28 July 2014

Biennale Architecture Venice 2014 - The "new" goes nowhere" : "Fundamentals" by Rem Koolhass

12th June 2014
Biennale Architecture Venice 2014 - The "new" goes nowhere" : "Fundamentals" by Rem Koolhass

by Rem Koolhass

The new goes nowhere and the old goes backwards
in Biennale - Architecture,  Venice 2014 -

There is no room nowadays for new revolutions, and it would be crucial to turn the discipline into the right direction

The picture right under the title portrays Rem Koolhass, superintendent at Biennale Architecture 2014, illustrating the architectural-symbol of the 20th century: the German Pavilion (Barcelona) of the Berkbund designed by Mies van der Rohe in 1928. He can be seen right up here in his last move to the city of Venice (in his very own rendering, not really keeping up with the pace of his works), that is to say the renovation project of Louis Vuitton at the Fondaco dei Tedeschi, with an additional raising storey, luckily not approved by the Superintendence of Venice. The project was recently re-proposed by Benetton with a few changes, always by Koolhass, proposing the realization of a new department store named "Magazzino la Rinascente". The project involves an additional storey with direct access to the covered terrace for the public. The project is to take place right next to the Rialto Bridge: it seems like the author is willing to be reckoned among the many attackers of this wonderful city. It is sadly inescapable that the renovation and modernization process of the Old Town in Venice will eventually damage its look. Many advocated for a more "internal" process, which is not happening.

This year Biennale Architecture was meant to be different, so its superintendent ignited a furious debate on the role of architecture today, which is at the same time well up on the chart (thanks to Archistars) and neglect (have your ever heard of any worldly problems being solved by the mere contribution of architecture?). Rem Koolhass, the dutch architect who was in charge of the themes of this exhibition, didn't really make the most of the Biennale. The most interesting set-ups were the ones made by the single countries, inside their stands (including the Italian one by Cino Zucchi). We believe that Koolhass gave his best shot with his former works all around the world, and was a bit a of a let down as far as this Biennale is concerned.

Biennale Architecture, as widely disclosed by the media, was meant to be radically different this year, changing its guise thoroughly compared to last year's: Rem Koolhass was chosen to change the exhibition radically, as it should be expected from such an erratic personality (he is the author of Delirius New York and Chief of the OMA, Office for Modern Architecture).

The change Koolhass was about to bring to this year's Biennale was highly unpredictable and turned out to be an empty and disappointing one. The comparison between personal styles of the most eminent architects and the languages of the so-called Archistars was eliminated.The resulting vacuum in the expectations of the public should at least have been replaced not with a philosophical debate on such stunning choice, but rather with a return to the past and an analysis of its focal points.   

Maison Domino, symbol of the Exhibition as a return to the early stages of modern architectural revolution, is represented above in a draft by Le Corbusier on contact paper and a model on a 1.1 scale, realized in wood for the 14th edition of Biennale Architecture. The structure was made possible by new materials and distributive flexibilities, allowing a new idea of inhabiting and the experimentation of modern varieties. The doubt remains that a realization in reinforced concrete would have much better highlighted not only the theoretical bases of modern architecture and their advantage (discussed in the book "Vers un Architecture") but also the bases of the speculative architecture which would soon devastate the outskirts of many cities worldwide. The bival icon was chosen by Koolhass as symbol of a Biennale where discussion is the main topic.

The change proposed by Koolhass in Biennale 2014, lasting until the first half on november, eliminates personal styles not in favor of the bases of architecture, nor of existential questions about the discipline itself, but rather in favor of an uncritical use of its components, a cynic epistemology considered useful for a "here and now" architecture.
The result is one of general disorientation, both in the exhibition at Padiglione Centrale in Giardini and Arsenale (personally developed by provocative Koolhass), the one at Padiglione Italia developed by Cino Zucchi and those at Padiglioni Esteri, realized by each single country under Koolhass directions. The central idea remains a return to the past of architecture and the main passages defining its modernity: from the failed attempts to define its rules at the International Congresses of Modern Architecture, embodied by the Masters' thought (Mies and Le Corbusier, see Maison Domino wooden model on a 1:1 scale, 1914) to the idea that any project could derive merely from elements written in manuals and catalogues.   

