Aldo Rossi, or laconic architecture

Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi fotografato con la caffettiera La conica, disegnata per Alessi - Collezione MAXXI Architettura. Archivio Aldo Rossi

The important monograph dedicated to the first Italian Pritzker Prize winner in the enlightening words of architect Franco Raggi. An exceptional guided tour to discover the exhibition presented at Rome’s MAXXI museum.

The Aldo Rossi exhibition at MAXXI in Rome demonstrates in a detailed and allusive fashion the inextricable relationship between the sketch and the architectural object; it introduces us to the complex visionary and tangible world of the Milanese architect. I will try to list a few features.

Aldo Rossi double

AR's work has always fluctuated between the two worlds of drawing and the final object, creating an iconography and an iconology that belong, on different scales, to the world of the object, the world of the building and the city as a stratification of constructed places.
In AR's imaginative universe, these two scales overlap and integrate and, through drawing, merge into a single landscape of the imagination and vision, profound sources of the meaning of architecture. Architecture as a macro-object and inhabited space on the one hand, objects as micro-architectures and condensers of memories on the other.
 

Aldo Rossi con M. Scheurer - Progetto

Aldo Rossi con M. Scheurer - Progetto per un nuovo stabile amministrativo per la UBS, Lugano, Svizzera (1990)

Modello, s.d. carta, cartoncino, legno - Collezione MAXXI Architettura. Archivio Aldo Rossi © Eredi Aldo Rossi  

Aldo Rossi and Things

In the exhibition of works placed side by side to underline this fascinating ambiguity, the architectural models, drawings and objects create a laconic and multi-faceted landscape, timeless and – almost – without context, except for the mental context of AR in which the large hand of San Carlone, the gigantic coffee pot, the maritime lighthouse and the bathing cabin build a subconscious map of symbolic and ritual emergencies and a personal catalogue of icons that cannot be reduced to the banal language of rationality and architectural functionalism.

Aldo Rossi - Casa a Mount Pocono

Aldo Rossi - Casa a Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania (USA), 1995 - Fondazione Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi and the contemporary

AR's architecture fascinates us because of its radical rejection of the contemporary, understood as an exhausting appeal for the technological updating of languages; an update that relegates architectural design to a banal destiny of temporary renewal, one without end and without context. If the function of architecture is also to produce astonishment, estrangement, surprise and poetic conflict, AR's architecture is a highly functional one, unlikely to decay. In these logical and repetitive procedures, made up of continuous and sometimes obsessive references, but also of profound reflections on the sense of the city as a stratified human artefact par excellence, AR's poetic, figurative and technical universe finds its profound and convincing raison d’être.

Aldo Rossi, con M.Adjmi, T. Horiguchi, S. Uchida “Il Palazzo”

Aldo Rossi, con M.Adjmi, T. Horiguchi, S. Uchida - Complesso alberghiero e ristorante “Il Palazzo”, Fukuoka (Giappone), 1987-1990 - Fotografia Nacasa and Partners - Fondazione Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi and context

The idea of context as the logical resting place for one's vision is one of the central and conflicting themes of European urban architecture. Context, however, for AR does not involve a mimetic approach but, if anything, an integrative one, in the sense that the urban context can be seen and imagined as a sum of small contexts with autonomous morphological characters, ones that are capable of suggesting analogies, juxtapositions and differences. The concept of analogy and otherness runs through all AR's work, suggesting acute juxtapositions, at times improper, as in the Berlin housing blocks built on a massive, syncopated memory of found objects and quotations, bound together by an unprecedented chromatic opulence. Seemingly non-modern houses that establish a lively dialogue with the existing context in opposition to the predictability and homogeneity of the traditional setting. 
 

Teatro del Mondo

Reportage fotografico della costruzione e del viaggio del Teatro del Mondo da Venezia a Dubrovnik, 1979-1980 - Fotografie di Antonio Martinelli - © Copyright Antonio Martinelli

Aldo Rossi and memory

The materials of memory are both weighty and evanescent. They stratify, aggregate and consolidate in individual and collective language with their own unfathomable laws. The principle of appearance seems to favour AR's compositional procedures. Monumental fragments appear, such as the iconic spires and domes, functional archetypes such as lighthouses or gasometers, domestic and emotional apparitions such as the Elba cabins and school clocks that mark the motionless time of Rossi's landscapes. Memories emerge in AR's architecture as devices with a poetic reaction, almost independent of the functional obligation, but necessary for the construction of a setting. 
 

Aldo Rossi, con M. Adjmi - uffici per la Disney Development Company

Aldo Rossi, con M. Adjmi - Complesso di uffici per la Disney Development Company, Orlando (FL, USA) - 1991-1993 - Fondazione Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi and language

Just as Fellini repeatedly shot the same film, so AR meticulously pursues and recomposes the same concepts in his language. In an exemplary manner, he forges a coherent and pervasive methodical action to construct a language. A language which, however, is not a style, but a way of working according to principles such as repetition, stratification, dimensional estrangement, anachronism, intrusive juxtaposition, symmetry and the geometry of pure forms (the cone, the cylinder, the cube) as generators of space and meaning.
The space of AR's architecture is a laconic one of remembrance and memory, but also of abstraction and silence. A musing of De Chirico’s metaphysics crosses and defines the scope of his architecture as a space of absence and waiting. In issue 3 of Terrazzo magazine in 1989, an almost monographic issue on AR, the dreamlike scope of his drawings is contrasted in mirrored scenarios with Santi Caleca's black-and-white photographs of the constructed works. Rather unsurprisingly, not a single soul appears in those photos. 
 

Architettura con santo

Architettura con santo. Composizione architettonica con figura umana, 1972  - copia eliografica, acquarelli, pennarelli e pastelli colorati su carta - Collezione MAXXI Architettura. Archivio Aldo Rossi © Eredi Aldo Rossi  

Composizione architettonica con caffettiera e altri utensili da cucina

Composizione architettonica con caffettiera e altri utensili da cucina, 1974  - acquaforte su carta  - Collezione MAXXI Architettura. Archivio Aldo Rossi © Eredi Aldo Rossi  

Concorso per la casa dello studente

Aldo Rossi con G. Braghieri, A. Cantafora  - Concorso per la casa dello studente, Chieti, 1977 - Elaborato  grafico (Sezione prospettica e prospettive ) caffè, pastelli a cera, collage, copia eliografica su carta - Collezione MAXXI Architettura. Archivio Aldo Rossi © Eredi Aldo Rossi  

Costruzione e del viaggio del Teatro del Mondo

Reportage fotografico della costruzione e del viaggio del Teatro del Mondo da Venezia a Dubrovnik, 1979-1980 - Fotografie di Antonio Martinelli - © Copyright Antonio Martinelli

Viaggio del Teatro del Mondo

Reportage fotografico della costruzione e del viaggio del Teatro del Mondo da Venezia a Dubrovnik, 1979-1980 - Fotografie di Antonio Martinelli - © Copyright Antonio Martinelli

Aldo Rossi - Unità residenziale e commerciale, Schützenstrasse

Aldo Rossi, con Marc Kocher, Luca Meda e Massimo Scheurer  - Unità residenziale e commerciale, Schützenstrasse, Berlino - fotografia di Vera Rossi - Collezione privata

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19 July 2021