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Alleggerimento: An aesthetics of neglection_ di Jacopo Anthony Colarossi

Alleggerimento: An aesthetics of neglection_ di Jacopo Anthony Colarossi

Testo inedito

The past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed to the past”[1]-T. S. Eliot

The temporal stratification and the intricate network of effects may result in the fact that seemingly distant events may have resulted simultaneously in time.Where these illusory attempts to arrest the depredations of time require vigilance,«environmental vicissitudes in ruins are accelerated by neglect so that processes of decomposition prematurely age the fabric.[2]»Edensor’s point is clear,but here these«processes of decomposition»not being only environmental,but on the contrary can be understood as a clear consequence of the varied measures taken by human interventions.
The almost one hundred year oldNeues Museum in east Berlin, remained as an abandoned bomb site for over four decades and emergency measures were only taken in the 1980s. In the recent restoration from 1998-2000,one notices the deliberate attempt to make visible the violence embedded within the aesthetic appreciation of the building,as a way to commemorate the bullet perforated structure as a physical trace of the gun shootings which have taken place within this space.TheNeues Museum can be read as a conservation of violence in the historical fabric the structure underwent,rendering a timeless(to steal Baudelaire’s term)aura to the violence and also to the structure,having been finished but not completed.As a contrast to this framework,a conservation through deliberate architecturalviolence,as a measure to consolidate the fabric,can be read through the analogous meanings of the word alleggerimento in the Abbazia di S. Spirito al Morrone.
Untilmid 19th century in Italy’s region of Abruzzo,the rules the architects adopted to calculate stability of the buildings were based on static equilibrium and on proportionality[3].Although not being a scientifically rigorous approach,recognizingex novo artistic and aesthetic conformities in a building should have been the first element to take into consideration-clearly, this has not been the solution.Twenty-three years ago was the last time the Cortile dei Nobili was experienced as the prison’s recreational area;the scratches and drawings on the blunt,moist pinkish wall still have a strong presence underneath the patina of thin grey dust. The courtyard was the premises of an‹active›life,a life which had a purpose to rehabilitate the secluded.What needs rehabilitation is the architecture itself,its aesthetic sensitivity,a consequence of the choice of conservation strategies. In 2001,the Sovrintendenza [4] initiated preliminary studies to understand the state of the complex(curiously in the same decade in which the Neues Museum was under restoration). As a result of the cortile’s aesthetic insalubrity,the word alleggerimento comes to mind,as in fact,the architectureis relieved from its fullness in functional and aesthetic tone,especially in terms of artistic preservation in the last 125 years. Alleggerimento can be intended both literally and figuratively.
Relieve-as the dictionary reveals-of a moral responsibility or duty. Literally,it means to lighten,to reduce in mass.What can be noticed in the fabric of the cortile is the intrinsic and implicit relationship between the literal and figurative meaning,creating a much more interrelated architectural awareness.In order for this to occur,one should need to briefly delve in the historical vicissitudes it underwent.
In 1706 a seismic wave seriously damaged theabbey and as a consequence the internal and exterior structures of the Cortile were radically transformed. It assumed in 1720 the style of what now can be experienced as the remnant stucchi of the late baroqueperiod,this ex-monastic vast complex still is articulated around several large courtyards and watchtowers.The first legislative measure by Joseph Bonaparte in 1807,aimed to abolish monastic orders[5],targeting wealthy convents such as this abbey.The closure of these rich and powerful institutions provided the Neapolitangovernment with the possibility of changing the spiritual function of the monasteries into military and civic spaces[6].«The abodes of peaceful retreat have,in the past,been turned into the habitat of the outcast and reprehensible,incomprehensible, or vile[7].»Robin Evans clearly outlines the premises into which,in 1843,the Depositi di Mendicitàof southern Italy were established,for the increasing growth of poverty and brigandage[8]. Evans directly hints to the stratification of temporality through the building’s structure.In 1868,the Deposits of Mendicity were dismissed to create a Penitentiary which operated until 1993,within the Abbey walls.
A first literal alleggerimento,since the consolidation of the Cortile’s internal facadeunderwentoperations of anti-seismic preservation. Hence that historical buildings out of bricks and stone are extremely varied and complex organisms,thus their structural and seismic analysis are influenced by many variables in the materials and their condition of interaction with other components. Here we go back to the concept of a conservation through adeliberate act of violence.The first structural «relieving» operation method of perforazioniarmatepoignantly unfold along the cortile’s wall[9]. It partially relieves the structure of its original mass,lightening and consolidating the bricks by injecting a special chemical and mortar,up to one meter in depth,to create a more ductile hold between the air cavities and bricks[10].This structural operation for seismic relief is very evident in the photograph on page five. It surgically treats the wall every 30-50 cm.
