WOO_interview

Pepe BARBIERI

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

A heated multitude. The students crowded into the largest classroom of “Palazzo Perenich” to participate, as was then the custom, in the Faculty Councils. Lit by the desire to understand, to be able to decide, to ask "why". It was the 1970s. And now it seems that these "whys" should no longer be asked. It is surprising - not only in Pescara - that the students who today face this beautiful and tiring training course, (destined, however, to clash with a reality of the labor market that puts them on the sidelines both due to the high and unsustainable number of offer: one architect for every 400 inhabitants, perhaps the lowest ratio in the Western world; both for the guilty absence of a real "demand for architecture") do not forcefully ask about the ways in which these paths are built, their relationship with the world of work and with society. The few requests come from the search for greater efficiency - certainly a legitimate question -, but without going so far as to undermine the overall structure. A dangerous meekness that some in the world of teaching (also late) today try to overcome with the desire to question, in all its different aspects, the current training offer with the aim of building the conditions to raise its quality and responsiveness to the changed characteristics of the profession of architect in Italy and abroad.

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? What do you think you have left in this faculty? If you were to return to teaching in Pescara, what experiences would you try to introduce into the reality of the Department of Architecture?

Yes. It is still - perhaps even more than then - necessary for architects to recognize themselves in a trend . Precisely in the sense of conscious adherence to a cultural project that corresponds to the meaning that Ernesto Nathan Rogers gave to this term at the end of the 1950s and which then probably inspired Aldo Rossi in naming that cultural program, so important in the 1960s and Seventy. Rogers stated that " the word continuity was imprinted on the old title" Casabella "in November '53 to remember the commitment assumed by the new editorial staff through the use of" historical awareness ", that is the true essence of tradition, in the precise acceptance of a a tendency that for Pagano, Persico, as for us, is in the eternal variety of the spirit opposed to any past and present formalism. Dynamic continuation and not passive copying: not manner, not dogma, but free, unscrupulous research with constant method ... "

Not a way , not a dogma . What then often happens - and has happened in some way also in the case of the trend - for many other lines of thought and research in their progress over time, and in the lack of, in the followers, of the initial thrust that had ignited their fire .

But have the reasons that motivated the birth of that trend disappeared? And today, in their possible role, have some of those positions and conceptions with respect to the modalities, tools and tasks of the architectural project failed?

I think of the words of Agostino Renna, (for years a teacher in Pescara) one of the most coherent, sensitive and committed protagonists of that season: it is necessary, he said, to affirm the role of the civil art of architecture in the face of an inextinguishable need for the city .

Inextinguishable need for the city . A need that also corresponds to a right to the city, let's say today, while we measure how far the achievement of this right is for many inhabitants. David Harvey: “the right to the city is more than an individual freedom to access the resources offered by the city: it is the right to change ourselves by changing the city ”.

But we are still exactly here, facing the disaster of the city where the offer of beauty and quality of life that architecture could provide is not realized. We must take note of the substantial ineffectiveness of the various procedures and instruments, which with the help of the different disciplines should have directed the transformations of our cities and our territories. Thus today we have, in fact, a country "without architecture", also the result of the mismatch between the time of the transformation of the territory, that of politics and that of culture. It is an absence that requires an analysis and revision of the complex relationships with collective expectations, with the hierarchies of socially shared values, with the models of relationship with other knowledge, with the unavoidable materiality of the existing physical and documentary conditions.

The ineffectiveness of architecture is reflected in the absence of a qualified demand. A virtuous transformation of the city must be able to be nourished by the growth of a conscious demand that directs the complex itinerary of choices towards a shared vision. But this absent demand must be activated, showing that another way of building the city is possible than its banal and fragmented production.

The fate of the city is not just a question of architecture and urban planning. It is a fundamental question, very timely, on the meanings to be given to the ways in which a common good is established and can be managed .- It is the research on how a path towards a hoped-for world is activated.

In the season of the trend , Mies's statement “ architecture is the visible expression of a point of view that others wish to share ” was central.

