21 luglio 2014

Phyllis Lambert and the italian architects

One of the things that has always greatly impressed me of Italy is the contrast between the many wonderful historical towns, for example in the neighbourhood of Vicenza, where I was recently, or in the area of Lecce and in all the region of Puglia, and the really bad quality of many residential areas around them. It makes you wonder where the architects who have designed them have studied, or perhaps many of them were not even architects. There is something very wrong with this state of affairs.

Phyllis Lambert (© JBC Média par Claude Gagnon)

These considerations of Phyllis Lambert on contemporary Italian architecture, expressed in an interview with Michela Rosso for “il Giornale dell'architettura have sparked the rage of Italian architects, to the point that the same newspaper published a rather angry response from a reader / architect? to Lambert. 
Livio Sacchi, president of the Architects of Rome, talking about american New Urbanism during the days dedicated to Colin Rowe, was keen to stress how many members have solicited his official response to the criticism, but I do not think he intends to answer, partly because in my opinion he quite agrees...

The fact that to the beauty of the Italian historical centers, among them objectively is very difficult to find one of mediocre value even among the smaller ones, are opposed large residential areas of poor urban and architectural quality, seems to me a so obvious consideration not even to require a particular comment.
Then I’d add the fact that, just as an architect, I feel even more responsible for the disasters produced, often due to models embraced with excessive enthusiasm and little critical ability, although it is quite clear that the blame for the bad quality of the portions of the city built in modern and contemporary is not just "our" fault, as I have already had occasion to write in the architects faults.

Such considerations have already been expressed in recent years by various critics/architects, including a memory Paolo Portoghesi e Mario Botta, to mention only the most distinguished and it seems very strange to me that we architects Italians are not able to see these things by ourselves.

What I find most objectionable of the reply is that, faced to notes of town planning and architecture, sort of cultural and aesthetic, it responds with political considerations, which, although valid, are irrelevant to the problem raised.  In the letter there’s  also a list of several important Italian architects of the past (the one lauded by Lambert) and the present, including the swiss Botta, who is among the most critical of the contemporary city, without grasping in my opinion the most important sense of the message , that is the beauty of the city as an organism, as a whole.
Phyllis Lambert with Rem Koohlaas (© CCA)

The interview with Lambert is due to the fact that it is one of the personality of the moment thanks to the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement assigned her at the Venice Biennale:
"Not as an architect, but as a client and custodian, Phyllis Lambert has made a huge contribution to architecture.
Without her participation, one of the few realizations in the 20th century of perfection on earth –the Seagram Building in New York – would not have happened.
Her creation of the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal combines rare vision with rare generosity to preserve crucial episodes of architecture’s heritage and to study them under ideal conditions.
Architects make architecture; Phyllis Lambert made architects..."

Phyllis Lambert with Mies van der Rohe
In addition to being a key player, as the daughter of the client, and the real client operational of the building, in the story of the construction of the Seagram Building in New York, from the choice of the architect, a certain Mies van der Rohe, until his conservation, he also founded the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, one of the few institutions in the world dedicated to the dissemination of architectural culture and the preservation of architecture. Not too bad cv. Isn’t it?