating has clearly limited the debate and opened a bit too much to the personal and autobiographical issues here and there, so there have also been some attempts to avoid the theme of the critics (especially by Salvatore D ‘Agostino and Luca Diffuse). However, I must personally point out that the character of the argument in London was not very different. Or rather, as we said with Elisa Poli later in the evening, the discussion in London was perhaps more than in Milan, the tendency to orient on “aficionados” anecdotes. This is of course a clear sign of the different maturity of the Anglo-Saxon blogosphere, that is almost a new cultural establishment, a literature which has already been widely shared, which makes a solid history in itself. In Italy, the delay of the debate, paradoxically, produces a more interesting situation, because “young” users of an already “mature” tool may perhaps produce more original content, or at least little less obvious questions, with some unfinished aspects on which it is still interesting to speculate.
For example, I’d notice that we have never explicitly talked about university. Certainly the audience was not neutral, but the fact that we have identified the world of criticism with the world of magazines is not something to pass on superficially. A university reform is long overdue, we all know. So in effect I would have expected some proposal.
A fortiori, this is an issue that can be placed inside the NIBA circuit and generally to anyone who feels a web reader of architecture: have the Italian bloggers of architecture got any suggestions to make, about the state university? Why not create a network of networks with the most authoritative voices in the Italian blogosphere from all sectors, to create a big debate about this topic?
February 2, 2011
è la sola speranza»
Tuesday, February 8th in Milan there will be the second episode of the Critical Futures debate, which took place last month in London. I’ve been talking about it here. Here are abstracts and participants:
Critical Futures #2
A debate on the future of architecture criticism. Tuesday, February 8, at the Design Library
Over the past decade, epochal transformations have profoundly reshaped the context within which architecture is conceived and debated. The Internet has made images and information free and instantly ubiquitous; magazines, once the undisputed platforms for the criticism of architecture and design, have been challenged to redefine their purpose and economic model in the light of dwindling readerships; blogs have given a global audience, potentially of millions, to anyone with an Internet connection. In all of this, architecture criticism in the traditional sense appears to have all but vanished – not only from the Internet but from magazines themselves. As Peter Kelly, editor of Blueprint, wrote in a recent editorial, “As traditional publishing media and institutions become less influential, one wonders where architects can go to find informed, intelligent criticism of their work”.
How will the practice of architecture in Italy, a country whose architectural history is inextricably linked to that of its great magazines, evolve in response to the proliferation of open, autonomous and free networks of online debate? Are architects today really in search of “informed, intelligent criticism” of their work, or is the architecture critic to be considered instead an anachronism? Is, as Kelly writes, a more realistic and rigorous approach to architectural criticism online urgently needed? In the second of a three-part series of debates on the future of architecture criticism organized by Domus in London, Milan and New York to celebrate the launch of its new website, this discussion will bring together writers, editors, bloggers and theorists active in the field today to address these and other questions.
The event will be followed by complimentary drinks and music organised by domus.
Streaming live at www.domusweb.it
Salvatore d’Agostino – author of the blog Wilfing Architettura
Rossella Ferorelli – blogger and founder of Network italiano blog d’architettura [yes, that's it!]
Fabrizio Gallanti – abitare.it
Marco de Michelis – criticist and historician
Elisa Poli – researcher
Luca Molinari, critic and curator
Luca Diffuse, architect and blogger
Moderated by Joseph Grima – Domus
Tuesday, february 8 2011, 7 p.m.
I invite everyone to follow the live streaming. I hope this time they’ll make it possible to intervene via email or chat: it would definitely be the right choice.
January 26, 2011
It is basically a Facebook group created by me with this description:
Dear architecture bloggers, blog readers or fans of architecture,
Most of you will have realized that blogs and Facebook are very different instruments, for good and bad.
We love blogs to leave us the freedom to give them our preferred shape.
We love Facebook because of the ease we keep in touch with, and because its allow us to share content.
We have created this group with the intention of making a blog connector out of it, in order to help Italian (or not) architecture bloggers to stay better updated on their activities. We only ask to give it visibility and share content: in particular, notes and links to your posts are welcome.
My idea, therefore, was to create a simple «network in the network», as Alessandro Rocca (Low Cost Low Tech) has aptly called it. But, as I hoped, in short, the room was filled with faces and words, and a week after all we are already 97.
