The esthetics of impersonal In the second postwar period reinforced concrete started getting rid of the limits imposed by a linear geometry, thanks to a revolutionary approach to structural research. Instead of using a simple frame constituted by beams and pillars, shell-shaped and slender, corrugated or bended forms started receiving the main attention. A crucial turning point in the history of construction took place in the 1950s and 1960s, since engineering and architecture finally found a meeting point as Sigfried Giedion speculated in Bauen in Frankreich. The Gyorgy Kepes’s book Structure in Art and in Science (1965) would give voice to this Zeitgeist by collecting contributions by artists, architects, engineers and art historians - including Pier Luigi Nervi that, in two short essays, had wrapped up the sense of his work, very emphatically, by presenting it according to a historical perspective. “I read some time ago that to define more accurately the forms for minimum resistance to movement for automobile bodies, a builder resorted to models of ice placed in a current of air which directly modified and corrected the models, melting the various points according to their greater or lesser resistance to the current, and producing the desired result. Where can one find a more impersonal and unchangeable molding process?”. Nervi took the description of the model as an excuse to state that he was convinced of the existence of physical laws that he defined, without any doubt, everlasting and incontrovertible. The idea of immutable laws ruling the form design may be questionable but, in case impersonality is considered as a quality of modern design practices, it is something that can be found in many pieces of research dating back to that period, in both art and architecture. The study of techniques and other phenomena, such as anonymous or spontaneous architecture, proves this interest in a “collective form”, previous to any individual invention. The study of structures, in the two decades that followed World War II, focused on complex forms such as hyperstatic forms and membranes and also that of prestressed concrete. This kind of research was quite experimental and did not resemble the traditional building science (which had a mathematical approach) and this led to the creation of laboratories where the physical behaviour of structures could be studied, thus creating the right conditions to develop a structural theory that an architect’s experience was likely to access. The photoelastic analysis of the stress states could also make the stresses visible and detect where they were located in the structure. A new literature developed in Europe towards the end of the 1950s - it was meant to teach how to describe the very structure at the base of morphological principles, see for example Fred Angerer’s books on slender vaults or the one by Curt Siegel on the new forms of archi tecture in the postwar period. These books could have never been written without a previous one by Torroja, a kind of literature that received important Italian contributions as well, such as Pizzetti’s and Zorgno’s works. Architecture used these sets of technical patterns differently from the way engineers used to make use of them. In fact, engineers considered the expression of the real structural functioning as a formal binding principle. The Architectural Atlas that IUAV unit drafted up may provide a very differentiated picture of the use of technical patterns in Italian architecture during the Italian economic boom (www.atlante.iuav.it). The bridge on the Strait of Messina represented the highest ambition of Italian engineering and when the call for tender for its construction failed in 1969 - after the epic moment of great infrastructures built in the 1950s- something broke down in the country’s mechanism and this would lead to a stalemate in the following decades. The survey that was published in 1961 by “Casabella” to take stock of the situation on architectural research fifteen years after the end of the war, gives us a framework where the debate on structural research as a bridge between architecture and engineering had already come to an end. The conclusions of what is stated by Carlo Aymonino clearly reflect this new situation: «The possibilities of a radical change in building techniques are directly proportional to the possibilities to plan production. Otherwise, even the most intense experience would be just focused on a single product and the real value of technical and creative efforts may not be guaranteed by repeatability or combinability. In this sense, we do not think that Pirelli skyscraper, made of a homemade curtainwall, is very different from a rural house in the South of Italy built in tuff»

L’estetica dell’impersonale

POGACNIK, MARKO
2013

Abstract

The esthetics of impersonal In the second postwar period reinforced concrete started getting rid of the limits imposed by a linear geometry, thanks to a revolutionary approach to structural research. Instead of using a simple frame constituted by beams and pillars, shell-shaped and slender, corrugated or bended forms started receiving the main attention. A crucial turning point in the history of construction took place in the 1950s and 1960s, since engineering and architecture finally found a meeting point as Sigfried Giedion speculated in Bauen in Frankreich. The Gyorgy Kepes’s book Structure in Art and in Science (1965) would give voice to this Zeitgeist by collecting contributions by artists, architects, engineers and art historians - including Pier Luigi Nervi that, in two short essays, had wrapped up the sense of his work, very emphatically, by presenting it according to a historical perspective. “I read some time ago that to define more accurately the forms for minimum resistance to movement for automobile bodies, a builder resorted to models of ice placed in a current of air which directly modified and corrected the models, melting the various points according to their greater or lesser resistance to the current, and producing the desired result. Where can one find a more impersonal and unchangeable molding process?”. Nervi took the description of the model as an excuse to state that he was convinced of the existence of physical laws that he defined, without any doubt, everlasting and incontrovertible. The idea of immutable laws ruling the form design may be questionable but, in case impersonality is considered as a quality of modern design practices, it is something that can be found in many pieces of research dating back to that period, in both art and architecture. The study of techniques and other phenomena, such as anonymous or spontaneous architecture, proves this interest in a “collective form”, previous to any individual invention. The study of structures, in the two decades that followed World War II, focused on complex forms such as hyperstatic forms and membranes and also that of prestressed concrete. This kind of research was quite experimental and did not resemble the traditional building science (which had a mathematical approach) and this led to the creation of laboratories where the physical behaviour of structures could be studied, thus creating the right conditions to develop a structural theory that an architect’s experience was likely to access. The photoelastic analysis of the stress states could also make the stresses visible and detect where they were located in the structure. A new literature developed in Europe towards the end of the 1950s - it was meant to teach how to describe the very structure at the base of morphological principles, see for example Fred Angerer’s books on slender vaults or the one by Curt Siegel on the new forms of archi tecture in the postwar period. These books could have never been written without a previous one by Torroja, a kind of literature that received important Italian contributions as well, such as Pizzetti’s and Zorgno’s works. Architecture used these sets of technical patterns differently from the way engineers used to make use of them. In fact, engineers considered the expression of the real structural functioning as a formal binding principle. The Architectural Atlas that IUAV unit drafted up may provide a very differentiated picture of the use of technical patterns in Italian architecture during the Italian economic boom (www.atlante.iuav.it). The bridge on the Strait of Messina represented the highest ambition of Italian engineering and when the call for tender for its construction failed in 1969 - after the epic moment of great infrastructures built in the 1950s- something broke down in the country’s mechanism and this would lead to a stalemate in the following decades. The survey that was published in 1961 by “Casabella” to take stock of the situation on architectural research fifteen years after the end of the war, gives us a framework where the debate on structural research as a bridge between architecture and engineering had already come to an end. The conclusions of what is stated by Carlo Aymonino clearly reflect this new situation: «The possibilities of a radical change in building techniques are directly proportional to the possibilities to plan production. Otherwise, even the most intense experience would be just focused on a single product and the real value of technical and creative efforts may not be guaranteed by repeatability or combinability. In this sense, we do not think that Pirelli skyscraper, made of a homemade curtainwall, is very different from a rural house in the South of Italy built in tuff»
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11578/221701
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