“blank verse is the least free of all, it is slave to its content.”
Is it possible to revitalize historical heritage without losing its architectonical integrity?
Nicolò Ornaghi, Riccardo Radaelli, Francesco Zorzi are students from Polytechnical university of Milan.
Aldo Rossi (May 3, 1931 – September 4, 1997) was an Italian architect. In the fifties he began his militancy in the Italian Communist Party. He gained international recognition through his first and most important book The Architecture of the city, first published in 1966). Rossi was the leading figure of one of the post war most relevant architectural movement, known as La Tendenza. In 1973 Rossi completed his first big project, the housing unit known as “Gallaratese” within the Monte Amiata complex designed by another fundamental italian post-war architect, Carlo Aymonino. Rossi’s late career was influenced by a strong autobiographical crisis that deprived his late production of its theoretical power by turning it into a form of canonical po-mo expression. This aspect, among others such as the supposed failures of huge social housing projects produced by designers close to La Tendenza and the unfair attribution to Rossi of the damages produced to italian cities by his unskilled followers, led to, in the Italian context of the 90’s and early XI century, a diffused skepticism over the entire oeuvre of Aldo Rossi. In recent history Rossi’s theoretical work has been strongly put back on the architectural discourse especially by italian architects such as Pier Vittorio Aureli and Baukuh. An important independent magazine, San Rocco, borrowed its name from Rossi’ 1966 project jointly with Giorgio Grassi. The project that follows was developed at Politecnico di Milano within a design studio led by Matteo Poli and exhibited at 2013 TAB Tallinn Architecture Biennale 2013 entitled Recycling Socialism.
The Monte Amiata complex is located in the north-west area of Milan. This part of the city is strongly characterized by its boundary status. It is very close to the 2015 Expo’s future development zone. “As in fairy tales, the Stephenson street toad could become a prince if the princess PGT kisses him”.1 Thus declared Carlo Masseroli, the former head of the urban planning department of the municipality of Milan. Waiting for the new Défense of Milan, just few towers rise around the neighborhoods: one hotel and three empty buildings owned, like a big part of this area, by a famous and controversial italian entrepreneur Salvatore Ligresti. It’s a really strange fate for the “genius loci” of the North-West axis.2 The history of the Monte Amiata complex is characterized by a trace of irony: born from a politic project and designed by (communist) party’s intellectuals, the area is now placed inside a politic plan led forward by the opposite political side. In our opinion this is a context that has to be engaged by accepting the compromise of its actual situation, waiting that its Bovisa-Expo oriented position will change its faith.
It is not worth trying to impose new hierarchies, attempting any over-eagerly urban repair, that, in the end, would be probably doomed to fail. It simply looks too complex and maybe harmful aiming for stitch up the urban pattern. Moreover the building is already isolated and oversized in respect to the surrounding context. In its presence it is an autonomous urban fact, with its own square, green area and its enclosing hedges.
"blank verse is the least free of all, it is slave to its content". 3
Carlo Aymonino projected a complex organism, composed by different layers and different typologies. He invited Aldo Rossi, at the end of the sixties, to join him and drawing a part of the project. Rossi placed his slab “like a knife in the tangle of his (Aymonino’s) architecture”.4 The Gallaratese architecture well represents the first Rossi. It “has all the terrorist and poetic charme of an authentic realized theorem”.5 Dealing with it means understanding the architecture of Aldo Rossi, that, before becoming metaphysically subjective, was based on a formal logic reduction to the basic elements of composition. Rossi opposes to the generic invention the primary meaning of the archetypal shapes, the repetition and the spatial value. In the Gallaratese, the facades are distinguished by an archetypal form, the square. The spatial quality of the portico is defined by its perspectival nature. The project ends here. Nothing more. Rossi talks openly about the distributive indifference6 of interior spaces: the urban fact that forms part of the architecture of the city is deformed by the link with the surrounding.7 Functionalism has been overthrown, just form remains. Since Rossi conceived the Gallaratese as an interrupted building8, we decided to work just with a segment of the whole intervention characterized by its dimensions and its autonomous composition. We want to preserve its shape, working directly on the perception of the space.