Consciously assuming a point of view and making it visible is, I would say more than ever even at this moment, a decisive task in order for architecture and us architects to be recognized a role in such a difficult phase in the life of our societies. This is a moment in which, in our country, in response to a profound and multiple economic, social and political crisis, we are trying to rewrite the rules of our coexistence. We are in a general cycle change say socio-economist experts. It is therefore essential to ask ourselves what needs to be done so that architecture too, for how it is practiced - for how it can contribute to the realization of the common good - and for how it is taught (even with the necessary innovations) can perform that fundamental task which, especially in a reality like ours, it has not yet taken place.

But faced with this crucial question, we present ourselves with an inadequate framework of knowledge and procedures that we must be able to question.

In this context, which were and which, above all, appear today the fundamental contributions of the thought developed by several voices in those years that we can consider useful for the contemporary debate? It can be summed up in three, one can say, necessary issues.

  1. The city . The relationship between architecture and city . The necessary urban foundation for design choices. Architecture presupposes the city. The city is the repository and intertwining of the complexities that nourish architecture, allowing the identification of themes. From this derive: the conception of a necessary continuity in the construction of the city ( the Rogers continuity); the search for the contextual reasons for the choices. And, therefore, the fundamental relationship between analysis and design : history as a material of architecture. (Rossi was against all those who are content with making the great world machine work, aware that the meanings of the world had to be staged .) Thus escaping the danger of the functionalist reduction of urban complexity. shared of having to operate on a world already built, and having to in some way continue and modify or innovate its construction. The successful construction of the world obliges us to fix again in a coordinated and compatible way the reciprocal role of open spaces, of the compact city, of the extended city, of the emerging places of innovation, of the spaces of connections, of the new places of urban centrality. Keywords: regenerate, recycle, overwrite . Hence the need for a critical reading of the contexts, of the relational systems that include not only traditional architectural objects, but a multiple set of materials, layers, thicknesses, infrastructures and above all the soil itself - its shape and its thickness as fundamental and first infrastructure that must contribute to ensuring the necessary metabolism of the city.

  2. The theory . The indispensable link between theory and design. It is necessary to overcome the fear of theory as a founding, binding and normative apparatus towards the project and its figures. Let us think of the treatises and apodictic assertions of the modern: where the what is, architecture makes use of strong notions such as truth, origin, foundation, ethics , useful for producing an axiomatics from which it is possible to deduce correct forms (precisely because they are founded, original, truthful). However, it is necessary to find in architecture a form of thought that contains general and transmissible characteristics. The path desired by De Carlo of a continuous research that is measured on the quality of the weave rather than on that of its result: the fabric. That is, attention to the process and not just to the object. To work so that the knowledge of architecture is questioned to support the decision-making process, to create the conditions for architecture to exist . This means finding ways of sharing a vision of the future that is built with different degrees of freedom in different times by several subjects: every single design action should be proposed as part of a future thought to be proposed.

  3. The language . In the thinking of the trend , a basic objective is grasped: the need to contain the arbitrariness of the languages of architecture. A necessity linked to the belief that in many respects architecture is in its essence a collective work. A gegenstandslose kunst : a non-representational art. On closer inspection this is one of the strongest connections with the ideology of the modern: a reduction of the protagonism of the figures: the Miesian silence. A simplification of writing that should not have been so much a figure stylistic, as has often happened, as well as a search for the essential and, in a certain sense, necessary character of forms, aimed at revealing their role in the construction of a spatiality of another order: the urban one or that of the construction of the new urban landscape . Architectural objects are not protagonists, but a service of a configurative quality woven into the game of reciprocal relations. Oud affirmed in 1918 “ anarchy in architectural activity, both in an a-aesthetic and in a hyper-aesthetic sense, will be defeated by the application of mass, that is, by the aesthetic expression of the mass product. The architect appears here as a director, as the one who stages mass products in an architectural ensemble: the art of relationships. Those who still feel the need to express themselves with aesthetic excesses can have fun with a private home ". The clear identification of the purpose of architectural work in the construction of a system of relationships, with respect to the achievement of which the architect appears as a director. An action of several subjects that must share a common ideal of utility and beauty. In Grassi, but not only, figures that in some way do not end: they do not intend to be consoling. They propose questions. They want to somehow disturb and involve in the need to affirm a point of view.The question of typology. It was one of the fundamental points of the debate introduced by the trend . And it is closely linked to the themes of language because if - as I believe we should do - one denies, following Quatremere de Quincy in the distinction between model and type, the prescriptive and rigid character of the type and accepts it instead (as in the 1990s it will Marti Aris) the value of the morphogenetic code of architectural organisms, already endowed, in the typological definition, with a primary content of identity of form, but which implies innumerable possibilities of declinations, the reference to the type builds the link with memory and the imaginary collective. Through an open idea of type, the adequacy of the project with respect to urban themes is explored, conceiving the same form as a knowledge to be developed along the entire path of the project and not as its end. A structural understanding of the form with which to ensure the link between type and theme of architecture . The necessary overcoming of a metric vision of the control of urban transformations to be entrusted instead to an idea of an urban theme to be traced back to typomorphological identities capable of generating the necessary figures useful in their relational role.