Perhaps the Italian blogosphere is not as deserted as it seems, since many quite heated discussions have already born in the group. Anyone interested is invited to join and participate!
Here we are (hopefully) all:
Eccoci (spero) tutti:
A Come Architettura
Laura Aquili di DES-ART-CHITECTURE
Antonio Marco Alcaro, Giulio Paolo Calcaprina and Giulio Pascali from Amate l’architettura
Francesco Alois from Spirito Architettonico Libero
ArchitectureFeed Architecture Aggregator
Guido Aragona fromBizblog
Carlo Beltracchi from Beyond the Light Bulb
Marco Brizzi di arch’it
Silvio Carta from Beyond Icons 2.0
Channelbeta Architectural Review, Gianluigi D’Angelo and Matteo Falcone
Simo Capecchi from In viaggio col taccuino
Maurizio Caudullo from Archinlab
Comitato Sarzana Che Botta
Salvatore D’Agostino from Wilfing Architettura
Davide Del Giudice
Maurizio Degni from Frustrazioni architettoniche
Roberta Patrizia Di Benigno
Luca Diffuse from Luca Diffuse and Diffuse Outtakes
Domenico Di Siena di Urbanohumano
Davide Di Virgilio
Edilizia E Territorio and Giorgio Santilli
Massimiliano Ercolani from Dokc Lab
Alessio Erioli from Co-de-it
Barbara Falcone from Cibo Architettura
Cristian Farinella and Lorena Greco from Gluemarket
Elena Fedi from Archiportale
Fabio Fornasari from Luoghi sensibili
Mario Gerosa from Virtual Architectural Heritage
Andrea Graziano from digitag&
Joseph Grima from Domusweb
Luca Guido from Luca Guido
Alberto Iacovoni from ma0 News
Jakob Knulp from One to the third
Matteo Lecis Cocco-Ortu
Matteo Lo Prete
Zaira Magliozzi from TheNewArchinTown
Ettore Maria Mazzola
Giovanni Mendola from [Identità e Città]
Luca Molinari from ymag
Zoè Chantall Monterubbiano
Edmondo Occhipinti from | edmondo occhipinti architect |
Giorgio Opla and Marco Opla from Opla+
Emanuele Papa from Il blog della cosa
Claudia Pasquero from ecoLogic
Emanuele Piccardo from Architettura radicale and archphoto
Emmanuele Jonathan Pilia from PEJA TransArchitecture research
Press/Tfactory and Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi
Paolo Priolo from klat magazine
Alessandro Ranellucci from ArchiBlog
Alessandro Rocca from Low Cost Low Tech
Ugo Rosa from Fiordizucca
Serena Russo from Petra Dura, architettura e contorni
Carmelo Cesare Schillagi
Matteo Seraceni from = Architettura = Ingegneria = Arte =
Luca Silenzi from Spacelab
Diego Terna from l’architettura immaginata
Marco Verde from Performative design processes for architecture
As you can see, the names are many but the links are few. This is because I do not yet know many of you, or I haven’t got the address of your blog, or even I have accidentally skipped someone. I intentionally avoided the study sites with only portfolios, because I believe that the spirit of Niba is clearly more than a mere demonstration of everyone’s work. If I forgot someone or done something wrong, or if you think that the criterion for selecting the link is invalid, comment and I’ll rectify immediately.
Now, what do we expect from this Niba? In truth, I have no idea. This however is part of the game, because I expect surprises.
January 14, 2011
Yesterday I had the pleasant experience of attending a live conference in London via streaming.
This was the Critical Futures debate, organized by Domus and broadcast on Domusweb, website/blog amazing for its freshness as well as for the quality of its content, even being the online version of the second Italian architecture magazine by definition, which this year happens to have nothing less than its 83th birthday.
Here you can read all the details of the event. These were the speakers:
Shumi Bose – writer [so said on Domusweb, with a masculine translation in the Italian page; but, instead of a “male writer”, there actually seemed to be an asian girl which is doing a thesis on the themes of mutation of architecture press in the era of blogs. I also find on the site of the AA School: Shumi Bose is Teaching Assistant in History & Theory Studies]
Charles Holland – author of Fantastic Journal
Peter Kelly – Director of Blueprint
Kieran Long – architecture critic of The Evening Standard
Geoff Manaugh – author of BLDGBLOG
Beatrice Galilee – author and curator, Domusweb, The Gopher Hole
Moderator: Joseph Grima, Domus.
