interview by MAURA MANTELLI
Are there any architectures that represent happiness for you?
Often there is a confusion of plans between the character of an author and the character of his artistic product. Enzo Mari belongs to that group of people who, looking at their faces, seem to have come out of a funeral and instead made plans that emanate great happiness. In classicism the project was the construction of an object according to an often shared canon. Romanticism rather sees art as the expression of a feeling; its side effect is the vision of the artistic object as a mere "vehicle" of an emotion, which through it should be transmitted from one subject to another. Paradoxically, the “constructive” structure of the work loses value to the detriment of its communicative dimension. On the other hand, it is not certain that it is the poet in love who writes the most beautiful love poem. William Shakespeare managed to create the characters of Juliet or King Lear “at the table” without being a thirteen year old (sic) in love, nor an old ruler. and this would explain the general misunderstanding about the expressive character of art. Gustave Flaubert used to say : "There is nothing weaker than putting one's feelings into art." This does not mean that he does not have an ideal of "sentimental" architecture in his head, quite the contrary. It must be a bit like a song heard in the background at a bar table, a soundtrack that is the background to our
everyday life. Or rather, a sort of "sentimental mathematics" in the sense that its structure and shape are important, and act like a glass that must contain the liquid nature of our feelings rather than generate them. Flaubert still said:
“Is it enough to be possessed by a feeling to express it? Is there a convivial song that was written by a drunk? It is not always necessary to believe that feeling is everything, in the arts it is nothing without form. "
But the same wine tastes quite different when drunk in a thin crystal goblet or in a thick glass from a tavern. Think of Asplund's Woodland Cemetery in Stockholm; the feeling that fills a cemetery is that of lamentation and pain. But its spaces and its details, rather than expressing it like the statues of weeping angels in Catholic tombs, welcome pain and know how to soothe it with the embrace of the wooden bench that detaches itself from the wall paneling, with the bronze canopy that protects, with views towards the birch woods. On the same bench you can kiss a girl or mourn the death of a relative. In conclusion, let's say that I have a certain suspicion, at least in architecture, against an expression that is too direct and univocal, especially if its object is the momentary sentiment of the author. A beautiful song is able to translate things into music and words that we would not have been able to express on our own; but this happens precisely by virtue of its "having form" with respect to the indistinct flow of the feelings themselves. An "adequate form" is its essence. Spaces have character; but the character of the spaces is their own, not necessarily the character of the people who inhabit them. Winston Churchill's famous phrase
"We shape our builidings, and thereafter our buildings shape us"
it is in some ways true; there is a "pedagogical" character of the spaces, but it is implemented in a subtle way, without determinisms or impositions. In the new Lavazza headquarters in Turin, I realized that an office building that houses the daily life of so many people needed a special place to meet, a somewhat theatrical place. The staircase that climbs freely for three floors following a sinuous path that is always different has been much appreciated by people, who use it every day even to climb not so much for physical exercise, but because its changing course causes a certain emotion. It is experienced as a social place, its character is that of a "daily baroque", a bit like that of the steps of Trinità dei Monti in Rome. In this sense, the spaces of the Lavazza Headquarters have truly “changed the mood” of the people who live there, but this is due to their objective environmental quality. On a larger scale, the Madrid Rio landscaping project by Burgos & Garrido, Porras La Casta, Rubio & Ãlvarez-Sala and West 8 really changed the mood of the citizens of Madrid; Spanish friends told me that thanks to the project, the sale of bicycles has increased by 400% and people no longer throw paper on the pavements. When architecture works well, it has great power; but we must never try to operate a coercive social engineering through architecture. One of John Coltrane's most beautiful pieces of music is a reinterpretation of the slightly gooey song that Julie Andrews sings in "Sound of Music" (All together passionately) to children to make them pass the fear of the storm by making the list of "My Favorite Things " . John Coltrane manages to extend his simple melody, inserting repetitions, variations, dissonances in it, making it more and more rarefied without destroying its musical line. Can you be sentimental and sophisticated at the same time? As a lover of the “Belle and Sebastian” band, I really hope so; and my house in Venice is perhaps the concrete example of this coexistence of "High and Low" that architecture, not being able to choose its audience, believes it must necessarily have. Giovanni Michelucci , who lived almost a hundred years, wrote an open letter to his students in 1948 entitled Happiness of the architect, and states in it:
"So that today, at this advanced age, I feel happiness (I use this term in the most proper sense: that 'happy is whoever has or believes he has what he can desire') when at work, approaching the workers who accomplish what I I thought, I understand the commitment of each of them, and my responsibility as a man is revealed to me and joins the individual infinite other responsibilities of men, for which, no longer only in the commitment and responsibilities, I feel that collaboration in action that distances from every controversy and brings everyone closer out of necessity, out of concordance of intentions and out of consonance of human interest; and so I was pleased to read that Ichigo, when he began to compose, set himself the goal of being, in his trade, what the old masters had been, that is to say, like them, a craftsman. 'They (he writes in the Chronicles of my life) composed their works exactly as the shoemaker makes shoes, that is, day by day, and most often to order'. This goal the musician talks about is the only one that is acceptable to me, as a mental and moral position of the artist in front of his work. "
I am very happy to have chosen this job, and obviously I hope to practice it until its venerable age.
Turin, Cino Zucchi