The Paper Gentlemen is a collaboration between three MArch students from the Material Unit at Dundee School of Architecture. Alliance & Rebellion is the first of a series of exhibitions which, according to the Gents, “aims to reactivate a dormant space and encourage collaboration within our varied arts community.”
The exhibition is currently on show at The Faircity Auction House, First Floor Gallery, 52-54 Canal Street, Perth.
The drawing continues the After Architect Aldo Rossi series. A montage of the twelve projects that illustrate Rossi’s A Scientific Autobiography, more of which in a forthcoming Post.
Continuing the After Architect Aldo Rossi series.”]
After Architect Aldo Rossi: The Spider’s Web of Milan and Rossi’s Duality of Extremes at Segrate and Gallaratese
Embellished with patches of public parks, the remains of the city gate and a couple of canals, Milan is a dense tangle of streets in the pattern of a web. Rossi’s monument in Segrate is located at the southeast end of the red metro thread. At the other, is his unité d’habitation of Gallaratese located in a northwest suburb. At Milan’s centre is the vertically articulated Duomo, from which one can access the roof and survey those tangled streets. The vast rectangular open space defined by the Duomo leeks into the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a thirty metre high vaulted street designed by Giuseppe Mengoni c1870, and connects to a smaller open space just north. The sequence of spaces is quite lovely.
Rossi conjures a romantic vision for the Gallaratese housing writing that the open corridor “signifies a life-style bathed in everyday occurrences, domestic intimacy, and varied personal relationships.” One component of architectural meaning is “association” and as such Rossi’s corridor not only suggests the potential for a romantic chat with ones neighbour, but also signifies the repetitive element of open-sided tunnels, and perhaps a reference to the prison. Rossi, the once agent provocateurof Italian architecture was always aware of such dualities. In the June 24 postI wrote of the cold and controlled San Cataldo cemetery, the route suggestive of some “final solution.” Indeed, Rossi writes of the relationship between construction and destruction as complimentary aspects of his design process.
Composed of a series of simple forms balancing upon one another, the 1965 Monument to the Partisans of World War II, at Segrate is an early demonstration of Rossi’s duality of extremes: it is a monument to the dead; the fountain is a symbol that celebrates life. On my visit, a hot summer day, the tray where the water collects, was eerily dry. Formally, the monument is a coffin, on top of which is an extruded triangle balanced upon a single cylindrical column. The triangle signifies the pitch of a primitive hut, a life-giving archetype of building.
Destruct the monument and transpose the individual elements to Gallaratese and one can read Rossi’s reflective process of construct; destruct; transpose. Like Le Corbusier’s unité, Gallaratese is a slab that contains houses perched above a colonnade. The first floor links to the housing designed by Carlo Aymonino by a bridge on one side and a large open space on the other. Between this are a series of shop units, on my visit all of which were empty. Around one third of the way along the slab, an incision breaks the housing in two and is defined by four large cylindrical columns.
The After Architect Aldo Rossi foray to Italy has been an informative incursion into the built projects of Aldo Rossi and a thoroughly enlightening experience to tour some of his most cited references: retreating into the Sant’Andrea vaulted space, interrogating Canaletto’s Venice and climbing into the head of Rossi’s Saint have all been pleasurable. Viewing the modification of form and scale from project to project, it is fascinating to note the formal and theoretical relationships that exist between Rossi’s built works and their written/drawn counterparts. However, I am still trying to work out which is the analogue: the built work, the drawn study, or the written narrative.
Cameron McEwan July 2011
After Architect Aldo Rossi: The Hand of San Carlone and the Theatre’s of Life at Fagnano Alona and Broni
Mounting the stair of the plinth, the pilgrim enters the body of the saint. After ascending the interior of the body, one arrives at the head and peers through the eyes of San Carlone toward the grey lakes of Maggiore. Two Regionale trains and a wet walk from Milano Centrale, it takes a little under two hours to reach the location of Rossi’s drawn, re-drawn and drawn again hand of San Carlone at Arona. Architect Cerano designed the 35 metre high iron structure, enclosed in folded copper that one can climb by hooking into a harness and reaching toward the heavens by ladder.
