In acelasi timp cu Robert Venturi (Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture – 1966), Aldo Rossi publica The Architecture of the City (Arhitectura Orasului). Spre deosebire de cartea lui Venturi, destinata sa stea la baza unui curs cu bataie lunga in lumea arhitecturii, cartea lui Rossi era rezultatul unui alt tip de strategie. Autorul si-a pregatit indelung argumentele.
Absolvent al Scolii Politehnice din Milano, Aldo Rossi a debutat in critica de arhitectura in paginile revistei Casabella-Continuita pe la mijlocul anilor 1950 sub tutela lui Ernesto Rogers. In 1961 devenea unul din cei doi editori ai revistei; in acelasi timp isi incepea activitatea de arhitect sub influenta formala si teoretica a lui Adolf Loos.
Ahitectura Orasului este cu toate acestea o creatie de alta natura. Pe de-o parte este o lucrare de geografie urbana, de inalta tinuta teoretica, bogata in informatii. Pe de alta parte este o lucrare cu caracter polemic: o cale importanta pentru reintroducerea conceptului de „tip”, dar si o critica a „functionalismului naiv”.
Aldo Rossi incepe cu un studiu al „artefactelor urbane”: monumente, trasee, vecinatati si elemente geografice ce definesc cultura sau „locus”-ul particulare fiecarui oras. In esenta este, se poate spune, o argumentatie conservatoare, un apel la valorile urbane nemuritoare, care raman aceleasi indiferent de modificarile functionale de-a lungul secolelor. Este deasemenea o reducere a arhitecturii la sintaxa formelor sale esentiale, golite in zilele noastre de semnificatiile originare. Extrasul de mai jos – din capitolul I al cartii – trateaza ca exemplu Palazzo della Ragione din Padova.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF THE CITY
Our description of the city will be concerned primarily with its form. This form depends on real facts, which in turn refer to real experiences: Athens, Rome, Paris. The architecture of the city summarizes the city’s form, and from this form we can consider the city’s problems.
By architecture of the city we mean two different things: first, the city seen as a gigantic man-made object, a work of engineering and architecture that is large and complex and growing over time; second, certain more limited but still crucial aspects of the city, namely urban artifacts, which like the city itself are characterized by their own history and thus by their own form. In both cases architecture clearly represents only one aspect of a more complex reality, of a larger structure; but at the same time, as the ultimate verifiable fact of this reality, it constitutes the most concrete possible position from which to address the problem.
We can understand this more readily by looking at specific urban artifacts, for immediately a series of obvious problems opens up for us. We are also able to perceive certain problems that are less obvious: these involve the quality and the uniqueness of each urban artifact.
In almost all European cities there are large palaces, building complexes, or conglomerations that constitute whole pieces of the city and whose function now is no longer the original one. When one visits a monument of this type, for example the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua, one is always surprised by a series of questions intimately associated with it. In particular, one is struck by the multiplicity of functions that a building of this type can contain over time and how these functions are entirely independent of the form. At the same time, it is precisely the form that impresses us; we live it and experience it, and in turn it structures the city.
Where does the individuality of such a building begin and on what does it depend? Clearly it depends more on its form than on its material, even if the latter plays a substantial role; but it also depends on being a complicated entity which has developed in both space and time. We realize, for example, that if the architectural construction we are examining had been built recently, it would not have the same value. In that case the architecture in itself would be subject to judgment, and we could discuss its style and its form; but it would not yet present us with that richness of its own history which is characteristic of an urban artifact.
In an urban artifact, certain original values and functions remain, others are totally altered; about some stylistic aspects of the form we are certain, others are less obvious. We contemplate the values that remain – I am also referring to spiritual values – and try to ascertain whether they have some connection with the building’s materiality, and whether they constitute the only empirical facts that pertain to the problem. At this point, we might discuss what our idea of the building is, our most general memory of it as a product of the collective, and what relationship it affords us with this collective.
It also happens that when we visit a palazzo like the one in Padua or travel through a particular city, we are subjected to different experiences, different impressions. There are people who do not like a place because it is associated with some ominous moment in their lives; others attribute an auspicious character to a place. All these experiences, their sum, constitute the city. It is in this sense that we must judge the quality of a space — a notion that may be extremely difficult for our modern sensibility. This was the sense in which the ancients consecrated a place, and it presupposes a type of analysis far more profound than the simplistic sort offered by certain psychological interpretations that rely only on the legibility of form.
We need, as I have said, only consider one specific urban artifact for a whole string of questions to present themselves; for it is a general characteristic of urban artifacts that they return us to certain major themes: individuality, locus, design, memory. A particular type of knowledge is delineated along with each artifact, a knowledge that is more complete and different from that with which we are familiar. It remains for us to investigate how much is real in this complex of knowledge.
I repeat that the reality I am concerned with here is that of the architecture of the city —that is, its form, which seems to summarize the total character of urban artifacts, including their origins. Moreover, a description of form takes into account all of the empirical facts we have already alluded to and can be quantified through rigorous observation. This is in part what we mean by urban morphology: a description of the forms of an urban artifact. On the other hand, this description is nothing but one moment, one instrument. It draws us closer to a knowledge of structure, but it is not identical with it.
Although all of the students of the city have stopped short of a consideration of the structure of urban artifacts, many have recognized that beyond the elements they had enumerated there remained the âme de la cité, in other words, the quality of urban artifacts. French geographers, for example, concentrated on the development of an important descriptive system, but they failed to exploit it to conquer this ultimate stronghold; thus. after indicating that the city is constituted as a totality and that this totality is its raison d’être, they left the significance of the structure they had glimpsed unexamined. Nor could they do otherwise with the premises from which they had set out: all of these studies failed to make an analysis of the actual quality of specific urban artifacts.