THE 1966 CHRONOTOPE

Domus - - CONFETTI - Manuel Orazi

Can we be­lieve in the ex­is­tence of a spe­cific time and place co­in­cid­ing to pro­duce a se­ries of events so pro­lific as to lay the foun­da­tions for a new phase in his­tory? The year 1966 in Florence – when and where the mod­ern move­ment ended un­der the blows of radical ar­chi­tects’ vast reper­tory – seems to demon­strate the va­lid­ity of the “chronotope” genre

Among the var­i­ous his­to­ri­o­graphic gen­res, there is one that is not par­tic­u­larly wide­spread, but that has re­cently come back in vogue thanks to the work of Karl Sch­lögel and An­toine Com­pagnon. The former pub­lished Ter­ror und Traum: Moskau 1937, ded­i­cated to 1937, the turn­ing point year for the Stal­in­ist regime and the city of Moscow. The lat­ter held a course in 2010-2011 at the Col­lège de France in Paris, based on the year 1966 and called “1966: An­nus mirabilis”. The sce­nario for ev­ery les­son was al­most al­ways Paris, for the great books, films, trans­la­tions and de­bates that abound in that par­tic­u­lar year in French cul­ture. Ul­ti­mately, these two great his­to­ri­ans – one Ger­man and the other French – have re­vi­talised the genre of the “chronotope”, the join­ing of time and space, ba­sic to the the­o­ris­ing of the Rus­sian lit­er­ary critic Mikhail Bakhtin. A spe­cific time and place in­sep­a­ra­bly bound by their fer­til­ity of events can form the foun­da­tion for a new phase in his­tory, where time is the fourth di­men­sion of space. Bakhtin de­fines the chronotope as “the in­trin­sic con­nect­ed­ness of tem­po­ral and spa­tial re­la­tion­ships that are ar­tis­ti­cally ex­pressed in lit­er­a­ture” (1881). In lit­er­a­ture, but also in ar­chi­tec­ture. “What in­ter­ests us is that this term ex­presses the in­sep­a­ra­bil­ity of space and time. All val­ues of real life and cul­ture are laid out around these ar­chi­tec­tural points of the act in the real world – sci­en­tific, aes­thetic, po­lit­i­cal (in­clud­ing eth­i­cal and so­cial) and re­li­gious val­ues,” writes Bakhtin, us­ing an ar­chi­tec­tural metaphor. Hence, to fo­cus on 1966 is more than sim­ply to cel­e­brate an an­niver­sary and study a ran­dom col­lec­tion of events re­lat­ing to ar­chi­tec­ture. Yes, it is the year in which three fun­da­men­tal writ­ings by Aldo Rossi, Vit­to­rio Gre­gotti and Robert Ven­turi were pub­lished, but it is also the year in which three nat­u­ral dis­as­ters took place – the land­slide in Agri­gento, the flood­ing of Florence, and the flood­ing of Venice, which had pro­found reper­cus­sions on col­lec­tive me­mory, shat­ter­ing faith in the un­stop­pable progress of post­war mod­erni­sa­tion. A few years ago, Francesco Dal Co noted (but with­out re­lat­ing all this to the three above­men­tioned writ­ings) that those three men used his­tory as “de­sign ma­te­rial” af­ter decades of avant-garde clean slates, cul­ti­vat­ing a se­cretly an­ti­mod­ern feel­ing, a lit­tle like what was tak­ing place in par­al­lel in the cin­ema of Pier Paolo Pa­solini (The Hawks and the Spar­rows, 1966), Gillo Pon­tecorvo (The Bat­tle of Al­giers, 1966), Mario Mon­i­celli (For Love and Gold, 1966) and Ser­gio Leone (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, 1966). That year’s great epis­te­mo­log­i­cal break also co­in­cided with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of a num­ber of stud­ies that are now un­ac­knowl­edged and for­got­ten, but of no less im­por­tance. I am re­fer­ring to Carlo Ay­monino, the au­thor of the IUAV se­ries on ur­ban mor­phol­ogy and build­ing ty­pol­ogy; Orig­ini e sviluppo della città mod­erna, the first vol­ume in the Po­lis se­ries di­rected by Rossi and pub­lished by Mar­silio; Paolo Por­togh­esi, who, in that same year edited three books: the new edi­tion of De Re Aed­i­fi­ca­to­ria by Po­lifilo, a mono­graph on Bernardo Vit­tone, and a big book il­lus­trated with his own pho­tographs, Roma barocca; and lastly Man­fredo Ta­furi, who in 1966 pub­lished a dense es­say that was re­ally for­got­ten by all, in­clud­ing the au­thor him­self, en­ti­tled L’ar­chitet­tura del Manierismo nel Cin­que­cento eu­ropeo. It is, how­ever, an ex­tremely im­por­tant book, be­cause it in­di­rectly de­scribes a gen­eral cul­tural cli­mate1 as con­firmed by the stud­ies on the same theme con­ducted by John Shear­man, Arnold Hauser and Wal­ter Fried­laen­der, in­clud­ing a small vol­ume by James Ack­er­man on Pal­la­dio, all of which came out be­tween 1965

