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The Need for Awe

Nemesi Architects

The Need for Awe
By Valerio Paolo Mosco -

There was a time when Rome seemed to be stirring to life. It was at the end of the 1990s, the millennium Jubilee was just round the corner. Our capital city had received funds, projects had been approved, and worksites were underway. Without daring to admit it, people had begun to think that maybe the city was shaking off the indolence it had been shrouded in for centuries. Movies, art and architecture no longer looked to the historic city but turned to the peripheral areas where a patchwork of juxtaposed fragments and leftovers was held together in a landscape that had magically kept its fascination, even at time its tender beauty.

The periphery no longer looked longingly back to its magnificent center but rather to international modernity, even in its most extreme, expressive forms. Home from France after many years, Massimiliano Fuksas became the catalyst for strident, hyper-modern buildings. Muscular creations sprung up, almost as if in defiance of their context, their designers seeming to rage at the preaching of a lumbering, exhausted academic world. Nothing happens by chance. This aggressive defiant modern take had in fact been foreseen by Bruno Zevi when he talked, well before the term was coined, of “ground zero”, in other words, the sweeping away of semantic codes in open revolt against academe, even against modern schools that continued to uphold an inward-looking Post-modernism. Written in 1997, Zevi’s “Manifesto of Modena” had openly taken sides with deconstructivism, convinced that there was a need to start from scratch with open, experimental, disconcerting forms that deliberately overturned the pre-established order. Young architects at the time, many of whom were being trained at the Fuksas practice, not in designed architecture but in executive drawings of increasingly ample scale, chose to look outside Italy in their search for a more radical “modern” than they had learned in school. They...

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