WOO interview

Mario Cucinella

Cool and glamor are replacing utilitas, firmitas and venustas in architecture. More and more often, even in universities, there is a tendency to design more or less beautiful "sculptures" but very often difficult to live. In view of this, how do you think it is right to intervene in urban transformations?

The answer has several faces: one is linked to the fact that the architect is a difficult profession. Putting together the utilitas, the firmitas and the venustas is very difficult. In recent years, the visual sense has mainly developed in architecture, neglecting all the others. We do not do a job that depends only on a sense, if only the eyes are used and therefore only the sight is used, only images are produced that are in fact a great illusion because it is only form. The shape is therefore not a dream but an illusion. The difference between illusion and dream is immense: the illusion in fact does not exist and never will be while battles are fought for dreams. I am of the opinion that in recent years too much weight has been given to the discourse of the image, as if architecture were an object and was borrowed from the dominant culture of communication: perfect for a car, for a design object, etc. Architecture cannot be moved, it cannot be demolished and it cannot be placed in a garage. If a building is badly done, if it doesn't work well, we all pay the consequences. I think it is very important, from an educational point of view, to go back to the fundamentals of our profession. […] Architecture is not like fashion that you put in the closet at the end of the season.

At the beginning of September in our Department of Architecture the Pescara Summer School took place, a workshop on the themes of redevelopment and reuse of the "unsolved" areas of the city of Pescara, involving and communicating with the administration and the various public bodies present in the area. . Based on your professional experience, what are the dialogue strategies you have adopted with people and places subject to urban transformations? What results did it lead to?

Redevelopment is an issue that has not yet been properly addressed. […] Building recovery policies are made and then we don't really know what to do, we don't create a dialogue or listen to the neighborhood, we don't explain what the reasons for the transformation are. In Italy the results of these interventions are very poor because individuals often decide for others what to do in the areas of transformation. […] It is necessary to analyze what transformations are needed through dialogue with the neighborhood to understand the real needs of the people. Making a transformation with a purely speculative approach involves the risk that strange things will come out, so to transform and make something a part of the city, you need to be able to make the project also an opportunity for those who live in it to find something useful in it. […] We have done very simple things, always and necessarily starting from the capacity that a common person has and from listening to people. If you don't listen you don't learn anything, if you talk you only say what you already know! An important role must be claimed, that of the architect which is not only the role of the designer […].

We hear more and more often about sustainability, reuse, green space, smart city as fundamental themes for the current development of the city. The idea that a city must be "intelligent" as well as its infrastructures, its territory and its energy system is becoming increasingly popular. Beyond the theory, what is, in your opinion, the first concrete step to lead cities, our cities, to become places capable of satisfying these objectives?

There is a lot of talk about it and nothing happens. These words have almost lost their meaning. The first thing I would do is to open a great dialogue table with the city for the future of the city. How do we imagine a city in 20 years? Where do we make green spaces? The list of problems is long but we must start from that to understand what are the strategies and concrete solutions to be adopted because everything we put into practice now will happen in 15/20 years. A city doesn't suddenly become intelligent by itself. […] We must be aware of what the problems are, establish priorities and start from those. For me, the priority is the climate and environmental system, because the climate problem is bringing with it serious consequences precisely in terms of human lives: what then is the plan for climate adaptation? what is the reuse system for abandoned areas? or railway areas? what is the strategy on the adriatic coast? Real priorities and projects must be put on the table. The future comes anyway, you think about it or you don't think about it. […] It is very important to pursue a visionary policy: what we are trying to do is this.

You are one of the tutors of the G124 group created by the senator architect Renzo Piano to deepen the study, try to give solutions, for the development of the suburbs and the city that will be. What are the main problems encountered in a work of this type and what is the role that the suburbs have in your idea of the city of the future?

The problems encountered on this issue are that no one listens to anyone anymore. The work of the architects who worked on this project by Renzo Piano have implemented a great listening policy by becoming psychologists who try to solve people's problems by giving a creative and concrete answer. It is clear that the breadth of the problem of the suburbs is so vast that there is not a single solution. In the city we live in, you have to take small steps, take a problem and solve it! Our work was done for that. Not a unifying policy of circumscriptions. The city goes on meanwhile people live there and things don't happen. Let's go see where the problem is and let's go and solve it. The problems are then those of listening policies. Those who live there know better than us, they are not only aesthetic problems but cultural ones, the football field is missing .. the path is missing, there is no school, there are no gardens, the bus does not arrive. Everyone has forgotten a bit of the problems .. I see this as a great possibility for architects, to be able to get their hands on the building heritage from a creative and listening point of view. In Catania there was a great involvement with the schools with the citizens but no limitations for the creative aspect for the architect. I hope that over time there is only one city and we can remove this idea of the periphery, a condition not a separation.