A detour home via Sunday bus service and a further one and a half hour stroll, I received a pleasant welcome from a teacher named Virginia Mont who guided me around Rossi’s elementary school in Fagnano Olona. The school is organised around a central courtyard with steps that lead to the double height gymnasium. Like in the preliminary studies for San Cataldo Cemetery, Modena (both designs of the 1970s), a skeletol plan form emerges, with classrooms arranged linearly along the legs. One enters at the head of this skeletol creature, underneath a clock and adjacent chimney, and proceeds to the circular, meeting space, which unfortunately is now showing signs of water penetration. The elevation is punctured with large square openings set in line with the internal wall thus articulating the shadow that falls on the external surface.
The intermediate school in Broni, south of Milan, further interrogates the courtyard as an organisational device. Now, a single storey encloses an hexagonal meeting space. A halt in the enclosing wall of classrooms allows views toward the housing that surround the school. As with Fagnano Olona, Rossi sets the square window frames flush with the inside. Shadow again allowing one to visualise the passing of time.
Ben Huser recently posted an homage to Aldo Rossi in which Huser included some of his beautiful photographs of the floating Teatro del Mondo. To make a comparison, the central hexagonal space of Broni is reconfigured within Rossi’s sketch studies for his floating pavilion at the 1980 Venice Biennale: with only a slight modification, a theatre of life becomes a theatre of the world. A similar comparison can be made with the San Cataldo Cemetery and Fagnano Olona School which merge into one another: one a theatre for the dead, the other a play of life.
”]A press running off a strip of newborns, digital clocks counting the number of births and deaths, a monitor that constructs a composite face from sixty newborns and fifty-two deceased. Chance is the contraption that Christian Boltanski constructs within the French pavilion at the Giardini. The 54th La Biennale di Venezia takes place at the Giardini, the Arsenale and other locations around Venice. Countries host their own exhibition in permanent and temporary pavilions, presenting a view of contemporary art today. The 2011 (meta) theme is “illuminations,” a theme that “emphasizes the intuitive insight and the illumination of thought that is fostered by an encounter with art and its ability to sharpen the tools of perception,” explains curator Bice Curiger. Unfolding from this was the formal activity of constructing buildings within buildings, or “parapavilions” that are to hold work by other artists, maybe a painting or two… Here, I offer a few of my highlights.
One walks through the labyrinth of metal scaffold of Boltanski’s Chance with the “clock” rooms to either side. The labyrinth is a baby-factory, at the centre is its opposite. The moment of extinction, visualised as a montage of fragments from faces. It is both light and dense, elegant and disconcerting.
Britain is represented by artist Mike Nelson whose pavilion-within-a-pavilion is titled I, Impostor. It is a (another) labyrinthine sequence of low ceilinged, dark and dusty rooms that feel parasitically attached to the pavilion. It succeeds in offering a menacing and unexpected encounter with issues of memory and repetition by transposing a work by Nelson from Istanbul to Venice, and invites further interpretation.
Never a disappointing visit, the Italian pavilion comes complete with dead pigeons, sculptures by Maurizio Cattelan. The birds peer down at three Tintorettos.
”]Rooms-within-rooms continued at the Arsenale. After stepping through the component parts of Son Dong’s parapavilion (a reconstruction of his family home in China) one wanders through the enormous shed of art, pausing to step into side-rooms or other parapavilions. One of which is a James Turrell light and mist show in a slightly curved enclosure, another contains a beautiful film by Elad Lassry titled Ghost.
