Architecture of the month
Olbia || Italy
There comes a time in the life, professional or otherwise, of a designer when he finds himself in front a place and his first reaction, confirmed by a deeper meditation, is recognizing that no architect could ever make that place more beautiful, moving or amazing that it already is.
When one travels across Italy, it is quite easy to have such a reaction. If that moment never comes, a designer should seriously wonder why.
One night, Rudy Ricciotti was the guest of Pietro Carlo Pellegrini and his family and had a chance to study carefully and admire some images of his work. Later he told me that, besides admiring the quality of his architecture, he also respected and shared •. .. his heroic faith in Rationalism and in the potential of Architecture".
Pellegrini's buildings, and most clearly his Garibaldi Memorial in Caprera, make us wonder whether it really is impossible for an architect and for architecture in general to improve, to contribute to reinforce the wonder of a place that is already wonderful, kissed by the wind of a beauty that takes your words and breath away.
The design for the Memorial is a dialogue.
It has nothing to do with mimicry or the shy respect of someone who feels below his task.
You can see it clearly when, quite overcome by having boarded on and off various boats, uncertain between seasickness and earthsickness, you cross the bridge connecting Maddalena to the island of the Hero of Two Worlds, and, having scrambled among myrtles and surprising pine trees, you finally catch a glimpse of the whiteness of the restored buildings.
That whiteness is the first design act - replacing the old, timid "official" sandy color (similar to the one used for military buildings but devoid of their heroism).
When you visit the Garibaldi House, close by, you cannot fail to notice the power of the almost South-American (actually mythic and ancestral) white of Garibaldi 's very first and later houses.
On this island in the island you discover an architecture that is so civil, contemporary, and respectful of its site that it transforms, a truly ' Public Architecture" capable of expressing and representing - that is an experience I would recommend to the many disoriented students of our Faculties or Schools of Architecture.
The restoration of the old Arbuticci Fort, built during the Savoy age in the nineteenth century, is about the narration of a heroic, extraordinary and generous life - Garibaldi's life - and the dialogue between contemporary architectural language and a sobriety of expression (and of means), between the heroism of military feats and the frugality and quiet acceptance of the rules of agriculture and life, between the lack of grandness in the fort and the exceptionality of the Hero's life in the colors, battles, thoughts and the people who were part of it.
The choice made by Architecture is in this host of dialogues, in this challenge: expressing and representing the possibility, by the Public, the State, to convey its will, tell its History, through contemporary architecture, within a work of restoration, interpretive rehabilitation, in a place of absolute natural beauty.
Walking across the four buildings, you feel the fluidity of both architectural and exhibition space, surprised at how interested and emotionally attracted you are, even as improvised and never bored students, by the contents of the museum path, with its precise light and apparent lack of expressivity (the result of a selection of essential colors and materials), that makes you feel light on your feet, and capable of sudden surprise at the light outside, the wind on your face, the imperious nature, walking from one building to the next.
Then, moving around the main buildings, the rehabilitation of the outer spaces is so precise and well-done that it feels like this place has always been like this, those stones have always been there, those metal railings, strangely almost untouched, were designed and installed by an obscure and serious officer of the Savoy Royal Engineers. And then you understand that the designer has chosen another, terribly difficult dialogue that has always been part of his work - the dialogue with Time. This dialogue is like looking for an element that belongs to the past and to the future, and as such should be located, created, introduced in a building. One such element is for example the building missing from Alvaro Siza's School in Porto, or the colored ceramics of the Pavilion of Portugal in Lisbon, another of the Portuguese master's works; that is the work on 'the wind of Time that caresses the building", that makes architecture heroic because it is neither obtusely tied to daily life nor the expression of teen-age egocentrism like so many architectural works of our time (and unfortunately of our country). In this Memorial, the wind of time meets the wind of nature, in the bold choice of total white, in the skilful and painstaking composition of stone, concrete, wonderful terrazzo flooring, the cor-ten steel gate, the unparalleled closeness and interchange with nature.
Nothing to do with mimicry, and everything to do with Mimesis.
This work of ·creative renovation" (as Pietro Carlo Pellegrini defines it) has exactly this double strength: at the territorial scale, with the white image appearing as one approaches the fort, from hundred of meters of away, and therefore as a landscape and almost artistic creative act, and then, suddenly, at the human scale, of the visitor's step, extended arm, hand, resulting from a study of materials, natural and artificial light, the dimensions of space. I would like to add one last thing as a contribution to an idea of Italy, and of a possible future: this public work was completed with no cost or time overruns in spite of a tight deadline and limited budget costs. The work was carried out by specialized artisans of great experience and skill, selected jointly by Mission Structure and Designer, in a dialogue of mutual trust and respect.
Although these conditions are hardly those of daily life, we hope and trust they might evoke the feeling of present time and history.
Location: Caprera, Olbia-Tempio
Client: Presidenza del Consiglio dei Ministri. Unità Tecnica di Missione per il 150° dell'Unità d'Italia
Gross Floor Area: 2.135 m2
Architects: Pietro Carlo Pellegrini
Design Team: Carlo Bertolini, Alessio Fiorini, Sirio Lazzari, Sheila Lazzerini, Margherita Pecori, Dario Arnone, Stefania Iurilli
Mission Unit for the 150th Anniversary of the Unification of Italy Installation Project Manager: Anna Villari
Multimedia Design and Production: N!03 [ennezerotre]
Multimedia Display Concept and Design: Studio Next
Installation Logo and Graphic Design: Klojaf Studio
Structural, Plant: Aice Consulting
Photography: © Mario Ciampi