Thursday, April 30, 2009

An Unscientific Autobiography

Just to show that I haven't been exclusively concerned with below ground drainage* these past few weeks, here is me on Aldo Rossi in the RIBA Journal. Strangely for one who strove for a kind eternal timeless quality it's funny how Rossi's work seems so associated with a specific architectural moment now.

Although his work became synonymous with architectural post modernism it started off a long way either from Po Mo's forced jollity or literal historicism. He was also - along with Venturi - one of the few practising architects to have articulated a consistent theoretical position.

Rossi was somewhat unfashionably one of my first architectural heroes and looking at these drawings again reminded me of desperately trying to unpick his opaque books The Architecture of the City and A Scientific Autobiography at college. I even remember trying my hand at some terrible versions of his drawing style. I remain a fan though despite my heavy caveats in the review, especially of the deeply odd qualities of his windowless hotel in Tokyo.

* This is both one of those dreadful parental euphemisms and quite literally true.


Conservation Officer said...

A difficult figure to assimilate, Rossi. You know the story about his visit to London to get some award or other from the RIBA? He was asked if there was anything he'd like to see while he was in England, and he mentioned a building he'd seen, and been greatly impressed by, from the taxi on the way from the airport - "it was big, and white, with lots of similar windows, and a green roof with tempietti at the ends".
After a lot of head-scratching, his hosts realised he was talking about the deeply (and unfairly) unfashionable 1950s Ministry of Defence building on Whitehall, by Vincent Harris (who, to link to a former post of mine, had been assisted by Donald McMorran in the 'thirties).
No-one esle in Europe at the time (early 80s) would have given it even a first glance, never mind a second one.

Charles Holland said...

That's funny! I can imagine Rossi liking that building and the bemusement of the RIBA as a result. Yes he is difficult to assimilate. Far too austere and hardcore for the post modernists, but too averse to innovation and technology for the modernists.

His later stuff did seem to get more obviously contextual and a bit cheerier and much less interesting as a result. There is to my mind very little writte about him these days but that might be a natural lag.

Nicolas said...

i begrudgingly have to agree with your article. i love looking at images of aldo rossi's buildings, they are like works of art. rossi's work always reminds me of de chirico's paintings. they have that empty prescence but yet there is such a palpable tension to each painting. much of rossi's work probably feels uninhabitable at times, but none the less stunning to look at.

point in case: