Architecture, polemics and politics

At the Centre Pompidou, the exhibition La Tendenza: Italian Architecture 1965-1985 seeks to shed light on on a popular, yet still under-explored period of Italian architecture.

Exhibitions are changing: and so is the way we talk about them, the way we remember them and, moreover, the way we make them. In 2012, the Centre Pompidou has taken the challenge of putting together a 650 square metre retrospective on Italian architecture composed solely of works and objects from its collection. Curated by Frédéric Migayrou, La Tendenza: Italian Architecture 1965-1985 brings together a selection of major works from the museum's architecture collection — 250 drawings and a few historical models —, but also books and magazines, photographs, paintings, films, and a wide variety of documentary material. Despite the constraints determined by the collection, a vast work of research and inquiry has been undertaken by the Centre Pompidou, in an attempt to add, in occasion of the show, new works to the collection. Witness and testimony of this era of economical crisis, the show heralds a new relationship between exhibition and collection.

The exhibit aims to question the sources of the Tendenza, an architectural movement that "rejected utopia in favour of a political and critical architecture with a firm grip on reality." Including works by Mario Ridolfi, Alessandro Anselmi, Carlo Aymonino, Paolo Portoghesi, Ernesto N. Rogers, Aldo Rossi, Massimo Scolari, Salvatore Bisogni, Gianni Braghieri, Arduino Cantàfora, the G.R.A.U., Edoardo Guazzoni, Antonio Monestiroli, Dario Passi, Franz Prati, Franco Purini, Uberto Siola, Franco Stella, Daniele Vitale, Giangiacomo D'Ardia and others, the show is dominated by two-dimensional representation and insists on the perception of architecture as a form of cultural representation.
Top and above: <em>La Tendenza: Italian Architecture 1965-1985</em>, installation view at the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Philippe Migeat / Centre Pompidou
Top and above: La Tendenza: Italian Architecture 1965-1985, installation view at the Centre Pompidou. Photo by Philippe Migeat / Centre Pompidou
La Tendenza encompasses seven rooms, vaguely chronological and thematic in scope. The introductory room opens with the 15th Triennale di Milano in 1973, the foundation event of the Tendenza. The visitor's attention is immediately caught by two 7 x 2 metre reproductions: on the left hand side, a copy of the Città Analoga (the original being kept by the city of Milan), a large canvas painted by Arduino Cantàfora and placed at the entrance of Architettura razionale (the architecture section of the famous historical exhibition) and, on the right hand side, a black and white group photo of the exhibition's team in front of the same Città Analoga.

The second room, "Forms from history", pays homage to the work of Mario Ridolfi and other so-called neo-realist architects who ushered a return to historical form and a rich geometric vocabulary. Also in this room is a model of the Torre Velasca by the BBPR group, one of the first examples of dialectical synthesis between tradition and modernity.
© Eredi Aldo Rossi. Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi, 2012
© Eredi Aldo Rossi. Courtesy Fondazione Aldo Rossi, 2012
"Architecture in debate" is more of an anti-chamber meant to shed light on the intellectual sources of the Tendenza. Here, the curator of the show displays a plethora of books (from historical exhibition catalogues, to seminal books such as Vittorio Gregotti's Il Territorio del Architettura, and didactic publications by Aldo Rossi and other members of the Tendenza) and magazines (either purely architectural such as Metron, Edilizia Moderna, Controspazio, etc. or Marxist-influenced philosophico-political ones such as Quaderni Rossi, Contropiano, Angelus Novus, Aut Aut, etc.), in order to show the unprecedented intensity of the editorial activity of the period and its contribution to reactivating the intellectual dimension of architecture.

The exhibition continues into a room more specifically dedicated to Typomorphology: "A logical approach to the project: typology – morphology". Testifying for a new architectural logic applied to the project, this room displays diploma projects by Rossi's pupils (such as Edoardo Guazzoni and Daniele Vitale). Also in this room is a gigantic axonometric projection of Carlo Aymonino's Monte Amiata Housing in the Gallaratese district, a symbol of these new morphological constants with regards to a city or region.
Indeed, the Centre Pompidou holds the vastest and richest collection of Italian architecture in the world and has had only very few occasions to put it on display
Paola Chiatante, Aldo Coacci, Gabriella Colucci, Roberto Mariotti et Franco Pierluisi,
<em>Nice Cemetery</Em> (version 2), Alpes-Maritimes, 1983
GRAU: Paola Chiatante, Aldo Coacci, Gabriella Colucci, Roberto Mariotti et Franco Pierluisi, Nice Cemetery (version 2), Alpes-Maritimes, 1983
The penultimate section, "Effective architecture," zooms in on the late materialization of the work of the Tendenza. The Guglielmo Marconi scientific secondary school in Pesaro (1970-1973) by Carlo Aymonino; the school in Traiano by Salvatore Bisogni (1978); the Cinque Piazze in Gibellina (1982) by Franco Purini and Laura Thermes or the Nice Cemetery (1983) by GRAU are represented by means of a slide show, stressing even more the contrast between paper architecture and built constructions.

Finally, "An international dimension: architecture on stage" focuses on the Teatro del Mondo and the 1980 Biennale's Strada Novissima, emphasising the change of scale — from the drawing to life size urban signs. Here, the exhibition shows a new phase in architectural history: the moment in which the Tendenza encountered American postmodernism.
Arduino Cantafora, <em>La Città Analoga</em>, 1973. Study III
Arduino Cantafora, La Città Analoga, 1973. Study III
The ghost of Aldo Rossi is in every one of the seven rooms of the exhibition: from the exhibition's gate — evoking Rossi's entrance door to the Arsenale at the 1980 Biennale —, to a Teatro del Mondo scale model, a real size beach cabin, and, last but not the least, the original collage (bought and restored by the museum in occasion of this exhibition) of another Città Analoga, realized in 1976 by Rossi with Eraldo Consolascio, Bruno Reichlin et Fabio Reinhart.

La Tendenza: Italian Architecture 1965-1985 might serve two different yet necessary purposes. On the one hand, it offers an incredibly rich panorama of work, as it constitutes the occasion of displaying, in one and the same exhibition space, an abundance of drawings never seen before. Indeed, the Centre Pompidou holds the vastest and richest collection of Italian architecture in the world and has had only very few occasions to put it on display. Second, because of its particular circumstances — an exhibition that doesn't include a single loan — this exhibition might, on the one hand, suggest a rather wide interpretation of the word Tendenza while, on the other, omits of a few important figures (such as Giorgio Grassi or Massimo Scolari). And all this will no doubt trigger polemics and awaken passions. Yet this would be the best tribute to the spirit of 1970s Italy, a time in which architecture was first and foremost a polemical and political matter. Léa-Catherine Szacka
Carlo Aymonino,  <em>Housing unit in Monte Amiata</em>, in Gallaratese, Milan, 1967-1974
Carlo Aymonino, Housing unit in Monte Amiata, in Gallaratese, Milan, 1967-1974
Carlo Aymonino, <em>National library</em>, Rome, 1959
Carlo Aymonino, National library, Rome, 1959
BBPR, <em>Torre Velasca</em>, Milan, 1950 - 1958
BBPR, Torre Velasca, Milan, 1950 - 1958

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