These are the issues that I have dealt with, also on the basis of my experience as a student in Rome with Ludovico Quaroni, over the years grasping some limitations and omissions especially with respect to the need to question oneself on different challenges and questions posed by the contemporary condition. The appearance of a new metropolitan inhabitant who breaks the stability of identity affiliations and complicates them into a multiple belonging : I had called cities an hour and a quarter long , where a multiplication of materials is generated that do not replace, but expand the vocabulary of arrangement of the architect.

The contemporary project must increasingly grapple with the condition of constituting the modification of a text. It is increasingly perceived that his elective instrument can no longer be summed up in the icasticity of a drawing, but probably in a complex interweaving of writings and notations capable of accounting for the eminently mental and relational character of a space that even in small towns is inhabited by "metropolitan" figures. They are notations and writings that bring innovations to establish those “discursive negotiations” necessary to carry out the desired transformations of the cities. Negotiations which, in order not to be enclosed in a self-referring business circuit, must involve a renewed collective critical awareness of the relationship between the city and architecture, rejecting the marginalization of architecture in the construction of the contemporary city .

In fact, this is the truth of the critical gesture: the rupture of a given order, of its supposed ineluctable continuity, to establish a new link between things. For this the vital breath of a different vision must intervene: hypotheses that anticipate the necessary demonstration.

This is the task of abductive thinking: a lateral move. Also unexpected. Able to show, with the fresh and visible presence of a "found" alternative, another possible path . "(Barbieri 2013)

The intervention on an already built world obliges the involvement of the various subjects who will necessarily have to take part in a complex and articulated process over time, the outcome and quality of which is determined by the possibility of developing the process as a full exercise of democracy. urban.

At the center of the "materials" of transformation - offered to the path of choices - there can only be the design and redefinition of the public space , but also of the commons of common goods , in their various articulations and declinations. Public or common spaces that in some way also require public time : that in which the process of building the urban territory must be developed in a democratic and open way.

Participation is an indispensable condition for the realization of a set of processes that requires, in all its phases, the active collaboration of the settled population. For architects this means making available to social, civil and economic actors - and therefore, knowing how to communicate - more than a single design of intervention, an open system of devices and actions within a framework of coherence that outlines a general hypothesis of vision of urban transformation, able to change - in a dialogic mechanism - in the participatory process. Thus it is possible to intercept and enhance the networks of private third sector actors or of the economic and productive fabric, as well as of homeowners and users of public space, fielding skills at the service of the territories and their ability to become actors of transformation. urban.

These are design paths that allude, also for the inalienable themes posed by the various environmental risks, to another idea of the city: which, tentatively, I call (and so do some other researchers) geo-city . A city re-founded on the earth, in its multiple meanings, with respect to the ways of its use and the interpretations of its values. The earth, on the one hand, as a fundamental and complex infrastructure designed to ensure the quality of living. On the other, a city / earth-city / globe . A tight ball of swirling material and immaterial flows of which we have yet to decipher the meaning that is deposited in the settlements.

It is a great and, in my opinion, indispensable, field of study and experimentation that seems to me to be able to collect some important lines of research of the Pescara school, innovating, as desirable, an important heritage of experiences and resources to be put online, reaffirming a recognizable identity character of this site in its history, but also in its future.