by Esther Giani
Paolo Mazzanti, Concentric Viewings
Each rule is nothing but a means.
It depends on the purpose that it helps to achieve. That’s why we shouldn’t obey the rule superstitiously and mechanically. The rule’s authority is there to serve and it can be even useful to avoid it.
(R. Callois, ad vocem, “Regola (Rule)”Vocabolario estetico (Aesthetic Vocabulary)”, Bompiani, Milano, 1991, p.26)
From the notion of ‘type’ in architecture we infer a way in which society passes on, through the activity of the architect, its cultural conquests which, through form, emerge from the conscience and become the history and energy of the time. Energy of Time.
By summarizing the following definitions we can find three interpretations of the ‘Type’ notion or, better, three different attitudes for research.
The first one is a historical/cultural attitude, which leads to the examination of the ‘type’ set in a particular context of architectural culture and results in the historical verification of its various phenomenology.
The second refers to architectural investigations of the theoretical kind, the concept of ‘type’ finds very rich soil in the investigations of similar disciplines, such as Art, Semiotics, Philosophy (just think about the many possible references to Plato’s doctrine of ideas, to Aristotle’s genre categories, to Kant’s schema, and so on).
Finally the third, philological one, which, even if it remains in the architectural field, looks for a logical explanation, with a scientific method, of the typing process and investigates the nature1 of its expression.
Of course the three different positions can interfere with one another and leave a wide range of interpretative possibilities as seen in Mazzanti’s work.
But I think it sufficient, for our purposes, to bring light to some tendencies, which are still relevant and which seem to suggest new and interesting “openings” to the typological examination and to the practice of planning, which is the ultimate goal of my studies.
In conclusion, I do believe the study of types is still a very useful tool and essential to planning; a procedure that should precede the stage of making and shaping the first intuition.
Furthermore, the knowledge of previous experiences nourishes what we generally define as ‘idea’, it makes it cultured and pertinent to the question we are trying to answer through the architectural project.
Before we continue reading the images proposed by Mazzanti, we call attention to the etymological and semantic meaning of the word ‘type’.
Type. Etimo. Dal latino typus e dal greco TUPOS: impressione visibile fatta in un oggetto, percuotendo o premendo. Impronta per fare altre impronte. Fig. modello originario.
From G. Devoto, G. Oli, “Dizionario della Lingua Italiana (Vocabulary of Italian Language)”.
“Type- and -type” First and second part of composed words, in which it mostly has the meaning of “mold” or “matrix” (typography; , daguerreotype, stereotype), “specimen” or “model” (archetype ; prototype); this last use is also common in scientific language, particularly in Biology (biotype biotype).
[From Greek ΤΥΠΟΣ: “track, imprint”].
From Quatremère de Quincy, Dictionnaire historique de l’Architecture (Historical Dictionary of Architecture) (1832).2
«The word ‘ type ’ doesn’t quite present an image of something that you could copy or perfectly imitate, but rather the idea of an element which in and of itself will serve as a rule to the model. That is why you wouldn’t say (or you shouldn’t) that a statue or a painting has served as a ‘ type ’ to the copy; but if a fragment, a sketch, the thought of a master, a rather vague description has originated a work of art in the mind of an artist, then we’ll say that the ‘ type ’ has been given to him by such or such idea, for such or such reason or purpose.»
These premises help us to comprehend the exhibited images: a concentric viewing that the author, familiar with architectural studies, shows about unusual aspects of cities the likes of Milan, Urbino, Venice.
The sharp, close, precise look of a seemingly common phenomenology stresses the sense of Time. Of a time set in a cultural continuum , outcome of a planned slowness which bursts out with energy in the synthesis of an instant.
Profound, mysterious images of segments of architecture that compose a mosaic of viewings which, with centripetal force, coerce us to an upwards viewing.
Shadows, repetitions, combinations and limitless perspectives accompany the viewer in an approaching path which is almost dizzying. And it’s a concentric path because the author brings us, in a paratactic way, towards his vision of Time.
A Time with no beginning nor end, an approaching Time that remains far away, a slow and yet whirling Time in the multitude of snapshots: an energetic solitude because, as a point of view, it’s arguable and, at the same time, commonly shared because it was deduced by a precise choice.
Each choice is already a project. And each project is a teaching.
The project needs time, and it cannot slip away because it can’t lose Quality.
That Energy of Time that gives reason (or not) to a project, be it architectural, didactic, cultural.
The audience is free to identify itself in these viewings and make them its own, within the collective, shared imagination.
As an architect I find in them that meaning of ‘type’ which is full of meanings, offering the author the system of references which is essential to each Project. Because project means vision.
A ‘hic et nunc ’ fragment of Time.
Esther Giani, Architetto e Docente alla facoltà di Architettura dell’Università IUAV di Venezia, del corso “Caratteri tipologici e distributivi degli edifici”
Curator of events and international exhibitions.
Character, from Greek Karachter, imprint. In ancient times it meant every note, imprint or mark printed, carved or impressed that served to distinguish things from each other. Metaphorically, it also meant the whole of moral qualities that distinguished one person from the other. The sound principles. The typological characters of the buildings: the principles that identify and formally define a project (Utilitas, Firmitas, Venustas), starting from the initial scheme up to the final product as we see it.
Antonie Quatremère de Quincy (1755-1848), theorist of arts and architecture, is the author of a theoretical corpus which will have a prominent influence within the Neoclassical culture in Europe. In the articles that compose the Dictionnaire historique d’architecture (Historical Dictionary of Architecture), Quatremère wants to «reunite the main materials of a history of Architecture» and all the «more or less conceptual ideas and notions that made it a space of imagination, imitation and taste». First edited within Panckoucke’s Encyclopédie Methodique (Methodical Encyclopedia), between 1778 and 1825, the Dictionnaire historique d’architecture (Historical Dictionary of Architecture) was published in Paris with some modifications in 1832. The entries ‘Character’, ‘Type’, ‘Style’ belong to what Quatremère defined the «theoretical part» of his Dictionnaire.
See V. Farinati and G. Tyssot, edited by, Quartemère de Quincy Dizionario Storico di architettura (Historical Dictionary, Marsilio ed., Venezia 1992, entry «Tipo (Type)» p. 271 et seq.