Gerard Byrne offered some “analogies surveyed and organised into concrete poetry and film forms.” Anyone interested in “analogy” is of course a welcome addition to any exhibition… His work included some back-in-fashion photograms, while Dayanita Singh offered File Room, a taxonomy of storage space which might recall Giulio Camillo’s sixteenth-century Memory Theatre in which one could access the sum of Western thought. More about that in a future post…
At the corner showed a film by Christian Marclay. Titled The Clock it is a 24 hour (predictably) montage of scenes cut from films using time, memory or history as part of their narrative. Although links to notions of time were rather explicit, it was a joy to sit down and work out which film fragment we were watching, before it rapidly moved to the next.
Constructions, film and photographs, where is the paint? Vittorio Sgarbi curated the final instalment of the Arsenale, where he “coordinated” a visual cacophony of a further 200 artists. Titled “L’Arte non è Cosa Nostra” (Art is Not a Mafia), of note were nudes by Isabella Gherardi, cityscapes by Giorgio Ortona, photographs by Guido Guidi and prints by Gianluigi Colin. With work featuring sex, religion, violence and nudity, I completely forgot about my need for a splattering of paint.
After Architect Aldo Rossi: Alberti in Mantua, Canaletto’s “Forgetting” and the Palazzo della Ragione in Padova
Before travelling north to Vicenza and Padova, I paused in Mantua and watched the mist enter Alberti’s basilica of Sant’ Andrea. Alberti’s wall is interrupted by a colossal arch that reaches from entrance to the underside of the pediment. The facade is square in proportion but reads as a combination of wall and column architecture. Inside, the plan extends linearly and the internal elevations share an analogous relationship to the facade. The pediment is removed and replaced with a stunning vaulted and columnless space. San Sebastiano, Alberti’s other basilica in Mantua is a centralised plan with vestibule placed outside of a square plan. The facade of which is enclosed in a square, like at Sant’Andrea, the width corresponding to the height from the entrance to the apex of the pediment. With very few openings, pilasters rather than columns as decoration, it reads as “wall architecture.”
A preliminary question in Vicenza (via supervisor’s Graeme Hutton and Dr Lorens Holm) was to what extent has Canaletto faithfully represented the buildings in his vedute ideate of La Basilica di Vicenza e il Ponte dia Rialto, that hangs in Parma (refer to the post dated June 24 for photographs). I do not plan to fully answer this question here, but I will make some observations. The painting depicts a quiet scene that contains numerous boats and gondolas. It is the Grand Canal in Venice. At the centre is the Rialto Bridge, to the right is the Vicenza Basilica. Lining the canal on the left and only just visible is the Palazzo Chierecati. These three buildings are designs by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio whose treatise The Four Books of Architecture dates from 1570.
Canaletto has replaced the present bridge, erected in 1587 and designed by Antonio da Ponte, with a composite of designs extrapolated from Palladio’s Four Books. Canaletto’s bridge has three arches, the central arch is one height of stone higher than the sides and thus also wider, unlike Palladio’s second design for the bridge which has three equal arches. The first design has five arches similar to that drawn in Riconstruzione di Castel Sant’Angelo (hangs also in Parma). The bridge painted by Canaletto is symmetrical in elevation, with a barrel vaulted roof over the two smaller arches, while that of Palladio’s appears not to be so. On the relationship of the Basilica and the Palazzo Chierecati, the rhythm of each of the buildings’ horizontal bays corresponds to that of the built projects of Palladio in Vicenza. Similarly the column Order for both is Tuscan to “ground” level, unadorned Ionic above, and faithfully represented by Canaletto. The vertical proportion of the Basilica accords to the common Palladian ratio of 4:5. In the Four Books the Chierecati is drawn to the same ratio as the Basilica. However in Canaletto’s depiction, if one follows the perspective line from the Basilica and returns with the Chierecati, it appears that although the column Order is the same, the vertical proportion is not. Canaletto has extruded the Palazzo Chierecati vertically and doubled the steps that reach from ground (water in the painting) to loggia. Has he “forgotten” Palladio’s ratio? Why the Palazzo Chierecati? It has an open loggia. In general, loggia’s are used to front public spaces, like in the built project in Vicenza, they do not usually front onto water. Additionally, buildings that line the canal in Venice are usually solid, so why did Canaletto not use the Palazzo Thiene, a building that defines a street edge in Vicenza, and one that might better define a water edge in Venice. Perhaps it just was not Venetian enough…
Rossi uses the Palazzo della Ragione in Padova as an example of a primary element that defines the pattern of the city. It has had multiple functions (medieval town hall, Renaissance court, market place) since its construction in the thirteenth-century and remains in full use. For this reason it contains the collective memory of Padova. At present the hall is used as exhibition space and there are numerous restaurants, cafes and grocery shops contained within the groundfloor bays. To either side are two open spaces. One is three times in breadth to height of the structure, the other is two. Thus, two different spatial conditions are set up and make for variety in close proximity.
