Pride in Parsimony | The Plan
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Pride in Parsimony


In the 1930s, art historian and critic Lionello Venturi coined the pithy phrase “pride in modesty”, a wonderfully succinct epithet taken up by Michelangelo Sabatino as the basis for one of the best architecture essays in recent years. Venturi was expressing the hope that “disdain for all useless ostentation of abundance” would trigger a renewed pride in Italian artistic production. The year was 1933, at the dawn of the pompous imperial rhetoric - all arches and columns - that hailed what was seen at the time as the progressive thrust of Fascism at the height of its grandiloquence, before its inevitable fate. Venturi’s call for “pride in modesty”, or more exactly “parsimony”, was taken up in the 1930s by Pagano, who, together with Daniel, staged an exhibition at the Milan Triennale on rural Italian construction based on photographs he had taken himself. This display of “pride in modesty” exceptionally placed architecture a step ahead of the other arts. Later, it would be Neorealism in postwar Italian cinema to take up Pagano’s proposal of forging a new nation modeled on a return to the values of hardworking parsimonious rural Italy in acknowledgement of the heroism of everyday life. It was this “pride in modesty” of postwar Italian neorealist cinema that captured the world’s imagination, successfully presenting our country as a victim rather than an instigator of war. Later, however, the prosperity brought by Italy’s economic boom disclaimed any pride in modesty. The parsimony with which we had seduced the world was swept aside, now considered part of a former clannish indigence we needed to leave behind. These were the 1960s and ’70s, years of tumultuous yet contradictory growth whose central theme was how to manage the run-away development along industrial lines. It was only in the 1980s with Post-Modernism and its disorderly, frenetic drive for rediscovery...

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