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Vittorio Longheu

The roof circus

Pubblic space, common good

Smiljan Radic’-2015-Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, general view with the roof circus - ZOOM

Smiljan Radic’-2015-Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, general view with the roof circus

Daily, by car, happen to pass through homogeneous, desolated and usually hermetic residential areas. Those are suburbs of the contemporary so called diffused city. Distant views resemble a big "dripping" that has erased borders and canceled the differences between the parts. This "negative identity", born from mediocrity and ordinary repetition of multiple family houses, isolated houses above the carefully enclosed hillside, an infinity of sheds and infrastructures around which stand the large shopping centers and places of fun, is a continuous appearance of solitary building presences that tell an inevitably boring and somewhat false character, from homologated behaviors and resigned to long days of incommunicability, made of lifes all too similar in homogeneous spaces. For all these reasons, the "case" of the recovery of the Nave-Arts Hall complex in Santiago del Cile, suspended between the enhancement of cultural systems and a poetic vision of the architect's social commitment, seems to me to be a significant angle from which to articulate a reflection on possible treatment strategies for the sufferer. In this work by Smiljan Radic, fresh air is breathed, a new energy and vitality, represented by an architecture that looks positively on the challenges that contemporaneity offers them. This work in Santiago del Cile teaches us above all that our vision of the world depends on the points of view from which we observe it. From "absent" where the form appears as a fragment, it becomes the place of "invention" and "poetic ambiguity". The most intriguing space is the roof, 750 square meters of pure urban invention. From here you can see the Andes, but the most extraordinary thing is the circus that Radic puts on the roof. Pure poetic invention.

