What is the first memory that comes to your mind related to the Faculty of Architecture of Pescara?
I arrived in Pescara after Rome and Reggio Calabria. It was 1986. I found a faculty in transformation, in the space of a few years many teachers changed location, some forcibly. There was a rapid and substantial change. The trend soon exhausted its cultural presence. The geography of relationships and references changed, no longer Milan and Naples, but Rome which strengthened his contribution in terms of teachers. The faculty opened up to other contributions, in Rome in particular, but not to a homogeneous and structured Roman school (in reality the Roman school if it had a common character this lay precisely in its variety of interests, in its attention to the contemporary, to its critical and relativist orientation, all characteristics that can be attributed to Quaroni's teaching). There were new entrances. For the architectural design Terranova, D'Ardia, the young Desideri, Aymonino, Andriani; for urban planning, Karrer (but it was a presence for a few years), Clementi. I considered myself a newcomer. I proposed myself not as an urban planner, but as an urban architect. I felt that it could be done in Pescara.
Our condition as new teachers allowed us to interpret the city of Pescara and its territory in an original way. The dimension of the journey, of the crossing entered our culture, the natural landscape, but also the great infrastructures. We liked its equipped axis of Pescara, its generic nature, its repetitive expansion that made it look like an American city (like Guido Piovene for that matter), a new city, young "without wrinkles" (the expression is Giorgio Manganelli).
I was happy to be in Pescara. The journey and the discovery of Pescara as a “small metropolis”, as Barbieri called it, united us, gave us the opportunity to think about the new dimension of the suburbs, the widespread city, the territory of infrastructures. In Pescara we have grasped the coexistence of local and global. For me it was also an opportunity to get to know the Adriatic as a border sea and a region between the Apennines and the Balkans and beyond, up to the Danube. To teach in Pescara, we needed to think big, not to see it as a province, but as a knot of flows, a crossroads of different cultures. I was among the first to promote a reflection on the relations between the two shores of the Adriatic with conferences, books, research (I remember in particular the monographic issue of PPC La città adriatica , 1995). I thought of Pescara as a bridge on a transversal, transit route: from the Tyrrhenian to the Adriatic, to the Danube. An intermodal sea-land corridor (on this we have developed an important research prepared for the Abruzzo Sea Bridge Region, 2005-7). This interpretative tension has resulted in many of us in a design culture open to the contemporary, but at the same time linked to contexts. New contexts, captured in a changing territory, where infrastructures, on a par with existing settlement networks and environmental networks, become decisive elements for the plan and the project.
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?
I was not culturally involved in the so-called "trend", I loved Rossi very much, his attention to the theme of urban morphology, his poetry and irony, I appreciated the first works of Renna and Bisogni in the Campania region, but overall I followed the theoretical and operational production of the trend with a certain detachment. I think that the presence in Pescara of authoritative personalities such as Rossi, Grassi, Monestiroli was too short and varied to be able to build a school. The contribution of the “trend” in the construction of the city was different on the territory, I am thinking of the Chieti Campus, but also of the many anonymous buildings scattered throughout the territory, works of architects who graduated in that period. It is difficult to define the trend, it is impossible to find a unitary formulation, as was shown in the 2012 Parisian exhibition La Tendenza Architectures italiennes 1965-1985. We find too many fathers, too many references at times distant (the 1980 Biennial of Portoghesi, does the presence of the past have anything to do with the trend?).
As a cultural phenomenon in its variety it is undoubtedly interesting and forces us to reflect on a significant period in our history. Maybe we should go back to reconsidering its initial phase. immediately articulated in the positions: on the one hand the search for meaning in the complex stratification of the city by Rossi who opposed the naive functionalism of the modern, on the other, with Grassi, the construction of a logic, of a reason internal to the construction of architecture that brings attention to the specific disciplinary, to architecture as rationality, as a cognitive act endowed with autonomy. On the one hand, architecture as an urban fact, on the other, architecture as a fragment. In both cases, the search for a new relationship with reality. An ambiguous beginning that has opened up many lines of research, but which in hindsight has diverted attention from the new forms that the contemporary city was assuming. From a distance it is legitimate to affirm that the "trend" has contributed to a disciplinary entrenchment that is now completely anachronistic.
What do you think you have left in this faculty?
The legacy of a teacher can be measured by his pupils and by the teachers he has managed to train. In Pescara Matteo di Venosa and Antonio Clemente teach, they are not clones, but capable teachers. Raffaella Massacesi who has collaborated with me in recent years is an architect and a scholar of value. They have been close to me in teaching, but also in operational experimentation in many competitions and work commitments. It was an equal partnership, there was an exchange in which I gave and learned a lot. The Waterfont book. From conflict to integration documents this exchange and the necessary relationship between teaching, research and operational experimentation. The research on the relationship between city and port, on the structuring role of ports in territorial planning and in the construction of coastal landscapes has engaged me for many years and it is still a central processing sector on which Pescara, as a school, can still do a lot. .