The facades are not altered; the internal part of the building is almost entirely striped down. One of the distinctive element of the building that elevates it to a monument, is the straight character of the recurrence of the septa. Almost a neoclassical colonnade. Eliminating the floor that divides the third from the fourth level a double-height space is obtained, completely empty. only the bones of the building9 remain. In the outside, the facades; In the inside a perspectival space, which, unlike the ground level, has no direct but only visual relationship with the surroundings. The inner space is characterized by a matrix field plan, based on the geometry of the facades. It produces a kind of hyper-relational field, capable to accept multiple configurations. An autonomous self-related space can be variously hetero-directed.
Great things historically precluded.10
The park into the north part of the building/district11 is not a park. The project of the green area is not mentioned in any kind of publications. And even if it existed, it was not the main aspect on the Monte Amiata project. The only link between the building and the green area is a rectangular concrete strip that connect the park and the higher square. The path intersects a circular concrete platform. Like the built part of the complex, the park, has no relation with the urban context. Yet it’s possible to identify an internal relationship between the green and the built part of the project. We think that our work could find breeding ground in this connection by reinforcing the park-building relationship through a redrawing of the green spaces. So we decided to use a geometric grid based on the rhythm of the facade, then broken by several layers whose represent different kind of interventions. The result is a complex organism which works in analogy with the varied scheme of the Aymonino’s project and in contrast with Rossi building by stressing even more the monumentality and the ascetic rigor of the built volume.
The different layers are programmatically divided:
- Basic elements: common, normal, intentionally banal, street furniture elements: swings, playground, children games,...
- The metaphysical park: dreamlike elements, hut pavilions, fields of wind, flags, fountains, spiral staircases.
- Analogous architectures: we appreciate the heroic idealism of the first part of the professional life of Aldo Rossi (perfectly exemplified, as pointed out by Gregotti, in the Gallaratese) but the depressed nihilism of the second part12 fully represents the last Rossi who, frustrated by the failure and by the factual impossibility of the theory developed in his youth found refuge in his archetypal figures. We build Analogous Architectures13 distributed in the park, some are pure Rossian fetishisms as the fountain of Segrate or the monument to Pertini with no other function than showing themselves, others, such as the ossuary of the cemetery in Modena, houses works of art.
- Sculptures. According to a possible exhibition function of the new Gallaratese in the park is present a permanent collection of works of art suitable to be placed outside.
- Sustainability. An imperceptible slope of the impermeable floor of the park allows water recycling at given points. Also existing trees are preserved and, in the area fronting Gallaratese, a new ground morphology consolidates the permeable nature of the surface.
Lighting System. A grid of cruciform pillars with linear neon lights provide the illumination necessary for the night use of the park.
1 La Repubblica, october 6th, 2010
2 Guido Canella,Il “genius loci" della direttrice nord-ovest, in Hinterland n°19/20, december 1981
3 Jean Moréas quoted by Guillaume Apollinaire, quoted by A.Rossi in the famous lesson of 1966 at IUAV in Venice.
4 A.Rossi, terzo quaderno azzurro in Aldo Rossi. I quaderni azzurri, 1968-1992., a cura di Francesco Dal Co, 1999
5 Vittorio Gregotti, la Repubblica, september 5th, 1997
6 A.Rossi, terzo quaderno azzurro
7 “Io però sono deformato dai nessi con tutto ciò che qui mi circonda” (Walter Benjamin, Il dramma del barocco tedesco, 1999 (first ed. 1928)
8 A.Rossi, terzo quaderno azzurro
9 Skeleton Architecture is a definition given by Peter Eisenman in the introduction to the english version of The Architecture of the City, 1982
10 “To what, then, could I have aspired in my craft? Certainly to small things, having seen that the possibility of great ones was historically precluded.” in A.Rossi, A Scientific Autobiography, 1981
11 A.Rossi, terzo quaderno azzurro
12 We refear to the Rossi that searches in A Scientific Autobiography the images of his youth and broadly of hid entire life.
13 As an example of the process of analogy characterizing the latest works of Aldo Rossi see, for example, the Filarete column in Venice, reproducted as a fragment in the residential complex in Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin and then agan in Q. Oggiaro in Milan.