The conversation was very pleasant and informal, with fine participation by the audience. It will not be possible to provide a detailed account of everything that was said, partly because the difficulties of listening to a streaming conference are many (for example, understanding the words of Geoff Manaugh, who was connected from Los Angeles, has been very difficult because, in addition to a particularly fast talking – so much that it even hit the London public – a series of problems with audio feedback and volume swings compromised its understandability – for me, at least). I will then brutally copy my notes about it, I hope to remember well.
Peter Kelly: he thinks to the debates exchanged in the past between editorial magazines, such as those between Mendini, who wrote on Domus, and Maldonado, who responded from Casabella. Today there is no sense for this to happen, if not online. What will this change?
Kieran Long: [somewhat nicely histrionic, Ed.] one can not speak of true journalistic-critical tradition in architecture [I think in England, Ed.], because there was no intention by the past generation to create one. The average age of the editors of the magazines is very high and it is no one’s interest to lower it.
In the blog there is generally more freedom of expression, which instead is bound in the official press because of problems associated with the ownership of newspapers and general issues of economic interest.
Joseph Grima: however, in the universe of blogs «stroncatura» [which is the Italian for "harsh criticism". Grima says it in Italian, adding he is unable to find the suitable English translation, despite speaking it almost as a first language, Ed.] does not exist.
Charles Holland: his work on the blog addresses topics that are only tangentially related to his profession as an architect, so there is not always directly link to the professional world.
Shumi Bose (?): but we can not compare all of the old blogosphere or online journalism and traditional publishing. Reflection on cultural background. The main effect of online activities is the “de-specialization”, or the loss of specialism both in input (writing) and output (reading). Cause and effect of this is that for the most part, those who write online are doinf it for free. Towards them, there is distrust, one wonders who are these people who have never published, if not online.
Joseph Grima: there is an ethics of online architecture writing?
Beatrice Galilee: maybe not, but we can observe that the continuous stream of glossy images on the architecture blogs is pornographic. Many blogs reach massive flows of traffic for this very reason. What is the effect of this phenomenon on the contemporary architectural culture? May this damage it?
Shumi Bose (?): but this is a highly political act. Think of how important social effects can many architecture blogs of Spanish language have, which are particularly centered on the use of images, on the cultural environment of Latin America.
Beatrice Galilee: this can really become an area of competition for magazines. Why should I buy one, if I can find the pictures that I’m looking for online?
Kieran Long: the problem is that there are not enough intellectuals and theoreticians of architecture!
Joseph Grima: in Italy the problem is the opposite! [hints sarcastically, audience laughs, Ed.]
Geoff Manaugh: he wonders how many of his posts that he considers thematically and geographically marginal are shared online by a large number of people.
Comment from the public: there is much more passion in the blogs, you can more easily stand up and take clear positions. For this reason it is likely that in the near future will be blogs and online content to shift the debate, rather than the magazines, which are almost always on neutral positions, induced as slaves of the search for objectivity and professionalism.
[I cannot remember who]: the social importance typically attributed to architecture in the ’60s and ’70s has been lost with the emergence of the starsystem. It is that spirit that today inspires bloggers.
January 13, 2011
Or: using blogs as a pretext to investigate the vanguard
I invite you to read this post on De Architectura after which a little discussion has generated to which I have participated.
Essentially, the post comments on a Christmas operation for which the windows of the Duomo in Milan have been lit from within. In this way, an unusual effect for the city has been created, since the rule says that the light passes through those glasses from outside to inside, and that only those who are inside can perceive the effect. Here you can see photos of the intervention.
In the named blog, particularly through the comments, various opinions come – it is to say – to the light, but the total judjement is negative for three orders of reasons, which can be summarized thus:
- Economic and trade: the intervention is funded / sponsored by the local light enterprise (AEM), so there is a reason of interest;
- Lay-consumerism: the curia indulges in marketing strategies, which have little to do with spiritual affairs, «Does artificial light, shining in the night inside the Milanese cathedral, making it seem as a great Christmas light visible only by those staying out in the secular space, allow the spiritual experience of elevation of the mind to God?» (commentary by Paul Gobbini);
- Philological: the windows are made to be viewed from within and from below, while the outside is a mirror image; it generates «the forcing of the will to “read” a work of art in different conditions than those for which was conceived and created» (commentary by Enrico Delfini).