On the didactic level I think that the best things were my courses in Urban Planning Fundamentals, basically the students' first encounter with urban planning. The course was called “The travel notebook in the territory of the city” . Each student had to explore and understand the urban reality of their hometown through life drawings and sketches, photographs, reliefs, historical documents and town planning documents. The student was introduced to urban planning through an exercise in reading and observation, he had to learn to recognize the urban parts from the historic center to the periphery, the spatial relationships, the relationships between architecture and urban planning, between norms and construction of the city. My aim was to introduce the student to urban planning in an attractive, creative, planning way. The reference was the travel notebook of the masters of architecture. I published an instruction booklet bearing the title of the course, it was successful. A few years ago I wanted to teach Urban Planning Fundamentals again, it was a way to verify the usefulness of the travel notebook at the time of Google. I got confirmation that it still works. The contents of my courses, my interest in the urban project, the shape of the contemporary city and the space of infrastructures have been reported in a series of publications including Le fears dell'urbanistica and Babele .
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?
I think that a design culture has formed in Pescara where the architectural dimension has merged with the urban and territorial dimension (this position is clearly expressed by the monographic issues of PPC: The stairs of the project, The quality of the project , The public works published between the late 1990s and early 2000s. The period between the mid 1990s and about 2005 were the best years for the Pescara faculty of architecture. A group of teachers, architects and urban planners worked together in a fertile and innovative way, setting up an interdisciplinary department the Dart, Department of Environment and Territory Networks (I have always liked acronyms that have meaning and sound). At the center was the project, developed at various scales, with a strong focus on the urban dimension and infrastructural territories. In those years we imposed ourselves on a national level with researches, positions and design experiments. i, but very cohesive in research and cultural strategies. Some researches such as Itaten (Investigations on the transformation of national territorial structures, 1996) and Infra (Forme Insediative and infrastructures, 2003) owe a lot to the Pescara working group and in particular to A.Clementi and G.Barbieri. On some issues, such as the widespread city, the positions developed by me and by M. Ricci (with whom I shared the direction of the Meltemi Babele series which was very active since 2001 for about a decade) gave an original contribution to the debate. Many researchers, designers and scholars revolved around the Babele series and therefore, in a certain sense around Pescara. The common ground was the transforming city as a backdrop for the project. In this period one could speak of a school in Pescara, with its own recognizability, its own character, its own weight. The Pescara school was recognizable, in my opinion, for the strong integration between architecture and urban planning, for its design experimentation that crossed the stairs, for its ability to propose innovative themes for the traditional project such as infrastructures, mobility. , territorial nodes such as ports, urban reconnection… .. This phase ended around the mid-2000s. The reasons are different. Many teachers changed location (Desideri, Aymonino, Ricci, the Milanese bBalducci in Lanzani and Bianchetti, Avarello had returned to Rome much earlier ...). The faculty as a whole weakened. There were internal conflicts and divisions not linked to opposing cultural visions, but rather to reasons of micro-power and personal hegemonies. Gradually the cultural project failed. A bad university reform did the rest. Meanwhile the world was changing: while the industrialized European countries had long ago begun to invest in urban and territorial redevelopment, ours remained stationary, preventing us from concretely experimenting with the working hypotheses on which we had been committed since the 1980s, sometimes ahead of the international debate. The world was changing rapidly on an economic and social level, imposing a new pace on competition, innovation, internationalization, but also on the level of awareness of the environmental risk linked to climate change. The environmental issue has failed to become a priority either at the political level or at the cultural level in schools and training processes. While in the world we already work in the future, we remain crushed on the present. Instead of focusing on multidisciplinary knowledge and innovation, there is a return to the disciplinary enclosure. Also in Pescara, where new training methods could be explored due to the presence of an engineering degree course. We find the lack of vision of the future in any sector, in politics, in the economy, unfortunately also in schools and this is inadmissible.
If you were to return to teaching in Pescara, what experiences would you try to introduce into the reality of the Department of Architecture?
In the last few years I have worked hard on the notion of context and of environmental infrastructure. The context is today an inverse territory, degraded, polluted, abandoned, disused, with seismic and hydrogeological risk. This territory is still unknown, it does not enter the official plans and representations, yet it is from this territory that we must start for urban regeneration.
Environmental infrastructures are both natural and artificial networks, both of which must contribute to maintaining the resilience of the earth, to controlling climate change. Natural networks (think rivers) have long been hybrid, they combine nature with artifice, their role is essential for environmental rebalancing. This function of theirs must be safeguarded, but also implemented through science and technology. Similarly, artificial networks (the infrastructures of mobility, energy, industrial production, waste management ... ..) must produce a service for the environment, incorporating nature, the landscape, the devices for the production of renewable energy and the absorption of greenhouse gases.
The regeneration programs and projects that are so much talked about today must start from this care for the soil, the soil, the water, the air. We have a great deal of reclamation and redesign of the territory ahead of us.
This large-scale opening of the environment is an obligatory step that commits us to an uncertain and risky future. The discipline of the project must accept this challenge (William Morris said at the beginning of modernity that architecture is confronted with all the alterations of the earth's crust), not giving up the task of giving shape to cities and meaning to the territory, transforming it into a landscape.
The environmental infrastructure becomes one of the central themes of the project. We must think of a territory crossed by a system of infrastructural and natural networks. And the networks, we know, have long trajectories, but they are also made up of short networks, public spaces, pedestrian paths and minute episodes (energy efficiency of buildings, recycled materials….). The nets draw textures, intersecting giving relief to the nodes. In the end, these are the ones that shore up the territory through a system of interconnected centralities.
The city as a whole must be an environmental infrastructure .
New perspectives, new learning paths, new knowledge bases and interdisciplinary working methods are opening up for the project. In recent years, I have started a process of reflection on these issues in the PPC magazine (the monographic issues Contexts , Ecologics , No-Waste , Ordinariness ). It is in this direction that I would like to continue working ..