The second relieving operation named ammorsamenti(clamping)between adjacent parts of walls which intersect each other,should the bricks or mortar be deteriorated. This destructive intervention is even much more evident since part of the entrance to the courtyard has been bricked off.
Secondly,the word alleggerimento can also be intended as a figurative materialization of neglection as it can be read as a literal materialization of an attitude to sensual perceptions and experiences.Thus once materialized,what remains of the architectural construct of the Cortile is the significant outburst decaying evidence of the nature of its past use.It is critical to mention that at the turn of the 19th century,describing the porous architectural encounters through the Neapolitan edifices and passageways, in Reflections,Walter Benjamin lucidly describes that the experience of entering is as a«garden of agony»delimitated by the construction of a courtyard,where the«doorways of the chambers have gratings and behind them cripples put their deformities on show[11].» The entrance to St. Gennaro’s«garden of agony»as it was also for the Cortile,hence was the center and fulcrum to the daily recreational activity,a daily moral,psychological and physical stage onto which put«deformities on show[12].»His description was not of an actual place,but of a latent condition within a specific space of the Penitentiary’s wall,a «presentiment revealing the intimate bond between the physical and moral degradation[13],»clearly demarcated in the layers of narrative patina playing their role in the Cortile’s architectural confinement.This patina transcends time, and paradoxically, transcends the historical functions of the place,because of this clear overlaying. As a consequence of the chosen relieving methods,little has been taken in consideration,then and now,of the«harmonious impression and stylistic uniformity[14]»masked behind this pink patina of moral nonchalance,and the damaging violence those conservation methods would have complied.To relate once more to the NeuesMuseum,it is exactly this ambiguity between the completed and the finished surfaces within these spaces which define their character.TheNeues Museum’s surface being deliberately finished as a wounded visual proof,and the Cortile’s consolidation deliberately completed in such violent measures. They both fluctuate in a‹timeless›classification.But the interesting point here not being restoration but our awareness and consideration of heritage through its architecture,being social or cultural,and the architectural measures necessary to make our monuments timeless,whetherthrough or withviolence,by means of these alleggerimenti.
It is also precisely through these means that one can understand the idea of trace. In the book Civilizations and its Discontents,Freud describes how Rome sedimented on a series of traces of levels.After attending psychoanalytical sessions in 1978,Peter Eisenman realized that he was missing something in his architecture,«it was not from the ground,beneath the surface[15].»The interesting point here being this idea of a maintenance of cultural history,as Eisenman did for his project in Cannaregio,Venice(by utilizing Le Corbusier’s unbuilt hospital project grid as original context).What needs to be mentioned in the Cannaregio Project is that it also«perforates»a fabric,(an urban tissue in its case) through an arguable degree of violence. Thus the traces used onto which propose this project acted as a catalyst,as a conceptual spark for the project to develop.
Unquestionably,the traces of alleggerimento so present in the Cortile are an architectural experience which convey-beyond the laissez faire policy they are left to-concrete remnants and memories of an uncanny and insalubrious period they subdued.It would be better to think and question the choice of preservation strategies which have been analleggerimento,anaestheticmaterialization of neglection,which relieves the structure of the Cortile and the BeniCulturali of a moral responsibility with such visual aesthetic violence. Alleggerimento should in future be considered as an analytical approach in order to identify the characteristics of a building and urban type.Infact,type can be simultaneously meaning,form,event and place[16].The objective of such approach,is to understand the architectural type,in regard to their specific heritage prior to an architectural intervention[17]. Thus it is exactly this tension between the architectural intervention and the measures which were chosen,and moreover, between the conflict of heritage and the tendency to regard the structure,as we have seen for the Neues Museum and the Cortile deiNobili,through two very different,but visually similar preservative acts of violence,creating a tension between the historical memory and structural fabric.A challenging tension which today seems to be very difficult to surpass in the Cortile,both for a lack of interest and scarcity in funds,butnonetheless,still attracting visitors and attention to its intricate architectural perforated fabric.

