STATEMENT – As recent as a few decades ago, the act of designing an architectural construction detail could have been compared to orchestrating a melodic line, writing the scores of each instrument so that every tone and interval contributed to creating an unitary “sound space”. The technical knowledge of various instruments was the basis of the instructions to play them, handed over to the “laborers” of the orchestra in the form of an illustrated pentagram.
Nelson Goodman in Languages of Art (1968) distinguishes between “score” “sketch” and “script” as the three forms of “instructions for art” with different margins of interpretation.
A detailed design is the point of overlap between the author’s intentions and the social, technical and economical framework, which prepares to materialize them only if congruent with their constraints and resources. It therefore constitutes a transitive moment, a place for dialogue and communication. Ex ungue leonem or, more palaeontologically, ex vertebra brontosaurum: the detail contains in essence the entire system that produces a building. But the magnificent executive drawings of Mario Ridolfi – representing with manic affection the work of the carpenter, blacksmith and mason, anticipating prophetically the assembly work and deformation that the human hand has on the material – are now as much archaeological discoveries as the Etruscan Liver conserved in Palazzo Farnese in Piacenza. Today, in the era of technical, certified components guaranteed by the manufacturer, architects have become more assemblers of pre-finished pieces than composers ex nihilo; and their work is rather like the post-production of “sampled” music by a Disc Jockey.
So the well known and perhaps overused statement by Le Corbusier in his comparison between the Field of Miracles in Pisa and his project for the Palace of Soviets in Moscow, “unité dans le détail, tumult dans l’ensemble”, if said today, would have all the semantic drift that Jorge Luis Borges saw in “deferred repetition” of the paradoxical story Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote.
If early modernism saw a sort of elementary atom in the detail, the founding of the entire building structure – the cruciform column of the Pavilion by Mies in Barcelona radiates its energy in the Cartesian directions of the abstract grid that draws it – today in comparison we operate through significant deformation and unusual montages of known things, produced outside of our control. Bricoleurs rather than engineers, who assemble fragments of current techniques to achieve different goals, conveying in the recording studio the harmonic overtones of the sampled melodies to an intent first desired and then carried out.
Nuovo Portello residential buildings
Milan (Italy) 2007
The project creates a new city part in coherence with the larger process of transformation affecting the area. In the North portion of the Nuovo Portello 2b-2c area the project adopts a high-rise residential type which maximizes the transparency between city and park and gives long views on the surrounding territory and the artificial Monte Stella.
The two tall buildings, one adjoining via Traiano and the other set back from the street give form together to a new square which is the starting point of the path toward the park framing the front of the Milano Fair. The windows of varying shape and proportion, the different rolling and sliding shutter devices, the deep loggias with the steel and glass parapets are disposed following a series of permutations which maximize the long views toward the city.
The use of surface material (de-coloured terracotta tiles and white stone) and the gable silhouette constitute a critical reading of the features of post-war Milanese architecture.
La Corte Verde di Corso Como
Milan (Italy) 2013
The front and back façades of the residential building have very different architectural features, chosen in relationship to the disposition of their interiors, their position in the city and their sun orientation. The East front on via Viganò, which hosts the bedrooms, stair blocks and bathrooms, is distinguished by a bro- ken profile which alternates bulges in the form of “bow-windows” and high stacks of floor-to-ceiling windows; the West side, whe- re the living areas extend in large continuous terraces, creates a long screen overlooking the garden. The different materials and textures of the façades – plaster, Indian stone in two alternated finishes, bases in porphyry slabs, wood and metal window frames, folded and perforated copper plates, parapets in enameled steel and sanded glass – are unified by a colour palette in various warm grey tones, that together with the projecting single gable profile recalls the historical city without any direct quotation of its styli- stic features.
Office building U15
Assago – Milan (Italy) 2011
The outer shell of the building is divided in several layers which, combined, contribute to assure the required performance in terms of environmental friendliness and energy efficiency. The innermost layer features an alternation of a strip with windows and doors with an opaque parapet forming a band, covered by panels in anodized aluminium. The frames of the doors and windows are covered by elements in press-formed sheet metal with a V-profile; the fixed panes and the doors and windows that open are made in glass panes with various compositions and surface treatments depending on how the façade is oriented with respect to the sun. A series of horizontal elements placed at regular intervals support an external system of fixed sunscreens made from bent sheet aluminium with different profiles and depths, anodized like the elements mentioned in the foregoing, in four colour variants from brown to gold, perforated with a numeric control system.
Turin (Italy) 2010-under construction