Accepting as a plausible reason to dissent only the first of three lines of argument, I intend to refute the other two and propose a different interpretation of the operation.
For brevity, I’m reporting the central part of my commentary to the question:
Personally, in fact, I believe that the reinterpretation (if not invasive, and this certainly is not) of objects of even ancient architecture by contemporaries is not only a right of theirs, but even a duty. If architecture is, in fact, civil – and thus social – art par excellence, it was designed to be used and to evolve along with the same uses that are not fixed in time.
Then, a “delicate” (in terms of reversibility) operation like this, should not be condemned just because philologically incorrect, because philology, on closer inspection, has little to do with art.
And to be honest, I like the intervention. I have a less philological spirituality too, probably, but if I was more convincedly Catholic, I’d say that looking at the lighted windows of the square, it would come to my mind, first, that there is no need to enter a church to be in a church.
Which is the maximum goal of a work of architecture, isn’t it?
Now, we expand the subject a little and try to understand why it may be interesting for us.
So, studying Zevi or Benevolo acquiring their method means, first, giving the history of architecture (and especially that of modern architecture) an oriented reading, which is a kind of teleology, or rather more properly of hermeneutic phenomenology. It means, in other words, to interpret it as an attempt by man to emancipate himself in one direction. For the two giants of history, is to be freed from the yokes of historicism and what comes next is history – one could say with a pun on words.
In my view, this approach can still be used, if we consider that the continuous changes of our understanding of space should reflect changes in the way we design, occupy and manipulate it.
As I had occasion to rule on several occasions even within this blog, is my opinion that the role of theoretical reason for architecture is inseparable from that of the designer and the objective of this Janus-faced figure is precisely to indicate how and why we must plan. So now the direction that history is following is towards the clearance of a number of spatial concepts which are characterized by logic and geometric hierarchies that have been overcome long ago.
Among these, it seems clear that it is also the contradiction in / out. Concavity and convexity concepts are now quite ambiguous due to the emergence of topology and types of “zero volume” planning that transcend the traditional architectural dimension.
Then, an intervention such as the Milan one, which – perhaps unwillingly – allows the reflection on the potential by the out to possess some of the characteristics of the inside, can only generate great interest, prompting even the passer with a critical question: what actually separates the aisles of the Duomo from the churchyard, the square?
Just shallow, instead, are the old criticisms about the consistency with some initial conditions that are generally only roughly suppositories.
And all this apart, of course, an idea of church community that is more frankly indefensible as it perches on geometrical considerations, choosing his allies among the rear guard of each sector. But that is another matter.
December 31, 2010
Each urban reality has what it deserves, is whato one could say, when an article like this pops up on Il Giornale dell’Architettura (look for yourself: on page 21 of issue 90, December 2010-January 2011). And if the amazing ambition of Bari can reach the absurd to apply for candidacy as European Capital of Culture for 2019 (for the skeptics: here, with lots of glossy pictures) with, at the moment, not a museum of international level, then we can not even be surprised that Nicola Signorile – known (and only as well) architectural journalist (sic) of the city -, or whoever, has had a brillant idea of letting this precious gem appear on the national magazine.
Now: that the intent of the article is sarcastic, it is obvioulsly clear. What leaves me seriously puzzled, however, is the fact that such an article actually exists.
In other words, what happened to the new Faculty of Architecture is a self-evident scandal. Not only the oxymoron between the massive prefabrication and the absolutely unacceptable building time (equal for the construction of the Maxxi) is absolutely glaring, but there is more than some questioning about the project as a whole, where the neo-classical-nauseating forms are just the tip of an iceberg of embarrassing lack of quality. The two elephantine carcasses, each hovering around 50×50 m in plan for an area that, in a rough calculation, will exceed 15,000 square meters, do not contain more than cstunted lassrooms, while the exhibition halls are derived from residual disjointed spaces, devoid of any identity. All for a sensational architectural shallowness, just where the artistic education and perception of students starts (should start). Students who, of course, can only welcome the novelty with bland satisfaction, used to the only possible alternative to this mess: nothing. And this is even when, from the first step, it is clear that the structure is finished, so to say, modestly – naturally: any available funding would be dematerialized after a decade of building site! – and lacks even the most obvious equipment to make it usable by the students, from electrical outlets for laptops.
