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Enrico Prandi

Architecture (and culture) in times of crisis

Reasons for a magazine

Crisis and recession. Image of the suburbs of Boston

Crisis and recession. Image of the suburbs of Boston


"In this way arises the typical problematic situation of modern man: the sensation of being surrounded by an infinity of cultural elements, which are not insignificant, but fundamentally not significant either, which, as a mass, have something suffocating, because man cannot assimilate in his interiority every single content, nor can he limit himself to refusing it, since it potentially belongs to the sphere of his cultural development. This situation could be characterised by overturning the motto that designated the first Franciscans in their spiritual poverty, in their being absolutely free from everything that could lead the path of the soul through it and make it indirect:Nihil habentes, omnia possidentes. On the contrary, men from all cultures that are too rich and over-burdened are omnia habentes, nihil possidentes".

Georg Simmel, Der Begriff und die Tragödie der Kultur (1911-1912)

There is no need to be observant analysts to understand that we live without a shadow of doubt in a culture that is “too rich and over-burdened”: above all with information, much of which is often contradictory (without saying factional); but especially of images that are petulant, replicated, reiterated and omnipresent which like the clichés of a catalogue of standard taste inevitably end up conditioning free choice which thus arises without independence or authenticity. And the vehicles of this abundance are the mass media whose highly criticized television is now accompanied by the huge mass of information and equal facility of access of the Web.

At the same time, we are also living in a pervasive way the global crisis which is above all financial, but also a crisis in society and in thinking and culture.

And if we are talking of crisis why hide a certain “crisis in the architectural project” in its most authentic, aware and profound form. A crisis of identity in project research which in the editorial of the latest edition of the magazine Zodiac, Guido Canella has related to a loss of the rôle of critical debate, of reviews, of reflection on the present by historians and architects.

Here then is the availability of a virtual place of knowledge, of the spread of opinions, of constructive knowledgeable criticism, like the new Festival Magazine, which has been added to the multitude of information recoverable from the Web losing its apparent contradictory nature.

A place which is a direct interface between the Festival and the vast world of users of architecture, trusting in a bi-directional interchange in which the two rôles, that of the actor and the spectator, interweave to build relations and influence one another: whence the choice of the closeness between Magazine and Festival which share, as well as part of the scientific structure of orientation, the Scientific Committee, also the same physical space on the Web:
If on the one hand it is plausible that the Festival’s activities catalyse the reflections published in the Magazine, it is equally inevitable that the latter can serve as a basin for the collection, fermentation and distillation of ideas to be developed within the ceaselessly active Festival Workshop. But not only.
This change in approach, evolutionally devoted to greater dissemination, foresees the foundation of two places: an internal one made up of the operational, management and editorial organisation of the Magazine; the second an external one configured as an open piazza in which the various users, from the general public interested in sector operators
professionals, technicians, administrators to scholars of the discipline from undergraduates to PhDs, from researchers to lecturers, to the emeritus masters of thought meet in the maremagnum of opinions and ideas. Neither of these places has a boundary and they are open to any authentic contribution to knowledge.

Places which rise in the immediate neighbourhood of other places like the academic one of the Faculties of Architecture with which it would be useful to build a major network of Faculty correspondents or PhD Schools as a fundamental research environment to offer a means of external dissemination of the themes dealt with.

Consequently, we are eager to accept the invitation to share many of the reflections within the Festival in its rôle as an international cultural circle by opening this on-line magazine designed according to a formula, i.e. that of a magazine, or if you prefer webzine, that is economical, streamlined and modern and which, without slighting the depth of its contents, can run full tilt against global crises (financial but also cultural and of thinking) to reach in the near future (my own personal wish) the kind of formal autonomy a paper periodical enjoys.

A contribution to ensure that Simmel’s prefigured omnia habentes, is not competely nihil possidentes.

Enrico Prandi is a Researcher in Architectural and Urban Composition at the Faculty of Architecture in Parma

Zodiac 21. International review of architecture edited by Guido Canella

Zodiac 21. International review of architecture edited by Guido Canella