“But dur­ing my last months in Rome, I re­al­ized that Man­ner­ist ar­chi­tec­ture was what re­ally meant most to me, and I re-ex­am­ined a lot of Ital­ian his­tor­i­cal ar­chi­tec­ture for its Man­ner­ist qual­i­ties. This was im­por­tant when I came to write Com­plex­ity and Con­tra­dic­tion in the fol­low­ing years.” P. Bar­riere, S. Lavin, in­ter­vista con Denise Scott Brown e Robert Ven­turi, Per­specta, vol. 28 1997, p. 127.

Laura Chiesa, Su­per­stu­dio Dou­ble Take: Res­cue op­er­a­tions in the Realms of Ar­chi­tec­ture, in Neoa­van­guardia. Ital­ian Ex­per­i­men­tal Lit­er­a­ture and Arts in the 1960s, a cura di Paolo Chirum­bolo, Mario Moroni, Luca Somigli, Univer­sity of Toronto Press, 2010, p. 285.

Adolfo Natal­ini, Com’era an­cora bella l’ar­chitet­tura nel 1966, ora in, Su­per­stu­dio, Opere 19661978, a cura di Gabriele Mas­trigli, Quodli­bet, Mac­er­ata 2016, p. 578.

and 1967. Lastly, af­ter the end of the CIAM Gian­carlo De Carlo in his role as a pro­fes­sor an­a­lysed the theme of the cityre­gion, edit­ing La pi­ani­fi­cazione ter­ri­to­ri­ale ur­ban­is­tica nell’area mi­lanese with con­tri­bu­tions from Rossi and a young Bernardo Sec­chi, among others. In his role as an ar­chi­tect, he took stock for the first time of his work in his adopted home­town in Urbino, la sto­ria di una città e il pi­ano della sua evoluzione ur­ban­is­tica. In short, af­ter Ernesto Nathan Rogers had left his post as the editor-in-chief of Casabella Con­ti­nu­ità in 1965, and fol­low­ing the death of Le Cor­bus­ier the same year, soon to be fol­lowed by those of other masters of modernism, there was an ob­jec­tive gen­er­a­tional change. Yet it is not enough to ex­plain the im­por­tance of the 1966 chronotope, when there was such in­sep­a­ra­bil­ity of time and space. The most im­por­tant break took place in Florence, when ar­chi­tects ar­rived on the scene who were later re­ferred to as rad­i­cals. As bril­liantly demon­strated by Laura Chiesa2, they brought about on a vis­ual level the “max­i­mum pos­si­ble shift in a sit­u­a­tion where the meth­ods of ex­pres­sion were tra­di­tional” with the max­i­mum amount of aware­ness and ex­am­i­na­tion of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween op­er­a­tor and con­sumer. Where Rossi, Ven­turi and the others were black-and-white like the cover of the Bea­tles’ Re­volver al­bum, the rad­i­cals were as vividly colour­ful as the newly cre­ated Vel­vet Un­der­ground. In any case, no func­tion­al­ism would ever again be pos­si­ble from that mo­ment on. In short, with a cer­tain dose of hind­sight, one can say that the mod­ernist move­ment truly came to an end in Florence un­der the com­bined fire of the light-hearted col­lages by Archizoom and Su­per­stu­dio, the “ur­ban ephemer­als” by UFO and the rest of the vast radical reper­toire. Ten years later, Adolfo Natal­ini, al­ready speak­ing in the past tense, un­der­lined how only Arata Isozaki re­alised all of this “with sub­tle Ori­en­tal in­tu­ition” by ti­tling his es­say on Su­per­stu­dio, Le tracce del dilu­vio3. This is proof of the fact that maybe, as Joseph Roth dis­cov­ered on his Reise in Rus­s­land (1926), “hav­ing the present in com­mon is a stronger bond than hav­ing a way of think­ing in com­mon, and a liv­ing con­tem­po­rary is closer to me than a dead party com­pan­ion.”

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