For these reasons, Signorile’s irony, in this case, is not worth that much more than a complete submission to the regime of Claudio D’Amato, whose name should never appear on anything entitled “Profession & Training”, since he actually has little to do with one thing and the other, being basically unable to draft a plan that does not exceed 5 times the available budget, or just one that respects the cultural-aesthetic canons with which he constantly insists on limiting the imagination of his unfortunate pupils.
Then, when the reportage of the situation of Bari, depicts with delicate colors a tragedy shown gently – and with a certain satisfaction with his own sharp wit – in front of the nation as if it were the angle of the self-styled cynical “expert” in the neighborhood magazine, we have the duty to scandalize and not to accept any position other than a cry of anger or, if nothing else, the dignity of a more intelligent silence.
December 16, 2010
I heard that someone, knowing in advance the topic I had chosen, has shown some concern like, for my part, this was a choice, they say, curious. Instead, it seems clear to me that no topic today closely concerns, like this one, every writer. Unless you want to confuse writers with literary people: for which, as we know, the only important issue is, and always has been, the literature, but then I must warn you now that in my regular vocabulary, the writer (which means first of all, among others, poet), is the opposite of the literary man. Indeed, one of the possible right definitions of the writer, for me, would even be the following: a man whose heart is in everything that happens, but the literature.
But at the same time, as a luck’s credit, I am proud to belong to the species of the writers. Since, we can say, I began to speak, I desperately keen to this art, or better, in general, art and hope not to be too presumptuous if I think I have learned through my long experience and my long employment, at least one thing: an obvious, basic definition of art (or poetry, which to me are intended as synonyms).
Here it is: the art is the opposite of disintegration. And why? But simply because the proper reason of art, its justification, the only reason for its presence and survival, or, if you prefer, its function is precisely this: to prevent the disintegration of human consciousness, in his everyday, exhausting and alienating use with the world; to relentlessly give it back, in the unreal, fragmented and used confusion of the external relations, the integrity of the real, or in a word, the reality (but beware of scams, which show, under this brand of reality, artificial and perishable falsifications). The reality is perpetually living, on, present-day. You can not spoil or destroy it, it does not decay. In fact, death is but another movement of life. As a whole, the reality is the integrity itself: in its varied, changing end inexhaustible movement – that can never finished in exploration – the reality is one, always one.
So, if art is a portrait of reality, calling with the name of art some species or product of disintegration (disintegrating or disintegrated), would be at least a contradiction in terms. Of course, that name is not patented by the law, not even sacred and inviolable. Everyone is free of putting the title of art where they like, but I’ll be free too, when it seems to me to call this one at least a madcap. Just like I would be free to call a madcap – let’s say, by way of a hypothetical example – a man who was insisting in offering me, in the name of a chair, a hook hanging from the ceiling.
But then, you will need to ask a question: since art has no other reason than for the integrity, which use could be taken within the disintegration system? None. And if the world, in the enormity of its mass, was running forward disintegration as its highest good, what would remain to be done for an artist (but from now on, if you will, as a particular reference which applies to every artist in general, we will consider the writer) – who, if he really is what he is, tends to integrity (to reality) as the sole liberating, joyful condition of his conscience? He could only choose. He can convince himself to be in error, and wrong, and that absolute figure of reality, the unique and secret integrity of things (art), was only a phantom produced by his own nature – a trick of Eros, we could say, to let the cheat last. In this case, he will feel hopelessly its function ending, which indeed he will see to be worse than useless, disgusting, as the ravings of an addict. And accordingly, he will cease from writing.
Or, the writer is convinced that the error is not on his side. Not himself, but his contemporaries, in their enormous mass, are in the equivocation. That indeed is not, let’s say, Eros, but Thanatos, instead, the magician, who makes his monstrous visions to terrify the consciences and deceptions, distorting them from their own happiness and diverting them from their real explanation. So, reduced to the elemental fear of life, in the escape from themselves, and then from the reality, they, like those who resort to drugs, become addicted to unreality, which is the most squalid degradation, so that throughout their history men have never known the same. Alienated, then, in the sense of final denial; because the path of unreality does not reach the Nirvana of the wise, but just the opposite, Chaos, which is the lowest and most distressing regression.
