Contemporary architecture told through negations

Today, I’m starting this new series of posts that will be built with the intent to openly denounce the bad habit, alas widespread in Italy, for which the mass information made on some architectural themes of broad interest is generally entrusted to low competent characters, which, moreover, become spokesmen for absolute rearguard positions, almost always unworthy even from a purely historical point of view.

The problem is particularly virulent, however, because of a contemporary profound crisis of the publishing industry that fails, for some years now, to be a counterpart of sufficient authority and communicativeness to overcome the excessive media power that influence the public opinion through television.
Many have spoken, in recent times, about the cloud that seems to cover, for instance, two historic magazines as Casabella and Domus, in the last editions respectively headed by Francesco from Co and Flavio Albanese. If the former, in fact, has long been rarely able to produce issues consisting in something better than a series of projects of more or less known international studies, the second in general tends to stylish positions closer to applied art; but both suffer from the same inability to implement articles of historical depth, of really current view, of great importance: in a word, actually memorable.

And it is precisely this substantial inability to deeply understand the great changes taking place in society and therefore in urbanism and architecture to give into the hands of persons of dubious aptitude the role of educators of people on the same subjects. Thus, while it is true that we have to be filled with indignation, we cannot be surprised to find Sgarbi or Grillo involved with what, knowingly or not, is a systematic strategy of sabotage of the progress of architectural historical evolution. They have no opponents. [Ahi serva Italia (I can spontaneously occur), how much this situation reminds the democratic disease plaguing my country! The populist Right party is fully comparable with the still ongoing proposition of old models that easily get consensus among the unqualified, while as for the publishing, which party does it take? The one of Left, who loses its place in parliament as a consequence of having been too long far from the real? Or perhaps that of an opposition unqualified itself, scared, silent, vaguely conniving?]

Someone could say that television is not meant to be and actually has never been a source of high-level investigation in any area or topic, and that wishing this happening in architecture just when the crisis is deeper because coming from inside, is foolish if not unlawful. True. But it’s also true that no real information is given if the information, although superficial, isn’t fair at least. For this reason, from the little I can, I will propose these new post as an opposing voice. A reason to think that what was just said in teevee could not be true.

Enamel above nothing

June 18, 2008

Gehry - Hotel de Riscal

A short reflection after reading Casabella 752.
I was very interested in Dal Co’s article, with the title of Lo smalto sul nulla [“Enamel above nothing”], about the controversial (just to be clement) Hotel Marqués de Riscal, by Gehry, and the nihilism which can be said to philosophically found deconstructivism – or any other architectonic theory characterizing the work of the Canadian architect who wisely rejects to declare himself for anyone of them.
Reading Benevolo, I was once stroke by the simple but sensible observation that architecture is the most slowly evolving art; for obvious technical and institutional reasons, it definitely carries a delay. Nothing wiser, in my modest opinion. It is true indeed that every age corresponds to its architecture, but the fundamental evolutions however come with the delay of almost a century; particularly from the 700’s, when the world started to accelerate all its vital cycles. It is not a case that Lightening produces definitely ancient régime architectures, Decadence takes to romantic buildings, Pirandello’s ‘900 loiters upon safe positivistic positions: maybe it is just now that Heisemberg starts to move the architect’s hand towards complete indetermination.
But nothing can justify Gehry for the de Riscal eyesore. A metallic-plate-shaped auto-quotationism covers, maybe for lightening shyness, a whole architectonic nothing. Is this the state of art?
Luckily, there are Isozaki and a newly discovered Carlo Scarpa giving a hope to this issue. Jean Nouvel makes his part too, while this time Mrs. Hadid seems to have not much to say.

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