top of page


Paolo WISH

What is the first memory that comes to your mind related to the Faculty of Architecture of Pescara?

The first (indelible) memory I have of Pescara and the Faculty of Architecture is what I faithfully recounted in the first chapter of "La città di Latta" : Pidi arrived for the first time in Pescara in November 1984. It was seven in the evening, it was dark, and the temperature was that of the month of the dead.

To get to that eastern end of Italian longitude he had taken the train to Roma Termini four hours earlier. The journey had gradually dissolved every metropolitan atmosphere: the mountain, and then that remote toponymy (Celano, Scurcola Marsicana, Magliano dei Marsi, Sulmona and the Maiella), and then the dry smells and the nuanced noises and muffled colors of that snowy but not alpine, destination of frequent escapes from the Roman urban environment in the years just passed. Now, as then, he felt dazed and suspended for that feeling of being on the opposite side of the city, at the antipodes of the metropolis, in the upside-down strangeness of the coordinates of nowhere….

The first edition of "La città di latta" is from 1995.

I started writing it in 1993, after returning from a six-month experience as a Visiting Professor in Canada. I had already spent eight years inside the Faculty of Architecture in Pescara. The book published the reflections and the theoretical and didactic work carried out in those years. Hard and extraordinary years.

Extraordinary because in Pescara there was the didactic atmosphere of a North American campus. Mostly off-site students and teachers who stayed there for the school they attended. School was the center of our life in Pescara. I had courses of an Asian density: in 1987, 412 students were enrolled with me for Planning III. I was alone, without assistants. I remember the times of the heroic revisions and today unacceptable. At two in the morning some girls, the few residents of Pescara, were invariably accompanied by incredulous fathers.

But in those years in Pescara, thanks to the International Meetings, there was a different air. Many guests came to me, with funds raised by the creativity of Enzo Calabrese, still a student at the time, to give lessons in Pescara. Enric Miralles and Peter Eisenman, Gustav Peichl, and Zaha Hadid, Coop Himmelblau and Jurgen Sawade, and Boris Podrecca, and Oriol Bohigas, and Rem Koohlaas and Rob Krier and Paul Chemetov and many others who drew ocean crowds of incredulous, and so haughty, students mischievous by the seven dwarfs who sat on the school council. And here begins the hardness of those years: the heroic hardness of those years. I can't help but remember when I was asked for a preliminary written report on what I believed to be the expectations and didactic consequences of Peter Eisenman's lesson. (!!!) Nor can I forget that someone requested and obtained an Institute Council to discuss and stigmatize the use of private funding for Meetings (the cocacola with a university lesson ... what does it have to do with, what does it have to do with it ...)

But they also last outside the confines of the Faculty of Pescara, where the themes addressed by my research, and perhaps even more the conceptual outcomes of my work, were sufficiently supported by an academic culture that still, for the most part, was confronted with the elaborations theorists of the debate on the city and architecture of the seventies and eighties.

Gregotti directed Casabella as if modernity still existed.

Aldo Rossi extraordinarily consistent with himself continued to be Aldo Rossi self-referentially.

The Roman school was still firmly governed by Carlo Chiarini who belatedly continued to discover and darken the architecture and thought of Giorgio Grassi.

Franco Purini reacted with the cultural terrorism that is peculiar to him at every conference in which he heard me speak of a widespread city, of Los Angeles of complexity.

I was a University Researcher. Which evidently was doing research because, at the time, really no one was interested in the themes of my research.

One of the phenomena that has affected the Faculty of Architecture of Pescara since its origins has been that of TREND. What is TREND? and what did it represent for you?

The Trend was a season of theoretical reflection within the history of our discipline. A season that I would prefer to see appropriately historicized rather than continue to see it kept alive with unnecessary mouth-to-mouth breaths. (a practice in which the Faculty of Architecture of Pescara has always distinguished itself, for the presence in the headquarters of a lively group of soldiers who never realized that the war was over) An important season more important for the figures who then inspired those theoretical reflections that, frankly, for the real founding value of the theories on the city and architecture that were then developed. After almost half a century, none of those conceptual positions still seem to me to be positively shared today. The fifty years spent in the middle have taught us and unveiled a lot, whether we like it or not, about the autonomy of architecture and the founding models of the contemporary city.

Metropolises have evolved in then truly unpredictable directions and urban models of modernity have definitively given way to enigmatic metropolitan forms, mostly unexplored with the ancient type-morphological instrumentation that Tendenza proposed us, at the time, as a fundamental cognitive tool.

The same dream of an autonomous definability of the disciplinary corpus of architecture appears today, frankly, impractical and on the contrary the same knowledge in architecture and in the practice of design appears more and more inserted within a theory of knowledge linked to complex models. In no case can the form nowadays allow itself to claim any self-referential autonomy and we are called, as designers, to the exercise of creativity as a fundamental tool for solving the problems present in the project field.

And if we want to make it a stylistic question, of languages, of formalism, preferably for the square windows over the round ones, of the masonry compared to the glass walls, well, then let me say that this would be the worst betrayal that that brilliant theoretical season could see. perpetrated to its detriment: the reduction of architecture to empty formalism.

What do you think you have left in this faculty?

I like to think that I have not "left" Pescara. My cultural, personal, scientific and even emotional ties remain alive and strong today. I hope I have left a tension (and not a tendency) to curiosity which I believe is the most important gift for those who want to study architecture.

In his career he has faced different academic realities. Are there any distinctive features that can be recognized in the various universities? If yes, what are they?

Each University is a small-large community and as such is characterized by its own specificity. As I have already said, Pescara was the most similar school to the American University Campuses that I have ever found in Italy. Students at the time (but I believe still today) mostly not from the city who were there to study, to share time and knowledge: like in Berkeley or Waterloo. Students who do not look at the clock because their life is on the Campus (if you know how to interest them and stimulate them in knowledge)

If you were to return to teaching in Pescara, what experiences would you try to introduce into the reality of the Department of Architecture?

I'd take the students to the construction site as much as possible. We have to teach more and more the passion for what I call the constructive destiny of architecture. We still have to overcome, in Italy, the drift for paper architecture, for all non-productive forms of self-referentiality in architecture. Construction site does not just mean the place where buildings are built. Construction site is every real trench of the project implementation procedure. The construction site is also the Public Administration. Cantiere is also the office of architecture which is the place of production of the project.

bottom of page