NOTE:

[1] T.S. Eliot, Tradition and the Individual Talent (1920)
[2] Tim Edensor, Industrial Ruins: Space, Aesthetics and Materiality, London: Berg Publishers (2005) p. 72
[3] author unknown, Interventi di Cantiere: Badia di S. Spirito al Morrone, 2008
[4] SovrintendenzaaiBeniStorici, ArtisticiedArchitettonicidell’Abruzzo
[5] Orders specifically of the rule of St. Bernard and St. Benedict.
[6] In order to create premises for military,localeconomic, and social control of the territory and population on behalf of the militia.
[7] Robin Evans, Translation from Drawing to Building and other Essays, «The Rites of Retreat and the Rites of Exclusion: notes towards the definition of a wall» (London: Architectural Association), 1997. p. 42
[8] AnnamariaGaetana de Pinto, Il Real AlbergodeiPoveri di Napoli: dall’emarginazioneall’assistenza XVIII-XIX (2013).
[9] author unknown, Interventi di Cantiere: Badia di S. Spirito al Morrone (2008)
[10] interview with the supervisor of the works
[11] Walter Benjamin, Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographical writings. (1955)p.164
[12] Ibid. p.165
[13] Robin Evans, «Rookeries and Model Dwellings: English housing reforms and the Morality of Private Space» p.94
[14] Rudolf Wittkower, Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750 p. 342
[15] Iman Ansari, Interview with Peter Eisenman, «The Architectural Review» April 26, 2013
[16] Aldo Rossi, ArchitetturadellaCittà (ed.1995).
[17] Diane Ghirardo, «The Blue of Aldo Rossi’s Sky» in AA Files n. 70, p. 159-172

DATI PERSONALI:
Nome: Jacopo Anthony
Cognome: Colarossi
Data e luogo di nascita: 09/03/1996, Roma
Professione: Studente

Principal entrance to the Cortile dei Nobili(NobleCloister) Abbazia di S. Spirito al Morrone, Badia Sulmonese (AQ) Italy. All non cited photographs by: Jacopo A. Colarossi

Principal entrance to the Cortile dei Nobili(NobleCloister) Abbazia di S. Spirito al Morrone, Badia Sulmonese (AQ) Italy.Credits: Jacopo A. Colarossi

 

Neues Museum Berlin, Germany, 2015 credits:http://www.neues-museum.de

Neues Museum Berlin, Germany, 2015
credits:http://www.neues-museum.de

 

This former fourth entrance to the courtyard corresponds with the wood workshop spaces previously mentioned in the first entrance. The penitentiary institution consequently walled the entrance to gain more space for the workshops. The date of its closure is unknown. What can be noticed here are the consolidating «cement injections» undertaken in 2006 as a part of the strategy for the structure’s conservation.© Jacopo A. Colarossi

This former fourth entrance to the courtyard corresponds with the wood workshop spaces previously mentioned in the first entrance. The penitentiary institution consequently walled the entrance to gain more space for the workshops. The date of its closure is unknown.
What can be noticed here are the consolidating «cement injections» undertaken in 2006 as a part of the strategy for the structure’s conservation.© Jacopo A. Colarossi

 

Photo: 1850 ca. Main entrance to the Abbey. Post-Napoleonic Militia settlement to becoming a Deposit of Mendicity. A soldier booth on the bottom left can still be noticed. credits: ArchiviodellaSovrintendenzaaiBeniCulturali, Storici e Artisticidell’Abruzzo

Photo: 1850 ca. Main entrance to the Abbey. Post-Napoleonic Militia settlement to becoming a Deposit of Mendicity. A soldier booth on the bottom left can still be noticed.
Credits: Archivio della Sovrintendenza ai Beni Culturali, Storici e Artistici dell’Abruzzo

 

Peter Eisenman Project Cannaregio, Venice, 1978. url: http://www.archdaily.com/429925/eisenman-s-evolution-architecture-syntax-and-new-subjectivity

Peter Eisenman Project Cannaregio, Venice, 1978.
http://www.archdaily.com/429925/eisenman-s-evolution-architecture-syntax-and-new-subjectivity

 

Detail of the traces of consolidating injection perforations. To notice the quite ironical anarchical way in which these perforations were performed. © Jacopo A. Colarossi

Detail of the traces of consolidating injection perforations. To notice the quite ironical anarchical way in which these perforations were performed. © Jacopo A. Colarossi

 

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