Maison Domino, symbol of the Exhibition as a return to modern problems of architecture, is represented above in a draft by Le Corbusier on contact paper and a model on a 1.1 scale, realized in wood for the 14th edition of Biennale Architecture.
The doubt remains that a realization in reinforced concrete would have much better highlighted not only the theoretical bases of modern architecture and their advantage (discussed in the book "Vers un Architecture") but also the bases of the speculative architecture which would soon devastate the outskirts of many cities worldwide.

Staircases, cladding systems for facades, urinals, doors and handles implement the true meaning of the exhibition: The Architect's Manual, a complete collection of the best expressions of production in different epochs and cultures.

The manual of the "Fundamentals" and the spirit it was animated by at the early stages of modernity is what Koolhass proposes as a return to fundamentals. It is not clear whether he does it ironically, considering them an extreme attempt to found the theory of assembling on mere production structures, or as a purification of the revolutionary, utopian principle of a total separation from them.

Staircases, cladding systems for facades, urinals, doors and handles implement the true meaning of the exhibition: The Architect's Manual, a complete collection of the best expressions of production in different epochs and cultures. what does the architectural intervention need, starting from these "basic lists"? How do we conceptualize the choice of this or that detail in the assembling process? What meaning derives not from the product itself, but from the way it is juxtaposed? We are over the "ready-made", but the sense of the operation is still unclear. Isn't a direct comparison of results more interesting than a comparison of details, especially if they become completely decontextualized? That's what Cino Zucchi does at Padiglione Italia, where over 60 Italian and Milanese works are exhibited.

Entrance of Padiglione Italia and the funnel leading to Cino Zucchi's "Innesti": the metal Archimbuto.

Entrance of Padiglione Italia and funnel leading to Cino Zucchi's "Innesti". The metal Archimbuto symbolizes the way a project is seen and created with the eyes and tools of history. The path starts with the projects for the facade of Milan Cathedral and ends with the works of architects such as Vender, Gardella, Caccia Dominioni, BBPR, who gave birth to a new form of modernity through a particular view of history. It is certainly the part of the exhibition which most differs from the idea imposed by Koolhass and also the most interesting one, although the less original. On the newspaper "Il Sole 24 Ore", Gabriele Neri highlighted that the common element between Koolhass and Zucchi was the structure of the seating areas along the paths: the former, at Corderie dell'Arsenale, placed various terraces and stages along Monditalia, as if they were small Italian squares where to enjoy theatre, music, movies and dance; the latter placed a long snake-shape bench at Padiglione Italia and tese delle Vergini, where to recover between a city and another.   

Some images of the Italian "Fundamentals" in Monditalia, set up by Rem Koolhass at Corderie dell'Arsenale.

The topic of Italian "Fundamentals", set up with "Monditalia" at Corderie dell'Arsenale, includes 41 small contributions ranging from colonial architecture in Libya to cinematography in Cinecittà, from clubs of the Adriatic Shore to the building process after the earthquake in the Italian region Aquila, from Zingonia's utopia to Berlusconi's dream of Milano 2, all united by a geographical map of the V Century.

The foreign pavilions adapt to the exhibition's theme, with some variations: above, France (the house of "Mon Oncle" -  Jacques Tati: La Modernitè: Promesse ou Menace? - research on the relationship between architecture and society, through cultural models of the mid 20th Century, including Jacques Tati and Jean Prouvè); Great Britain (Great Britain-A: Clockwork Jerusalem. Photo By Andrea Avezzù); Finland (Finland (Pavilion Alvar Aalto): Re-Creation, Photo By Andrea Avezzù; Japan (the Japanese pavilion of this Biennale colorfully shows the country's personal interpretation of Modern, proving that the observation of the real world, associated with an energetic crisis, can regenerate thoughts and ideas. An inspiration for the stagnant cultural situation in Italy); Turkey "Place of Memory", research on the perception of some symbolic places of Turkey.

