Preliminaries for a conceptual architecture

( in “Gianni Pettena”, Silvana Editoriale, 2003)


(…) I believe that both in the past and in the present architecture must first of all take into account those spatial and spatial-temporal, materic and dimensional coordinates which form the kernel of a building, and in my opinion, if this does not occur, the construction ends up being simply a 'machine à habiter', or a heap of steel, glass and other building materials.
In the case of Gianni Pettena it frequently happens that his architectures – because we can give them this name – are primarily the restatement of a building idea, an idea that may not even be realised, if not ideally or ideologically, but which always underlies his concept of designing. Thus, many of his buildings, such as the ice house, the clay house or the tumbleweed tower, have their own vitality and their own survival even beyond the fact that the executive moment has been lost.
One example, which in my opinion is very significant, not least because it demonstrates that these observations are valid not only for the current situation but also for the past, is that of Pettena's intervention on the Palazzo di Arnolfo in San Giovanni Valdarno, in which the eurhythmy and the extraordinary linearity and symmetry typical of Renaissance architecture are in a certain sense transformed by slanting lozenges which overlap the spaces in the open arcades and porticoes so as to provide, through the inclusion of a contemporary language, a perception that is different and yet still integrated into the language of the past. The result of this intervention is the attainment of a very interesting phenomenon particularly from the perceptive point of view, because after the building has been observed with the masking of the slanted bands and is then seen again once it has been restored to its original condition, one immediately becomes aware of the existence of a specific perceptive quality which was lost without the 'overlapping' which we have mentioned: one demonstration among many of how very often great buildings of the past are not perfectly recognised in terms of their different coordinates precisely on account of the insufficiency of our perceptive attitude.