I will talk to Milan as a city of architecture in particular modern architecture that maybe in Italy, could not have been born here. I will talk about it in a tendentious, interested way. What I propose to you is a distorted view of history , a vision that chooses, in history, what is needed for your project. Without particular criteria if not one: that of the use of the example . Naturally the example to be used must have a general value, a value capable of going through history and not being valid only when it is produced.
When, at the beginning of my work, I found myself faced with the theme of the windowed wall, I went to see the windows of Asnago and Vender and I tried to understand their compositional logic, because a logic exists, a reason for their forms and of their arrangement on the facades. Sometimes at the limit of formalism as already said Giolli on “Casabella” in ’43, but always aimed at making us recognize the identity of this element, identity that changes according to its size and its proportions, according to its location and its relationship with other windows. A logic that makes those windows and their composition a sort of common heritage to which everyone can draw.
I understood that this does not happen with all the authors. Not all of them produce forms that increase the common heritage of forms. Many produce personal forms that are not available to anyone. It happens to all [the architects] to realize that they can easily use some forms and instead feel a sense of annoyance to use others. The forms that enter without forcing into the common patrimony are usually simple forms, devoid of particularities, forms that coincide with the reason that generated them. They are forms of authors who are not interested in leaving their mark and who even want their language to be used by others. Giuseppe Pagano considered ffootsteps free to be used by other forms of rural architecture.
This is a prerogative of ancient architecture but it has also been of certain modern architecture, especially in Italy, and especially in Milan. Think of Pagano, Albini, Figini and Pollini, Asnago and Vender. I think none of us would have the problem of resuming the forms, so general, so appropriate and right that we do not allow alternatives at the moment of their proposition. These Milanese authors and others who share the search for right forms, forms without alternatives , base their work on some principles that we can define as rational. A rationality that brings us back to the Lombard Enlightenment as has been said so many times, at the thought of Pietro Verri, at the Discourse on Happiness , published in Milan at the end of the eighteenth century.
Verri in the Discourse on Happiness writes that “the happiness of the sage begins with himself and then extends to the objects he creates”, and goes on to say that “the happiness of each one of us is fulfilled in public happiness “. I always thought that this thought was very related to our work. With Pietro Verri we can say that the end of our work is public happiness. The culture of some Milanese architects sinks in that period and has grown over time going far beyond, from the beginning, to all kinds of functionalismthat instead circulated in architectural culture in Europe.
Have you ever thought why it is impossible to consider the work of Franco Albini or Giuseppe Pagano as functionalist and what is more in their forms, precisely, what is the purpose of their forms? Franco Albini – my first teacher – has taught us to put into practice, in simple forms, the identity of everything, what everything is. Not only Albini, also other Milanese architects in that period are united by this commitment to the knowledge of the nature of everything: of what everything is, going beyond all functionalism. We can say that the commitment to knowledge is proper to the culture of a city.In the case of Milan it is an extraordinary asset, not yet fully assessed. A heritage to which they have drawn from all parts of the world.
I find it hard to think of Aldo Rossi, an architect known all over the world, outside the culture of his city : a city that Rossi wanted to know analytically , distinguishing the parts, recognizing a law in the ways of its growth. Aldo Rossi has been able to weld the physical form of the city with the thought that produced it in history. He more than any of us has learned from Milan what he has been able to tell with a new and extraordinary mastery. All this happened through the passage, from one author to another, of a single obstinate research on the nature of things.