Enrico Mercatali
Venice, 7th June 2014
(Versione inglese aggiornata il 27 luglio 2014,
traduzione dall'italiano di Penelope Mirotti)

26 July 2014

Di Meola Rubalcaba duo di classe a Stresa Festival per i Midsummer Jazz Concerts

Di Meola Rubalcaba
duo di classe

a Stresa Festival
per i Midsummer Jazz Concerts

Trionfo, si dice. E trionfo è stato, ieri sera, per il secondo concerto jazz dell'estate stresiana sul Lago Maggiore, dopo Bollani De Holanda.
Il folto pubblico ha a lungo applaudito la straordinaria formazione jazz, strappando due ulteriori magnifici pezzi ai generosi artisti, per un bis d'eccezione, non certo un contentino, ma un secondo e, se vogliamo, ancor più appassionato "secondo tempo" per chi di buona musica se ne intende.

Avevamo già assaggiato le capacità davvero fuori classe del pianista cubano, un paio d'anni fa, ove fece coppia col fisarmonicista Galliano, e fin da allora sappiamo quanto vale la sua sottile e colta  fraseggiatura pianistica, di intelligente accompagnamento, ove richiesto, ma anche di imponente protagonismo, quando libero d'emergere in tutta la sua potenza.

Siamo tornati a sentirlo per ritrovare questi unici e sorprendenti elementi che ci avevano affascinato.
Li abbiamo ritrovati, ancor più raffinati d'allora, sempre più capaci di stupire per la loro colta e profonda sensibilità.

Eravamo curiosi, tra l'altro, di sperimentare il connubio già ben noto per il suo affiatamento, tra il chitarrista americano di origine italiana, che mai avevamo ascoltato dal vivo ed il pianista cubano. Ancora una sorpresa, perchè mai ci saremmo aspettato tanto affratellamento, quasi gemellare, per l'incanto della consonanza nel fraseggio, del vero colloquio a due in un "a tu per tu", tanto capace d'emozionare per la sua spontaneità, per la sua ricchezza d'invenzione, armonica, e perfino timbrica, ottenuta scavando non solo nell'uso compositivo 'una grammatica raffinata, ma anche, e forse soprattutto, nella capacità di ricerca tutta all'interno stesso delle strutture strumentali.  Chitarra classica, dotata di discreti supporti elettronici, e pianoforte, entrambi sfruttati in ogni loro più recondita potenzialità timbrica.

Un godimento d'ascolto decisamente fisico traduce le note dei due in una partecipazione totale di chi ascolta, che non vuole perdere neppure un soffio di quelle complesse sonorità d'assieme, fatte di suoni a volte singoli, puri e cristallini, perfettamente incastonati lo sfondo,  di impasti sonori estremamente variegati e complessi, d'una densità inestricabile, che è la sigla stessa di questo duo. 

I due si sono saputi immergere totalmente nelle loro parti, ma altresì lasciandosi reciproci spazi importanti, sia nel loro duettare perfetto, preciso, colloquiale, consonante, fatto d'emersioni reciprocamente assecondanti e dosate, ma anche, nel bel mezzo della serata, in due ampie rappresentazioni di piano-solo e di chitarra-sola, fatte per esternare, ben spiegandoli al pubblico,  i due rispettivi differneti mondi di intelligenza sonora, che ne guidano il senso, per comprendere meglio da dove essi provengono e dove probabilmente stanno andando. Le origini cubane di Gonzalo Rubalcaba, fatte d'una energica e totalizzante ritmicità, si imperniano su solide strutture d'impianto classico, impreziosendosi al contempo d'echi di raffinate basi tratte dalle origini mitteleuropee del moderno. Le propensioni latino-americane di Al Di Meola spaziano invece nell'immenso, a volte inarrivabile, repertorio di quell'inesauribile bacino melodico, innescando con facilità e naturalezza ogni risorsa ritmica che da essa possa trarre il miglior spunto, dal flamenco al tango, che con tecnica sempre impeccabile sa raggiungere le maggiori vette del risultato.

Entrambi i professionisti, studiosi attenti delle rispettive branche di sapere non solo tecnico dell'interpretazione, sono anche eccellenti compositori, ma anche e soprattutto straordinari improvvisatori. Tutte doti, queste, che lasciano, in concerto,  il segno indelebile dell'alta qualità.
Sul palco di Stresa, ieri sera, ne hanno dato l'ennesima godibilissima prova. Evviva la musica, quando così bella, e la sua universalità di linguaggio!

Enrico Mercatali
Stresa Festival - Midsummer Jazz Concerts
25 luglio 2014

19 July 2014

Cretto di Gibellina - Iniziano le celebrazioni per il centenario della nascita del suo autore

Cretto di Gibellina

L'opera "Land Art" di Alberto Burri
è stata creata nel 1984 sulle rovine della città

Iniziano le celebrazioni 
per il centenario della nascita del suo autore

Da oggi al 2016 a Città di Castello, città natale di Alberto Burri, autore del Cretto di Gibellina, avvia i festeggiamenti per commemorare il centenario della sua nascita (12 marzo 1915), con un fitto calendario di iniziative, che dureranno fino all'estate del 2016. 
Il Presidente della Fondazione Palazzo Albizzini Collezione Burri, Bruno Corà, ne ha fatto l'elenco con il ministro Dario Franceschini. Tra l'altro il 15 ottobre verrà inaugurata la grande retrospettiva al Guggenheim di New York, al termine della quale verrà trasferita a Città di Castello, nel 2016.

Il "Cretto" è una opera monumentale. Essa ha lasciato un profondo segno di memoria e di meditazione. Il suo messaggio è profondamente radicato in una terra di confine, di desolazione e di miseria, che cerca riscatto nell'uso più sapiente delle sue risorse nell'equlibrato assetto tra quanto esse offrano e la lungimiranza della sua gente.

Nell'arte essa ha colto stimoli importanti, specialmente dall'opera di Arnaldo Pomodoro, che, come lui ha scelto di solcare in Umbria una intera montagna per insediarvi un cimitero, ed ha anche lasciato tracce di grande rilievo, nella in terpretazione dell'umana sofferenza, nelle successive opere di Daniel Liberskind per il Museo Ebraico e di Peter Eisenman per il Memoriale dell'Olocausto, entrambe a Berlino.

In programma per le celebrazioni del centenario della nascita di Alberto Burri, l'opera realizzata al Parco Sempione di Milano nel 1973, il "Teatro Continuo", smantellata nel 1989,  verrà ripristinata. 
Inoltre in Sicilia, a Gibellina,  è previsto il completamento, secondo il progetto originale, del Cretto, l'opera di "land art" che più di ogni altra lo ha reso famoso nel mondo. La cittadina di Gibellina fu completamente distrutta del terremoto nel 1968. Sui suoi ruderi Burri avviò il suo lavoro più impegnativo, realizzandovi una parte del Cretto, che ora si intende completare. In calendario molte mostre, convegni, conferenze ricorderanno la sua opera.


 Qui sopra la cittadina di Gibellina, in una immagine aerea scattata dopo il terremoto del 1968

Inoltre, in sei volumi, verrà pubblicato il catalogo generale delle sue opere, la cui uscita è stata annunciata per il 2015.

Enrico Mercatali
19 luglio 2014
(a Eli)

05 July 2014

Gino Sarfatti, creator of light and designer-entrepreneur

Creator of light and designer entrepreneur
(Venice 1912, Gravedona 1985)

A successful idea of Gino Sarfatti was to place a glass ball inside a circular frame of slightly smaller circumference. This extremely simple and banal idea was a big hit, as it is shown in the pictures below. Huge quantities of these wall and ceiling lamps were sold between the 60’s and 80’s.
Chandeliers born from the “glass ball” idea. Countless variations could be applied to this system, as Carlo Mollino proved in the set-up he made for the Teatro Regio of Turin, called “Nuvole di luce” (“Clouds of light”), in collaboration with Gino Sarfatti.

