The idea of a centro direzionale was advanced by many in Italy during the 60s as a solution to several urban planning problems. To alleviate congestions and reverse the conversion of housing stock to office use in central cities, the strategy proposed was to build complexes of offices and municipal administrative facilities outside historic city centre. The scale of a complex imagined as a centro direzionale was large enough to constitute a self-contained new district and determine the direction of urban expansion.
Competitions for the design of such facilities have frequently become the ideological battlefields on which opposing ideas about land use and the future development of historic cities are advanced and criticized. In this projects, submitted under the name of locomotive 2 to a competition for a centro direzionale outside Turin, the nature of the program as a large-scale intervention in the suburban landscape is emphasized: the main building masses?
Locomotiva 2: Aldo Rossi’s Entry for the Centro Direzionale di Torino Competition collection Beginning in the 1960s a number of urban planning problems began to be recognized as a consequence of transformations of the postwar Italian city.
These concerned congestion of the urban core and concerns over the conversion of housing stock, desperately needed to serve a growing influx of workers from rural areas, into offices for business.
One solution proposed at this time were the Centro Direzionale, entirely new complexes of municipal and administrative offices located outside of the city’s historic core. The proposed scale of these new developments was large enough to constitute entirely new self-contained districts, while their siting in brownfield or suburban locations could determine the direction of future urban expansion1. However it is no coincidence that such solutions were put forward at the same time that architects began envisioning megastructures nd finally building megaprojects. Rossi’s unsuccessful entry to the competition for a new Centro Direzionale outside of Turin, titled Locomotiva 2, emphasizes its scale rather than trying to blend into its low-level surroundings. The main complex presents a fortress-like appearance, representing “a modern conception of the centralization of services and vertical communications. ” 2 Walls nearly 30 metres high are punctuated by elevated highways and surround a vast open-air public square that is dominated by the steel dome of the conference hall.
Rossi’s continued research on urban planning culminated with the publication in 1966 of his L’architettura della citta . 3 1 Pen and ink on translucent paper, 89. 2 x 103 cm. Aldo Rossi fonds, CCA Collection. AP142. S1. D4. P1. 2 Peter Arnell and Ted Bickford, Aldo Rossi : Buildings and projects (New York : Rizzoli International Publications, 1985), p. 40. 2 Alberto Ferlenga, ed. Aldo Rossi : The life and works of an architect (Cologne : Konnemann Verlagsgessellschaft mbH, 2001), p. 34. On Rossi’s ideas about urban planning in the Italian context, see : Mary Louise Lobsinger “The new urban planning in the Italian context : On Aldo Rossi’s Architettura della citta” in Journal of Architectural Education, Volume 59, Issue 3 (February 2009), p. 28 – 38.
Keywords: Locomotiva 2, Aldo Rossi, Centro Direzionale di Torino, Turin, L’architettura della citta , Italy, urban planning.
Aldo Rossi, Gianugo Polesello, “Peter Behrens e il problema dell’abitazione moderna,” Casabella Continuita, n. 240 (1960); also in Scritti ,ceiti, 107-11. 7. Ibid. , 107 38. Rossi, The Architecture of the Ciry. Manfredo Tafuri, a 1960 graduate of the Faculty of Architecture in Rome, was . developing in the framework of urban ism and planning’ his’ first important his torical, critical, and theoretical contribu tions, including a special issue of Carabella, edited with GIorgio Piccinato and Vieri Quilici, on City-Territory; and his firsrbook, on modern Japanese archi tecture, in which he paid special atten tion to the urban-planning work of Kenzo Tange and the Metabolists.
See Manfredo Tafuri, L’architettura moderna· in Gia11’one (Bologna: Cappelli, 1964); see also Tafuri, “Un piano per Tokio e Ie nuove problematiche urbanistica con temporenea,” Argomenti di Architettura, n. 4 (1961). For a comparison of Rossi’s and Tafuri’s positions on the city, see Alice Bulla, “Inheritances,” unpublished. paper presented at the Architecrural Reflection Seminar, TUDelft, 2004-2005. and structural problems of the city, problems that were related to architectural expressions.
