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Understanding the messages

We often handle coins (and banknotes) with images of famous architectures; a choice that does not concern only the euro, but exemplars of every time and country, at least from the Romans onwards. This means that you can communicate with the architecture. But, to convey what? And, of the architecture of the past, do we really grasp the messages of the clients and their architects or those that our time suggests to us?

Following Vitruvius we could say that the work to be built bears a meaning, and that it is up to the architect to justify it. But architecture speaks for itself, as Pericles and, later, the Roman emperors knew well, who made it a skilled propaganda tool, imitated, in this, by many other ancient and modern rulers.

The monuments of the Acropolis of Athens are the classic example of what architecture could and still can communicate: the superiority of Attic culture and art over that of other ancient peoples. And the historian Plutarch, writing about it after six centuries, already judged the architectural works commissioned by Pericles: “In fact, each one was immediately ancient for its beauty, so far for its freshness it is new and just finished. Thus a youth always emanates, which preserves the aspect of time intact ”. But, if this is the meaning of the Classic, it is also the true meaning, the true message transmitted by architecture: when it is truly such, that is, only in rare cases, it is able to express such beauty as to arouse aesthetic joy. to users and observers of all times and countries.

Furthermore, by changing the ways of admiring architecture listed by John Ruskin, in examples of what architecture can communicate, we could suggest: arousing feelings: with the suggestion offered by the environment, by the lighting conditions, or by particular situations of use of a building; convey a complacency: the pleasure experienced by owners or admirers in the face of the splendor or grandeur of a building;

expressions of a technical nature: appreciation for the constructive magisterium;

artistic and rational expressions: for Ruskin it was the appreciation of sculptural and pictorial decorations of a building, for us the balanced synthesis of form, structure and function and, consequently, the harmonious conception of the interior space.

The different ability to grasp the various meanings depends on the different preparation of those who use architecture: thus, only those who have studied its characteristics are able to understand its true qualities, while others will appreciate its construction technique, its monumentality or, finally, , the power of suggestion.

Perhaps it is also by taking these aspects into account that the architects of today and, above all, those of tomorrow, will be able to satisfy the true needs of society, also favoring the development of an authentic sense of beauty.

Adriano Ghisetti

Titus, sestertius, Rome 80-81 AD Titus on a curule saddle surrounded by weapons. R / The Colosseum.

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