Italian architect Aldo Rossi writes in A Scientific Autobiography: “Perhaps the observation of things has remained my most important formal education; for observation later becomes transformed into memory. Now I seem to see all the things I have observed arranged like tools in a neat row; they are aligned as in a botanical chart, or a catalogue, or a dictionary.”
The chart and catalogue; observation and memory. The axis of Rossi’s thesis is, on one hand, the relationship between building types to urban morphology and thus to catalogue; on the other it is the temporal relationship of history and memory. My own knowledge of Rossi has up to now been limited to the many translated texts of his, perhaps the most significant being The Architecture of the City (1966), A Scientific Autobiography (1981) and the two texts of 1976 An Analogical Architecture and The Analogical City: Panel. With the exception of the museum of art in Maastricht, the Netherlands and his hotel in Fukoaka, Japan, I am yet to fully immerse myself in the built analogue of Rossi’s writings.
However, for the following two weeks I will study the palazzo’s, the piazza’s and the porticoes of northern Italy, fuelled by Illy espresso and in search of all things Aldo Rossi… A preliminary itinerary is thus:
Bologna’s “Bilbao” is the MAMBA. A former industrial complex turned hub of film, theatre and contemporary art.
In Modena, I will visit Rossi’s unfinished cemetery of San Cataldo.
I struggle to get through a presentation, seminar or paper without some reference to the analogical representation of Palladian artefacts that is Canaletto’s Capriccio view of Venice (1759); potentially a major highlight in Parma.
The real Palladian artefacts lay in wait in Vicenza: the Palazzo Chierecati and the Piazza dei Signori and Basilica. Inside the Teatro Olimpico is Scamozzi’s theatre set based on Serlio’s perspective street scenes: the Comical, the Satyric and the Tragic. Another reference that my student’s have to put up with…
Rossi’s “propelling permanence,” the Palazzo della Ragione, a medieval town hall, Renaissance court, and now market place, is a primary element in Padua.
Directed by Bice Curiger and titled “Illuminations” La Biennale at the Giardini and Arsenale in Venice is the next stop. A pleasing aside to this art fest will be the facade of Ca’ d’Oro, Piazza San Marco, a few more Palladio’s, a Guggenheim and Filarete’s Column.
The environs of Milan provide another dose of Rossi. To the north, the elementary school at Fagnano Olona and perhaps if I have time, Arona with that much drawn and re-drawn hand of San Carlone.
Broni is south of Milan and is the location of another school.
Alberti’s San Andrea in Mantua is a worthwhile pause, before visiting Rossi’s first built work, the monument and town square in Segrate.
My Rossi trip concludes with a visit to the Gallaratese housing block; while my Italy trip ends with a city sketch from the Duomo, or maybe a camminata through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuelle II.
“… But this catalogue, lying somewhere between imagination and memory, is not neutral; it always reappears in several objects and constitutes their deformation and, in some way, their evolution” (Rossi, 1981). A catalogue of observations (some Rossian, some Freudian) via photographs, drawings and anecdotes to follow…
Cameron McEwan June 2011