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NEXT, 8 Mostra Internazionale di Architettura
La Biennale di Venezia

STEFANO BOERI
Milan, 10th July 2002


To the kindly attention of

Deyan Sudijc

Sebastiano Brandolini, Giovanni Leoni

Editorial office of AIDA, Studio Terpolilli

Studio ARCHEA, C+S Associati, Alberto Cecchetto, 5+1 Architetti Associati, Studio Davide Cristofani e Gabriele Lelli &Mac246; Architetti Associati, Nicola Di Battista, Elio Di Franco, Netti Architetti, Pietro Carlo Pellegrini, Renato Rizzi, Beniamino Servino , Cino Zucchi, Werner Tscholl, SESTE Studio Associato, Italo Rota, Alfonso Cendron, Studio Bruno Fioretti Marquez, Mauro Galantino, Vincenzo Melluso, Frati Graniti Fiandre

Dear friends,
as you already know, I and my colleagues Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra have decided to decline the invitation of the AIDA together with Sebastiano Brandolini and Giovanni Leone to produce an installation for the gardens of the up and coming Architecture Biennial of Venice.

I would like to say a few words by way of explanation of this choice, which, given the unquestionable merits of the members of the group of Italian architects invited and the high regard in which we hold the curators of this initiative, required lengthy consideration.

1.
In the invitation received from the AIDA to participate in the installation sponsored by the Frati Group, there is talk of a collective set-up dedicated to the topic of the “social aspect of construction” and temporary housing structures in modern cities. This is a key theme, but one which I can’t see being dealt with given the installation parameters required (module base 5x5m2, maximum height 4m, grid of 20 modules; only material available, panels of wooden chip-board).

The temporary spaces and objects in the modern city are in fact such because, on the whole, they are mobile; they get moved around; they work their way into the nooks and crannies of urban space, or they light up like “flames” to create “hot” talking points.

They are temporary because they are made and run by a host of different subjects who are, in a certain sense, completely uninterested in sharing anything with one another, a particular type of building material being no exception. If anything, it’s the flinging together of basic materials to satisfy the rootless sense of nomadic individualism on which the sales kiosks, the makeshift production spaces, the fold-away bedrooms, the anytime, anywhere offices which businessmen make appear or disappear from inside their black leather briefcases thrive. I find it very difficult to meditate seriously on the theme of temporariness and come up with ideas and projects when the starting point is a series of limitations diametrically opposed to those of the phenomenon in question.

2.
The variation suggested by Cino Zucchi, that of a collective installation on the theme of metropolitan loneliness, is perhaps more in line with the characteristics of the installation proposed by the AIDA. In the 1996 Biennial, I, together with Gabriele Basilico, suggested a reflection on the condition of the “mass loneliness” which typifies a huge number of buildings which have swamped the suburban Italian landscape. Areas in which it is no longer possible to identify any notion of contiguity or succession between one building and the next: detached house, shopping centre, little block of flats, car-wash, warehouse, another detached house, and so on.

But I would be careful not to confuse social loneliness and the loneliness of urban spaces. Nowadays, as we all well know, we are often “alone in the crowd and united in our isolation”. In other words, a domestic unit, however introvert it may be, might set the scene for a flood of warm, ongoing relationships. Another way to consider loneliness might be to look at it as the outcome of the most desperate face of poverty, or of the marginalisation which ever greater proportions of the population seem doomed to (the elderly – ever more alone and unassisted).

But this is a million miles from an installation in which 20 architects, taking inspiration from 20 different and heterogeneous sources (and I quote from the letter of invitation send by the AIDA, “an immigrant, an elderly or disabled person, a child, a swimmer, a mountaineer”, etc.) show off their stuff in a five metre cube.

Let’s thnk about this properly. Reconstucting a portion of space in vitro in which to cram together the spaces of imposed loneliness, even if sweetened by a number of stylistic variations and the trappings of interior design, runs the risk of turning into a caricature of the horrors hiding behind the gates and CCTV cameras of the “residential villages” or the “hospitality centres” for immigrants.

3.
I imagine that some of you may find these observations excessively picky or critical in the light of a straightforward opportunity to make an appearance at the next Biennial. But this is just the point – if we’re lacking a clear, high-profile cultural project, if we’re lacking an overt common approach towards architecture, and if, more than anything else, we’re lacking the time to come up with a convincing proposal, why should we present anything together at the coming Biennial?

In all sincerity, I believe that being architects/Italian/middle-aged is not enough to constitute a meaningful coalition in the international community. And trying to feel “young” when the calendar begs to differ risks turning into a rather sad admission of weakness.

With unaltered regard and thanks to Deyan Sudijc, Sebastiano Brandolini, Giovanni Leone and AIDA for the invitation.

BIOGRAPHY

Stefano Boeri, born in Milan 1956, architect, teaches town planning in Venice and Mendrisio as well as at the Berlage Institute of Rotterdam. He writes frequently for the culture pages of the Sole 24 Ore newspaper. He has a professional studio in Milan called “Boeri Studio” together with Gianandrea Barreca and Giovanni La Varra . he is the founder of “Multiplicity”, a research agency concerned with the state of urban living through which he has promoted a series of research projects and installations, most recently at Documenta11, Kassel. He is also the co-author of: AA.VV. Mutations,Actar-Barcelona, 2000, Multiplicity .USE-Uncertain States of Europe, Skira-Milano (currently being published), G.Basilico,S.Boeri, Italy:Cross Sections of a Country, Scalo-Zurich 1998.