The system of disintegration, logically, has got its officials, secretaries, parasites, courtiers, etc.. And all of them, in their (misunderstanding) interest, been they cheated (so to speak) in good faith, by their own error, try to weaken the writer’s resistance by other means. For example, they will try to win or to assimilate him into the system through corruption, tabloid popularity, vulgar success, promoting him to a star or a playboy. Or, conversely, will endeavor to make him see his difference from the system as a betrayal, or a crime, or immorality, or moralism, or a failure. Will be saying, for example, that he is not modern. Of course! Indeed in their concept, to be modern means to be disintegrated, or disintegrating. Will be saying maybe that he does not deal with serious matters, or of reality, and of course! as the main symptom of the disintegration, of which they are slaves or ill, is to assume as fact the very opposite.
As mentioned above, within the system no writers can exist, in the true sense of the term, but there are plenty of people who write and print books, and you can distinguish generically called writing people. Some of them are mere tools of the system instruments, however, of very secondary importance in comparison to others, such as scientists of the bomb. The rooms, the offices of these writers can be considered the minimum branches of nuclear facilities themselves.
And I was trying to explain what reality is, but unfortunately I doubt I have succeeded, since this is something that is understood only when you feel it, and when you feel it, you do not need much explanation. Once a novice asked an Oriental old wise: «What is Bodhidharma?» (Which means roughly the Absolute, or the like). And the wise man, ready, said: «The bush in the bottom of the garden». «And the one who understands this truth,» the boy asked, doubtfully, «what is he?». «It would be,» replied the old man giving him a blow on the head «a lion with golden fur.»
From Elsa Morante, Pro o contro la bomba atomica, in Pro o contro la bomba atomica e altri scritti, Adelphi, Milano, 1987.
Original italic, bold and translation are mine. May the great writer forgive me.
October 19, 2010
Here’s a recap of the previous episodes. It was quite an eventful summer.
First, the text Le parole e le cose (words and houses), which can be found in the post below, participated at the third edition of Young Critics Competition, organized by presS/Tfactory_Associazione Italiana di Architettura e Critica [Italian Association of Architecture and Criticism], and on August 27th won the second prize in Venice (some details here) in a side event of the XII Architecture Biennale.
At the award ceremony, under request by the jury, it was also brought a short video that, for the considerable efforts it caused me (voice, text and drawings) and the most patient Massimo Lastrucci (photography) and Daniel Mantellato (videoediting and concept support), I decided to publish here as a witness.
Please forgive in advance the indefensible unpleasentness of my tone of voice, but I did not have anything better then! For the rest, of course it is nothing more than an attempt to lighten a theoretically heavy text – starting with a title made out of a foucaultian pun, which Professor Prestinenza Puglisi liked very much – which otherwise would have been difficult to summarize in a video that is just two minutes long.
Sorry, but I haven’t any English version of it.
Then, we must mention two more episodes of collaboration with Salvatore D’Agostino (Wilfing Architecture).
In the first, I had occasion to put a question to Luca Molinari, curator of the Italian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale. Here are the question and answer:
Rossella Ferorelli: During a visit to the Polytechnic University of Bari by Boris Podrecca some time ago, I remembered I an interview the architect gave to Repubblica in May 2006 whose epilogue had frozen me: “Compared to young Italians who are in my atelier, Dutch or Swiss peers have more verve, humor and imagination. Among you there are many little professors, with a few projects but a lot of talk and attendance at exhibitions; they live architecture through magazines, and are not familiar with its issues.” This was the Austrian architect’s opinion, who identified the source of the problem “in the fact of having lost two generations after ’68. You have written books, and you know all about Palladio or Giulio Romano, but not how to put a window.”
I would therefore propose a theoretical reflection on the scope of architecture in general, and particularly in Italy. How is it possible, in fact, that the problem of the general depression of the sector is the one developed by Podrecca, if nor in the field of theoretical research (clearly distinguishing it from the historical one) anything memorable has actually been produced in our country for years?
