There’s no Italy with­out a thorn

Domus - - CONTENTS - Ful­vio Irace

There’s no Italy with­out a thorn, says the draw­ing by Alessan­dro Men­dini. “A rose is a rose is a rose” goes a fa­mous line by Gertrude Stein, as pop­u­lar as it is enig­matic. The rose/Italy to which this spe­cial sec­tion is ded­i­cated aims to re­flect the call of this bril­liant Amer­i­can po­et­ess to see things for what they are. It is a kind of enun­ci­a­tion of the law of iden­tity to which Men­dini has added the re­al­is­tic touch of a heart­felt but re­al­is­tic anal­y­sis. Gertrude Stein com­posed her line in 1913 for the poem Sa­cred Emily. Two years be­fore, in a speech held in 1911 for an au­di­ence of suf­fragettes in Cleve­land, the fem­i­nist leader Rose Schei­der­man de­clared, “The woman worker needs bread, but she needs roses too.” The ad­mon­ish­ment that beauty is a right and an obli­ga­tion is some­thing that our coun­try par­tic­u­larly should never for­get, even when the thorns in­crease in size, as they did dur­ing the tragic events of the re­cent earth­quakes. The idea for this spe­cial sec­tion comes from Do­mus’s pub­lisher, Gio­vanna Maz­zoc­chi, who wishes to pay trib­ute to what the mag­a­zine’s orig­i­nal ed­i­tor-in-chief Gio Ponti liked to call “the pride of Ital­ian work”. Her pro­posal was taken up promptly, be­cause never be­fore has Italy needed more con­sol­i­da­tion of its vo­ca­tion to­ward ex­cel­lence. The coun­try must prac­tice the re­in­force­ment of de­sign to trans­form its past into a liv­ing fu­ture. In 1965, Gi­ulio Carlo Ar­gan pub­lished a the­o­retic man­i­festo of this need, ti­tled Pro­getto e Destino (“De­sign and Destiny”). To de­sign in or­der to not need de­sign­ing means op­pos­ing destiny as a fa­tal­ity through the rea­soned in­ven­tion of the fu­ture. “We de­sign against the pres­sure of an un­change­able past,” writes Ar­gan, “So that its strength be­comes a push and not weight; a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity and not guilt.” Seem­ingly for­got­ten words, but per­haps they just need to be pro­nounced again. That is what this sec­tion aims to do by show­ing the ca­pac­ity of our ar­chi­tects, artists, de­sign­ers and crit­ics: to con­fig­ure new land­scapes in which the sense of beauty is mar­ried to just­ness of ac­tion; to over­come the cri­sis and not al­low our­selves to be con­di­tioned by fear; to pro­mote the liv­ing mem­ory of lo­cal ter­ri­to­ries; to see tra­di­tion as a stim­u­lus and not a lim­i­ta­tion; beauty as an as­pi­ra­tion and not a de­ter­rent. These are the cen­tral themes of the many sto­ries gath­ered within these pages, all of whose out­come is a tes­ti­mony to Ital­ian pride.

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