USA, 1972/1973

Documented in a film shot for the 1973 Milan Triennale and in an extensive series of photographs that constitute a sort of catalogue of “works of architecture not made by architects” discovered in the course of Gianni Pettena’s travels in the United States in that period, the work points out the existence of a “non-conscious” architecture that, by the sole fact of having remained unspoiled or having been constructed in those forms for evident and elementary needs, demands analysis and prompts reflection on the different attitude toward architecture in the European context, or at any rate in that of modern capitalist society. The journey began in Utah, in the mining zone of the Great Salt Lake, with the realization that those structures (the smelter for processing the mineral, the small dikes on the Great Lake, the large opencast copper mine) had been constructed, or their form modified, in that way by the necessities of work, “because that was the most practical and convenient solution, and for no other reason.” And then the roads “that come from nowhere and go nowhere, just from one point to another,” the landscapes of the desert, the wind-formed architecture of Monument Valley, the dwellings of the ancient native peoples who traverse (often temporarily) that environment without doing any violence to it. In an article entitled “Fisicizzazioni non consapevoli” (“Non-Conscious Physical Visualizations”) in Casabella (nos. 392-3/1974), Pettena was to publish several photographs exemplifying this method of interpreting the physical environment. He described his experience as “a journey back to find the threads of a discourse that is no longer very recognizable [because] the harmony, the osmosis with a physical space depends on a multitude of mental habits, or on a disposition that has now been lost.”