Breaking the Stereotype
Breaking Stereotypes of Living _ Silvio Carta
Houses are often designed within an invisible box reflecting design habits, local regulations or handbooks indications. To escape “normal” results often becomes an added value to the project and it is in general considered positively by the final users of the house. But what are the extents of a “regular” house project? And what does differentiate it from a “extravagant” project? Moreover, the work -both professional and intellectual- of a designer consists of a continuous challenge between the fact of not taking anything from granted about his/her design and yet following (design, constructive, normative) rules. One may argue that a good direction is a middle position between the two poles. Others can raise the question of interpretation (of design habits and rules) as solving tool for architects. Perhaps the question can be reformulated by tackling the cliches that frame our “living spaces”. The image of the common house is often conceived by following a fixed or oversimplified idea of living. Before the containing space, the actual activity of living (in all its varied manners) should be questioned and more carefully considered. People conduct their lives dynamically, in a continuously changing balance between paradigms and models from the past, current needs and future ambitions. Therefore, if the act of living is being reconsidered and reestablished everyday, according to the change of times, why should the house –accommodating the living within physical boundaries– be anchored to a preconceived idea?
The presented projects display a range of possibilities of dealing with the main idea of the house and its stereotypes, offering clear reconsiderations of living as not fixed human activity.
In the Folds of the Ground _ Marco Atzori
In 1965, Paul Virilio remarked, “I am sure that in the future the dominant architectural element will not be the facade, nor even the roof, as some recent research on three-dimensional structures, suspended or pneumatic, seems to indicate, but the level, the ground.”
Virilio’s pronouncement anticipated by approximately thirty years one of the most important recent pursuits in the architectural discipline: the definition of an operative methodology for the construction of an architecture of the ground. In fact, about thirty years after Virilio, Toyo Ito, commenting on the Terminal of Yokohama by FOA Architects, remarked that their competition plans, rather than representing a level of the building, seemed to portray a topography.
In this way was made a definitive break with the legacy of the Modern Movement, which insisted on domestication of the ground rather than the recognition of its active role in the design of the architectural object. Another critical step in defining the new language was based on the transfer to the architectural discipline of the mathematical concept of topology and topological space. The shift towards topological geometry thus generated a viable alternative to the juxtaposition between the ground and the architecture. In continuity with the experience initiated in those years, certain current projects clearly demonstrate how the ground can become a topographical operating system which, freed from its passive condition, fully participates in the configurative process of the building, transferring upon it a greater scale and complexity—that of the landscape.
Architecture and Recipro-City
Decoding the Vernacular: An Architecture of Reciprocity _ Nelson Mota
Variations on Alberti’s famous dictum “A house is like a small city and the city is like a big house.” have been enunciated over the last decades to support architectural approaches that attempt to tackle identity issues in mass construction. In the aftermath of World War II an ethnological approach was favored as means to deliver an outcome that considered, as Alberti did, the human scale and the notion of community as key references for the work of the architect and urban planner. Then, the emergence of the welfare state and the challenges it brought about created the backdrop for this approach. Today, it is the unbalanced growth of the developing economies and the decline of the former core of the economic world system that shape the scenario where new challenges on the relation between architecture and cultural identity emerge.
Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck was one the most active supporters of that ethnological approach, advocating it both as member of CIAM and later of Team 10’s inner circle. Van Eyck carefully studied vernacular building traditions of both sub-Saharan communities and the Pueblos of the American southwest. This experience provided him an acknowledgment of the “mild gears of reciprocity”, where polarities were tackled in such a way as to create something that goes beyond an absolute measure of “right-size.” He famously declared that accomplishing the right-size is not avoiding but combining typical binary oppositions such as large and small, few and many, near and far, unity and diversity.
This seems to be also the core concern of some contemporary architectural approaches, which despite springing from disparate cultural backgrounds share the same interest in reassessing the qualities of the vernacular and contributing for the creation of a landscape where those “twin-phenomena” can be successfully combined, thus bringing back the spontaneity of the “natural.” Hence, today, the notion of “the in-between,” championed by van Eyck, is again gaining currency as a reference to overcome growing inequalities, and thus to dwell harmonically in motion.