On the occasion of the centenary of Gino Sarfatti’s birth, the museum Triennale Milano exhibited 200 of the over 600 objects produced by Arteluce, the company founded by Gino Sarfatti in 1939, and mostly designed by him until 1937, when the company was transferred to Flos. A rich catalogue was also produced and printed.

Gino Sarfatti, chandelier 2095/12 hanging in the centre of a spiral staircase designed by Giovanni Muzio; in the background, the Torre Littoria designed by Gio Ponti, on the occasion of the exhibition organized by Triennale.

A brilliant creative-entrepreneur from Venice, Gino Sarfatti worked mainly in Milan and he obtained the highest award for design (Compasso d’Oro award) twice: in 1954, with model 559 of Arteluce catalogue, in 1955 with model 1055/S.

The latter was the first-ever disassembled lamp, sold in a box with the complete assembly kit, making both the product and its package design objects: this formula became widely appreciated.

Gino Sarfatti’s life was always innovative and fascinating. While still a young and resourceful descendant of a Jewish Venetian family, he had a series of innate abilities when he came to Genoa to study engineering, undecided about his future. 

The occasion came for him to discover his talent when he interrupted his studies and left for Milan with his family. He started working as sales representative for a glazier and once turned a glass vase into a lamp for a demanding client. He realized he had a talent for lights, which he could create by simply but effectively uniting different materials. He started producing his own objects and founded Arteluce, which was to become a successful company linked to the best artists and designers of the time: Gio Ponti, Lucio Fontana, Franco Albini, Albe Steiner, just to name some.

Above: a "can full of light", a lamp designed by Gino Sarfatti in the 60’s, produced in many non-primary colors and many sizes: extreme technical simplification of a ceiling light, it became used in several houses of the time.
Below: one of his most successful ideas was to combine a functional rarefaction (electric cable, lamp socket and light bulb) to the shape of a Verano glass chandelier (which was totally unfashionable at the time but would no longer be so at the end of the century); this idea met the great consensus of both public and critics.

The initial idea was to simplify as much as possible, following the Bauhaus concepts but also Gino Sarfatti’s intuition. The object-lamp was to be adapted to its main and exclusive functions in different rooms of the house. The only concession to the taste of the time was the use of pure colors in some products, which had never been used before him.

All his products were based on subtraction criteria, through which he could sometimes dematerialize the object and make it a simple, formal self-representation of function. For instance, the compositional representation created through the simple multiplication of an exposed light bulb and its lamp socket, supported by a “stem” or even simply hung by its electric cable.
This long-studied principle contributed to create his most successful products, like those used for the interior furnishing of motor vessel Andrea Doria, unfortunately sunk, or for the illumination engineering projects of Teatro Regio’s foyers in Turin, in collaboration with Carlo Mollino (here abowe).

 Exhibition in Triennale Milano, September 2012

Arteluce came in contact with the public and professionals of Milan, a cutting-edge city in terms of style, fashion, art and architecture in the 50’s and 60’s, thanks to 2 store-windows projected by Gino Sarfatti: one realized by Marco Zanusso in the street Corso Littorio, later become Corso Matteotti, the other by Vittoriano Viganò in the street Via della Spiga.

On the occasion of the exhibition at Triennale, a volume on the work of Gino Sarfatti has been published, printed by Corraini and entitled “The design of light”. Another volume of over 500 pages has been published by Silvana Editoriale, curated by Marco Romanelli in collaboration with Sandra Sarfatti and containing all 650 works of Gino Sarfatti. A wonderful, complete book about one of the main characters of the design field in the 20th century, and an absolute protagonist of the whole production chain, from the idea to the finished product

Enrico Mercatali
Lesa, 23th September 2012
(Updated on 26th May 2014)
(Translation from italian by Penelope Mirotti)