According to Rossi, architecture that showed awareness of the problems of the modern city could be seen in the work of Alessandro Antonelli, Behrens, Loos, Hannes Meyer, and Atelier. Their work finds its language in the empirical ground of urban reality, from which the practice of architec ture extrapolates the principles of its development. In this sense, one of the most concise definitions of typology, con sidered a fundamental link between the. reality of the city and the concreteness of the architectural event, is found in the essay on Behrens that Rossi co-authored with his col league Gianugo Polesello. Behrens’ work appears to Rossi and Polesello as stylisti cally eclectic but consistent in the development of funda mental urban themes. “Behrens built relatively few urbanis tic works,” they wrote, “nonetheless, in the cha;acteristic monumentality of his great complexes there is a profound link with the city; great works such as the Mannesman fac tory in Dusseldorf or the Farben offices in Frankfurt are clearly developed around the form of the street. ” Rossi will later ascribe this concept to the idea of the urban event; that is, that an architectural form takes a typical element of the city and develops it as an exceptional one.
Here it is possible to see how, for Rossi, typological study, as a form of rational study, was based not on norma tive facts but on the possibility of architectural form to evoke urban themes. Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation in Marseille with its rue int~rieure, or the Smithsons’ project for the Golden Lane residential complex in London and its “streets in the air,” are among the examples Rossi considered true representations of the city in the form of urban themes. Here, type is rendered not through universal rules but by the immediacy and singularity of an architectural event.
Architecture Vs. Urban Planning: Rossi Vs. Tafuri
Rossi’s position was strongly based on architecture as a basic, yet partial unit of the city. This was particularly polemical in the early ’60s, when architects saw emerging urbanity largely through the lens of urban-planning methodologies. In 1963, the Olivetti Foundation organized an urban planning semi nar in Arezzo, headed by Ludovico Quaroni, Giancarlo De Carlo, and Edoardo Detti, in which Rossi participated as an instructor, along with other young architects, including the 28-year-old Manfredo Tafuri. Giorgio Piccinato, Vieri Quilici, Manfi-edo Tafuri, “La citta Terrirorio verso una nuova dimensionc,” Casabella Continuira, n. 270 (1963). 41. Bruno Gabrielli, “Una cspcrienza con Aldo Rossi. ” in Per Aldo Rossi, Salvatore Farinato, ed. (Venezia: Marsilio, 1997), 63. 42. 1bid. Associati), an architectural and urban planning practice he cofounded in Rome with Vieri Quilici and Giorgio Piccinato, Tafuri proposed a greater degree of integration between urban planning and design as the agenda for the seminar. This reflected an emerging tendency in architecture for a more organic collaboration between architects and other dis ciplines to facilitate a more integrated and collective plan ning method that would grasp the new dimension of the city-region.
Responding to the new political, social, and cul tural challenges of the city-region concept, Tafuri, Piccinato, and Quilici introduced the concept of city-territory, a search for a new scale of urban planning in which urbanism absorbed the informality and openness of new geographic, economic, and political structures. This new perspective on urban-planning methodologies could be seen as partially inspired by the wave of hope for urban planning generated by the first center-left-wing government in Italy in 1963, and the full affirmation of the welfare state in Europe.
The semi nar in Arezzo, as participant Bruno Gabrielli later recalled, was “a sort of fine-tuning of the themes and problems to be faced in order to relaunch proactive planning in Italy. ” But for Rossi, the seminar, which he always recalled as his pas sage from research to theory, and the most decisive experi ence in his education, became an opportunity to radically question urban planning as a discipline itself. Confronting Tafuri’s view of urban planning as a new dimension for architectural practice, Rossi accused urban planning of rep resenting nothing but a discursive and ideological practice, without any actual tools or immediate commitment to the real problems of the city. As Gabrielli recalled, Rossi strongly criticized the vague foundations of the urban-planning reforms proposed by Quaroni, De Carlo, and Tafuri, as well as the most fashionable urban methodologies of the time, such as the notions of city-region and megastructure, to the point where the seminar became deadlocked. Rossi’s rein troduction of the architectural dimension of the city did not represent the recovery of a historical form, as is commonly maintained, but·rather a search for the concreteness of objects as opposed to the vagueness of planning. Rossi made clear that the analysis and project of the city had to go beyond the totalizing, demiurgic, and diagrammatic attitude of planning, which he believed was too general and simplis tic for confronting the reality of an urban territory irre ducible to an abstract common denominator.
