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Listening: the horizon and geography

Massimiliano & Doriana Fuksas

Listening: the horizon and geography

We live in a society in which masses of information transmitted at frenetic speed is the norm. The daily activity of listening is “impaired” by our multi-tasking lifestyle. Listening is more than just hearing or perceiving sounds. Listening means taking in and assimilating from outside, processing meaning and passing it on enhanced by our own personal contribution.

Italo Calvino illustrated hearing, i.e. listening - with a significant allegory. A powerful man seized power and became king. From then on he decided to sit on his throne, never moving from it, fearful he would be overthrown. Power became an inability to listen, to go out on to the street and hear what people were saying.

This little story shows that power makes people lose the ability to listen. We both believe that power suppresses the capacity to listen, which is why we have always tried as much as possible to avoid “exercising power”. We are terrified at the thought of no longer being able to hear and listen to what is going on around us. We are filled with anguish at no longer being able to hear the moods, desires, pleasures, sorrows and disasters that history has always carried with it.

Yet our ability to listen must not be confused with participation. 

We must live among people. Our steadfast goal must be an awareness that we are working for others to improve their lives; but not for any narcissistic, self-centred aim. The danger though is that one’s creations get turned into a fashion, at which point they become detached from society and its real needs.

We do not believe in participation - a demagogic idea of the 1970s. We do believe that it is essential to live with others if we are to understand the substantive essence of what we are doing. Thoughts, words, noises and music all contribute to allow that voice from within to emerge, which is the starting point for the thought process.

 

The horizon is an important word in our work.
What word can replace that overly ideological term “morphology”?

“Horizon” could be an alternative, in the sense of a dynamic system, the contrary of static modern architecture. This can perhaps be explained by a comparison with the extraordinary editing techniques used by filmmakers. In a movie, time is contracted and narrowed down, becoming a completely indifferent entity. A movie is an acceleration of your vision, unfolding with a musical cadence. In a famous interview that became a book, Alfred Hitchcock explained to François Truffaut how cinema is made. Hitchcock preferred shooting everything in the film studio in order to achieve the same absurd, metaphysical, yet hyper-realistic light. Only Hitchcock was able to make things appear eerie in such perfect colours. He admits that his work in the editing room is really thumbing the nose at the proponents of long uninterrupted shot. By the same token the boring, irritating, heavy architecture of the Realist variety could imagine different horizons for itself.

One way to do this would be to try and imagine what it would be like to make architecture with a dolly, that crane-like machine on rails used by filmmakers. We would start from ground level, then change horizon, or better still have not just one but two, maybe three horizons… that would all relate dynamically, measuring out time in a way that overturns classical logic. This could especially be true for architecture. We take fragments, put them together, and build a vision by joining or superimposing parts of discourse to produce a completely different whole. Similarly, the image is part of a sequence. Several sequences make up the pieces that will then be spliced together. The aim is to have the pieces contain the emotions we want to transmit to people. It follows that a photograph is no longer sufficient; a video is better. But the best representation is to experience spaces directly.

You, in space. You, who live in space. You will once again become the centre of the universe.

Wim Wenders admits that after completing a film he feels completely drained, needing to recharge his batteries. So he goes to the movies and watches film after film. But he realizes that cinema is not born of cinema. We too, could say that architecture is not born of architecture. Of course our architecture cannot be born of architecture since it is a physical object. Yet the real, the virtual and creation are an integral part of the same process. The virtual aspect is there to assess the interior of a project before it takes physical form. Not only does it accelerate the construction process, it also improves overall control of the operation, giving you more time to reflect. 

Inspiration is born of our obsession with the interstices - the non-geometries of a place. No object wants to resemble anything that already exists. We have never been attracted by objects of formal appearance.

 

The problem is always to find the heart of the matter.

Observing, looking, and assimilating what surrounds us. Hence the importance of landscape and geography. They are the props of our existence, be it desert, ocean or forest. When we say we want to be like the wind and caress the leaves of trees, it’s a way of expressing a desire to imbue our work with the tension held in the wind, completely devoid of rhetoric. Considering the unpredictability of nature is one of the best ways of listening to what is happening around us.

The landscape and its geography are neither idyllic scenery nor dramatic scenes laid waste by cyclones or earthquakes. They are the manifestation of the incessant flow of people and events. This is the opposite of static, the contrary of immobility that, for many, is architecture. Think of the complexity of the clouds, tornadoes or hurricanes - or any other extreme natural phenomenon. Architecture disappears before the incredible power of the energy that springs from light.

Geography must once again be the means of binding man, nature and the economy together.

Architecture can create emotions. Architecture must embrace all the elements; it must transform the place. For this is the idea underpinning any architectural project. What has always fascinated us is the beauty of the absence of form, the imperfection of beauty. We have always asked ourselves how to achieve complex yet formless architecture.

Our dream is that everyone can have ideas, passions and sentiments. Today we must set our minds to inventing new things; certainties no longer exist. It is not a question of finding a style, rather of putting man and his requirements and passions at the centre of our interest.

Our country’s failure to take on board the phenomenon of globalisation has impacted not only its economy but also its creativity. The world has changed and demands new forms of reasoning, also in terms of urbanisation. 4 billion people are entering the consumer society and at least 60% of the population live in urban areas. This is a new reality we have to face. It is only by analysing complexity that the appropriate choices will be made.

But what future for architecture? We honestly don’t know, nor do we believe there is a convincing answer. 

But we do believe that we have to accept that the city and architecture will develop or die together.

And then, if necessary, rise again.

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© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054