Personally, I therefore propose you to discuss an interpretation of the problem that sees a resoluting glow in a real hang-up between theory (the theory of “hardware” foundations of philosophy, science and policy that are behind the social function of the architect), and design, and I would like to ask you about which function may still an institution like the Venice Biennale have in the push to solve the architectural of Italy. In particular, as a student, I ask you also to overreach in an academic reflection and to think to the actual and possible relations between universities and the Biennale with the aim of a more continuous and constant striving for future research, not only chasing the lustrous showcases of the various festivals that are in a worrisome trend of multiplication.
Luca Molinari: The problem of the theoretical work in contemporary architecture is serious but perhaps we should change our perspective. Perhaps it is no longer a time of great theoretical narratives, decisive volumes moving thematic centers of gravity, perhaps the karst and fragmented system of contemporary bloggers are changing the way we produce and exchange theory in architecture. Together I believe that the architectural culture should make a different effort and seek, in a world that is radically and dramatically changing words, the incentives and resources for redefining disciplinary boundaries and evidence for theoretical reworking. As for the university I have no problem to say that most of the Italian university system is inadequate to address the current situation and especially to bring within it those vital, viral and critic elements that there is much need for, to a fight cultural stiffening and the syndrome of encirclement that the university must leave behind to survive.
To read all the questions addressed to Molinari on Salvatore’s Blog, click here.
April 22, 2010
In 1986 Manfredo Tafuri released an interview to Richard Ingersoll, published in the spring of the same year by Design Book Review, which is a very interesting document in order to understand the period it refers to. In response to very plain questions about the role of criticism in architecture development, the Italian historian gave a caustic and decisive distinction between the figure of the architecture criticist and the historian, giving only the second valid hermeneutical skills while considering the first as slave to an obsessive mechanism of search for the new after a subsequent, necessary and continue sacrifice of something to be determined “old” from time to time.
Dismissing then Jencks and Portoghesi’s postmodern historicism with a severe judgment, Tafuri laconically accused his contemporaries of a nostalgic use of memory rather than an enlightening one: it is thus in this precise direction that the interview with Ingersoll should be interpreted. However, a passage should probably be read more carefully and deserves further consideration. It says:
The study of history has indirect ways of influencing action. If an architect needs to read to understand where he is, he is without a doubt a bad architect! I frankly don’t see the importance of pushing theory into practice; instead, to me, it is the conflict of things that is important, that is productive. […] This is why I insist on the later work of Le Corbusier, which had no longer any message to impose on humanity. And as I have been trying to make clear in talking about historical context: no one can determine the future.
Apart from the slightly hyperbolic tone that pervades the passage, it seems at least appropriate to ask whether this statement is still agreeable today, nearly twenty-five years after the first publication of the interview. Where did the critical debate about architecture get at the moment?
Let’s try to build up an analytic profile of the question.
It is not a secret that grandmasters are not writing anymore. We can easily say that after Delirious New York, which is now not less than thirty-two years old, no capital treatise or manifesto has seen the light on the international scene. The proof, if not the triumphant celebration, is in the curious theoretical mess by Aaron Betsky Biennale 2008, which much has been said about, but maybe not all.
Starting from probably correct intentions and from an at least interesting approach (though more than eight years old, because traced entirely on what the same director said in his Architecture Must Burn, 2000), Betsky managed to generate an almost complete failure, and especially to make that result evident with the uneven attempt to force each of the studies hosted in the exhibition to produce a manifesto on commission. Clearly, such a fruitful production of intent declarations, which was visibly prompted a character of high experimentalism, could only result in a verbal jumble of mediocre quality, with peaks of considerable pretension in some cases, but in any case with almost no useful outcome.
Among the various observations that is possible to do about the affair, the most direct leads to the conclusion that many large architectural firms have lost the habit of planning on the basis of interpreting visions of the reality of their time. The substantial inability in producing theoretical material of any utility denotes, in fact, a clear lack of definitory activity about the specific features required to contemporary architecture just for its being contemporary. What’s the reason this deficiency?