His critique of urban planning was clearly opposed to the position of Tafuri, who, at the beginning of his career, assumed that the scale of regional planning and megastructure was the only means for architecture to identify itself with the new problems of contemporary cities. Thus Rossi radicalized not only the continuation of the trajectory of the Modern Movement, but also an idea of architecture as a circumscribed and realized phenomenon, as an element of concreteness and empirical rationality upon which it is possible to project a personal commitment to reality.
AIda Rossi, Emilio Mattioni, Gianugo Polesello, Luciano Semerani t “Citta e Territorio negli aspetti funzionali e figu rativi della pianificazione continua,” Proceedings of the X . ongress of INY, Istituto Nazionale di Urbanistica (Trieste, 1965). My translation. collaboration with Luca Meda and Gianugo Polesello, which he presented in Arezzo as “didactic demonstrations” of his argument. Working against the early ’60s fashions of iconic exuberance, total design, and the naIve use of technology and cybernetics as techniques of urban design, Rossi and his colleagues developed an elementary architectural vocabulary of simple forms that would merge monumentality and the common experience of the everyday urban landscape.
Projects such as their competition entry for the Monument to the Resistance in Cuneo (1962), the entry for a monumen tal fountain in the new Centro Direzionale in Milan (1962), and the impressive Locomotiva 2, a competition entry for the new Centro Direzionale in Turin (1962), showed an intense detachment from the formal complexity of urban design typical of that time, and a predisposition for a zero degree formal language that aspired to be a stage for urban life rather than its infrastructure or iconic representation. These projects summarized Rossi’s idea of architecture as event, interacting with the complexity of the city hrough the extreme simplicity and finitude of its form. Rossi and Polesello later wrote a polemical text against the fashion of “open form” as a metaphor for the total design of the city: “Only a defined and finite form, by virtue of its clear limits, allows for its continuity and for the production of further actions and the adaptation to unpredictable events. “On several occasions Rossi maintained that an architectural intervention always takes the form of a subjective decision to confront the existing context rather than to overcome it.
This decision, however, is not arbitrary, but relies on a spe cific and shared methodology that, while it becomes concrete through individual examples, always represents the diversity and traces of an intersubjective knowledge of the city. This is why at this moment Rossi felt the urgency to systematize his intuition on typology’ into a “scientific” framework. The Arezzo confrontation between Rossi and De Carlo, Quaroni, and Tafuri was one of the fundamental provocations that. seemed to push Rossi to further define his field of theoretical action around the idea of typology as both a concrete and a general criteria of analysis and design.
For A Theory On Architecture And The City
Luciano Semerani, “Arrivi e Partenze,” in Aldo Rossi, II Teatro e fa Citta (Milan: Edizioni Unicopli, 2003), 9. The publication of Rossi’s first essays on typology in 1964 coincided with three important events in his career:’ the end of his collaboration with CaJ’abella Continuita after Rogers was fired for encouraging leftist views; a grant to conduct urban research on Milan, offered by De Carlo; and the be ginning ofa university chair at the Istituto di Architettura di Venezia (IUAV), which he took on as an assistant professor.
These three synchronistic events converged in Rossi’s deci sion to fuFther his work on typology as a theoretical method. In his teaching at Venice, Rossi systematized his research methods, until then based only on rough and discontinuous editorial work, in the form of a teachable theory. Now typo logical analysis becomes the main focus of Rossi’s thinking; thought that on the one hand aspires to treatiselike rigor and on the other is constantly focused on the intermediate and uncertain scale that joins architecture and the city, analysis and design, in a difficult whole.
Luciano Semerani, a professor at IUAV and Rossi’s close friend,recalls that “in a confrontation in nearby classrooms with Giuseppe Samona, then dean of IUAV, Aldo gav~ a few improvised lectures on type … [Samona] maintained that typological study concerned a possible intermediate element between sensible and intelligible, between form and content. … Aldo, on the other hand, referred to studies of geography and natural science, and to anthropological interpretations of life and human culture that see the coincidence between species and forms as having an inbred, predetermined struc ture.
Both Rossi and Samona were aware of Saverio Mura tori, who was the first to reintroduce the notion of type at IUAV, where the subject had been previously reduced to sta tistical surveys and professional manuals.
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