Daily, by car, happen to pass through homogeneous, desolated and usually hermetic residential areas. Those are suburbs of the contemporary so called diffused city. It now happens not just in the big urban settlements but even in the almost all the small provincial towns. The reality which they share is a not-working image, boring and unfocused. The cities, in the most recent aspect, suffers for a lack of spatial centralities, with the service infrastructures and likeness public spaces relegated into unconscious commercial centers. 
Historical suburbs act like echoes and everyday more transformed and transposed into a urban parody, animated by an hypothetical touristic-commercial system due to the push of improvised cultural visions. So, the contemporary city, fragmented and multiethnic, if saw from far away looks like a big “dripping” which delated the borders and called off the differences between parts. An “absent” place where the computed shape of the past shows itself as a fragment, where the territory acquired after ages of history doesn’t describe anymore the relational, poetical, symbolical systems, it means the “genius loci” of a community. This new image is the sterile result of an incest which combine tragically the ancient city with its earlier expansions, it is not therefore another thing, but the fool combination of its own parts. Unrented buildings, degraded areas borne form a crisis even more aggressive, the dismissed factories put into doubts the concept of center as both a morphological and social articulated issue. This “negative identity” borne from mediocrity and ordinary repetition of single-double-triple-quadruple family houses, isolated upon a hill and accurately fenced, an endless number of industrial buildings, infrastructures around which big commercial centers and fun places are settled down, it is a continuous appearance of lonely constructed entities that make evident a inevitable boring and fake life, from behaviors homologated and resigned to long speechless days made of too similar life in homogeneous spaces.
Into this scenario figurative destinies of the contemporary cities seems to be traced. So, the daily narration of these places slowly flows without vibrations in a coma which consume time and space. What to do? In order to save the city is not anymore possible to think about a substitution of the new, already structurally rooted into the territory. A hypothesis much more convincing is to start from verifying the general state of the urban landscape, oriented and specific interventions and developments, but surely cultural first and urbanistic later. 
It is necessary now to reestablish the interrupted fabric of the social relation and the urban design, then define a new common idea to renovate those shared qualities on which the common sense of the public space is founded. The theme to be faced then is the one to rebuild the cultural fragments and reconnect the common spaces which means, in the contemporary cities, the public space, the only thing able to talk about the more authentic meaning of building the collective space. 
The possibility of regenerating the wide parts of the diffused city with specific interventions correspond to a strategic idea where the city in its complex is not increasing in extensions but fill its emptiness of spaces and qualities. We question ourselves upon which are still the battles to be win and the territories to be conquered to establish an idea of architecture seen as a shared place with quality of life. It can be realized also with simple constructions and materials and limited tools, in hard circumstances in boundary places.  Nowadays a new vision of society and architecture is being consolidated and is towards a wide idea with in the center themes like social inclusion, places regeneration, speculation, bad behaviors, and pursuit of settlement models capable to improve the quality of the built environment and consequentially the quality of life of the inhabitants.
At the same time, it is necessary reflect upon a vision of development which in most places on the planet is still hold by an arrogant capitalism, towards a new notion of “growth” and kept by an idea of the city not anymore autoreferential as highlighted by the chronicle of different magazines. The list of examples is long, from the middle-east, Russia and Asia stimulated by an effort for a better built environment which keep into account the whole resources and the strength of everyone. 
Common researches in this sense and in different places and architects worldwide are nowadays running, and to quote all in the details and characters would be impossible.  It is important to understand that the global “fast-food” of architecture is no more sustainable, “good” for the different occasions and different geographic areas and the work on the territory has to be done case by case, precisely, in the sense of the culture and tradition of different places.
For all these reasons the “case” of the recovery of the complex Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, which is suspended between a valorization for the cultural systems and a poetic vision of the social task of the architect, seems to be a significant point of view capable to articulate a reflection on the possible strategies of intervention. 
In this work of Smiljan Radic’, you can breathe fresh air proper of a new energy and vitality, represented by an architecture that look towards a positive point of view the challenges that contemporaneity propose. This new attitude, common to lots of good but not always known architects, who don’t get depressed by the scarcity of tools and whose creativity find its own strength and dignity even in the small daily victories. These works as well as Radic ones, talk to us about the creativity and intelligence relationship between of culture, history, architecture and landscape.
This work in Santiago del Cile teach to us mainly that our vision of the world depends on the different points of view from which we observe it. From “absent” place where the shape present itself as a fragment not anymore able to describe the relational systems, poetics and symbolic, so the “genius loci” of a community, it becomes a place of invention and poetic ambiguity. 
Nave, a building dedicated to experimental arts is built starting from an idea of working the emptiness. The existing building devastated from years of degradation, after several fires and 2010 earthquake the façade is the unique valuable element. The idea is to restore it in order to transform the facade in a sort of mask with big eyes – the windows- which allow to see from the inside the city around which became the background of artistic activities conducted inside of the cultural center. The main spaces are: the black room, a versatile space with a fixed scenario of 750sm and a dance floor. The white room, dedicated to research, with laboratories and exposition spaces and last an artist residence. The most intrigant part, though, is the roof: 750 sm of pure urban invention. From here you can see the Andes, but the most extraordinary part is the circus that Radic’ puts on the roof. Pure poetic invention. As well as in don Chisciotte of Borges the circus speaks of two works in the identity of the same language. The first one moving in the landscape, used for the circus shows attached to the ground with ropes and tie-beams. The second one similar to the first one placed on the rooftop of a building in Santiago del Cile. This formal identity questions the dialectic between the original and the copy, such as the architecture could be directly translated in another building.  A perfect copy where the original is delated and maybe the origin too. Almost as to assert that if the world could be replicated it would loos its originality and any purpose to became the magic volume that is now, made up of the infinite possibilities of repetitions which is also the scenic space of theatre and circus.
The two circuses are identical but the one on the roof is totally more ambiguous, and this is a richness. The way today we see the and interpret the circus on the roof, gives to its form new meanings, different from the ground circus. It is not then a simple and banal copy. Radic’ so explain us that historical truth is not just what happens, but also what we judge it happened.  The shape stratifies itself in time and in the meaning it gains. For this reason, ambiguity becomes to Radic’ an action full of significance and rich of possible interpretations. 
In 1929 Le Corbusier designed an apartment for the Mexican eccentric millionaire and art collector Charles de Beistegui, now destroyed, placed at the number 136 of Avenue des Champs Elysèes in Paris. The terrace of the apartment was a privileged point from which was possible to observe the whole city and was able to lead us in the fragments of a very ambiguous work, eulogia to the paradox and to the surrealist world. In the Parisian attic as well as in the roof in Santiago open with close is deliberating confused. Up and down, present and future, reality and magic are treated in the same way. Ambiguous places where also the limit between inside and outside is thin such as the one between reality and dream. To invent a new city, we have to look forward the world with new eyes. The flatness of the urban landscape can be moved by actions and interventions specifically conducted about cultural and urban regeneration. It is necessary now rethink the urban and social fabric, build up the limits of a common idea of public spaces and the values of a community. Maybe imaging an architecture founded on the sense of community and cohesion with a new overview, poetic and brave as well as Radic’ in the Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, rethink the projects which response to the urban degradation in which today we live in. 


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Vittorio Longheu graduated in architecture in 1988 at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia and in 1989 he started his own professional activity. 
He has taught architecture in various university in Italy: Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia, Università degli Studi di Ferrara, Università di Bologna, Facoltà di Architettura “Aldo Rossi”, and currently he is teaching architectural desing at the Politecnico di Milano. 
He took part to several conferences in Italy and abroad ad to various exibitions like "Laboratorio Italia" in Rome, the "Biennale di Venezia", the "giovane architettura italiana" in Busai, Korea. 
He was awarded with the following prizes: "Premio Architettura-Città di Oderzo", "Premio Nazionale di Architettura Luigi Cosenza", the "Design Plus" in Frankfurt. 
He took part in the Shanghai-Milano -Adelaide International design workshop 6-30-2014 / 7-13-2014 Tongji University Shanghai, Politecnico di Milano, Mantova Campus.
Smiljan Radic’-2015-Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, general view with the roof circus - ZOOM

Smiljan Radic’-2015-Nave-Arts Hall in Santiago del Cile, general view with the roof circus