A necessary digression, and then the necessary apologies for its the didacticism: among historians, there are two methods of study. Basically, one considers history as a succession of specific events that make it progress by leaps, while the other considers the unfolding of events continuous and fluid and tends to see fuzzier causal links between them. If the latter is certainly more complex and often more intelligent and more multifaceted, the schematization of the first sometimes allows the construction of more interesting exegetical scenarios. One of these interpretation methods is due the opposition between avant-garde and mannerism, which is undoubtedly brutal, but that we’ll adopt for a while. We can then ask whether we are in a stage or in the other, but the answer is exceptionally difficult in the early ’10s, which are still hanged over by the very vivid shade of deconstructionism, which in turn is the other side of the complex postmodern coin. Although, in fact, some doubts about the philosophical jumble mounted around the definition of postmodernism itself is legitimate, it is otherwise indubitable that a specter has actually been haunting America and Europe between 1967 and 1988 (the years between the two well known MoMA exhibitions, respectively entitled Five Architects and Architecture Deconstructivist) and that it has brought no cutting-edge issues. In this sense, it is possible to imagine Tafuri’s hassle in observing those breed of architects’ habit to justify the historicist pastiche with the theoretical commitment, and its subsequent advise directed them to give up with their study. In the article mentioned above, there is also an illuminating observation by the historian, who states that architects of his time, heirs of the modern liberation effort, would have preferred that this effort had not yet been made, to have their chance to do it.
Essentially, therefore, an Oedipal relationship with the modernity that had not been solved. But, did the deconstructionism work it out indeed? Some way probably yes, that way which we could not imagine Derrida sitting at the same table with Wright, as instead it happened with Eisenman and Tschumi; the same way, as said, Koolhaas could write his capital text and Madelon Vriesendorp could illustrate it in Flagrant Délit (or Dream of Liberty).
But, as we said, these experiences are at least a quarter century away, an their traces are lost – and in this case too, there is no fear of denials – in the showcase practices leading with increasing frequency to formalism, that not only cannot be called avant-garde, but that may not even be considered manneirist because of the lack of any declarative inspiration, even the most uncertain.
Here is the vicious circle: in a formalist scene, there is little interest in theoretical research; a scene that is lacking in speculative depth does not produce avant-gardes and falls into formalism.
In general, but especially in Italy, it is to observe that what has been lost in recent decades is the memory of the architect as a full intellectual. The sector-based fragmentation is driven by the creation of degree programs increasingly (futilely) varied around a question that rather should be bunched to restore the conditions of constant suspicion which the planets of architecture, engineering and urban planning are looking at each other with. The same university tends to discourage critical analysis in the planning stages and to relegate it to the historic area. Error of gargantuan gravity.
And that is why, despite in the period that separates us from Delirious New York one of the most radical innovations in human history (Internet) has come to light, it happens that in magazines and sector channels, this gigantic cultural revolution still has small spaces and rare debates, anyway affected by a crucial misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that is based on the philosophical laziness of the architects, who must be convinced that their task is to distinguish intellectual suggestions from formal suggestion and to base its work on the first, and use, at most, the second as a complement.
Not only that: even by the formal side, a decidedly anti-analogical design is to be achieved, supported by a deep multidisciplinary background for the designer, without which the design is not only wrong (ethically), but also impossible (historically), because too many and too important questions have emerged in recent years.
Possession of a cultural apparatus sufficient to draw broad spectrum interpretations of contemporary age must become (or revert to be) the essential basis for the design, knowing that the production of objects requires preparatory skills which allow the production of concepts.
In conclusion, to avoid the theoretical discussion – particularly in Italy – from deteriorating around low profile texts, obsessively devoted to the attack of a star system that for the rest is no way fought by the designers class, we must hope that universities are pushing the goal of creating designers with great talents in compositional together with wide speculative and summarizing skills. From this, an instance could be to start with the recovery of an author who, no doubt at least for the second of the two aspects, is a perfect example of a synthesis between philosophy and craftsmanship: John Johansen.
We close with a quotation of his:
I believe that no architect can produce buildings which are valid unless he is sensitive to the prevailing conditions and experiences of his time, and all but a few today, regardless of their talent, are out of touch.
 From There is no criticism, only history, in Design Book Review, spring 1986. Also in Casabella n. 619/620, January/February 1995.
 Da AA.VV., John Johansen – A Life in the Continuum of Modern Architecture, L’Arca Edizioni, Bergamo, 1995.
* The original Italian title, Le parole e le case, comes from a verbal pun on Michel Foucault’s Les mots et les choses, that is Le parole e le cose in the Italian translation.