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Francesco Sorrentino

Analogy's Territories

Beginning from Oswald Mathias Ungers

Oswald Mathias Ungers, Immagine tratte da Morphologie. City Metaphors. Colonia: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 1982.

Oswald Mathias Ungers, Immagine tratte da Morphologie. City Metaphors. Colonia: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 1982.

The article discusses the relationship between the analogy and the discipline of architecture. It tries to investigate, through the example of architects and architectures, the "internal" and "external" qualities to the architectural writing of the analogical process. The analogy, in fact, on the one hand implies a close relationship with the discipline and its constituent devices, with the story (the architecture analogous to the architecture), on the other hand, by introducing within the design elaboration subjective dynamics, related to memory and imagination, it also suggests external connections to the architectural field, with nature, with art, with the landscape. Through the analogy, it is possible to retrace according to an original perspective the autonomous and heteronomous characters of the architecture.

Every architectural project establishes a link with the place (even if it seems to ignore it), with other architectures, with memories, with experienced atmospheres, with the landscape, with nature. As the activity of knowing, the project is an art of connection. Every experience, prerequisite for any form of knowledge, is a connection, a tuning between phenomena and concepts. According to Kant, what allows this tuning is the imagination, as an intermediate faculty between the data of the sensitivity resulting from the experience of a phenomenon and the concepts as products of the intellect. Every phenomenon shows itself in a variety of senses (colour, mass, weight, size, etc.), imagination synthesizes the multiplicity of experience in a unit, an image (1), putting in connection the data gathered by the senses. From this point of view, the architectural project in its being a connection tool and a synthesis is a form of knowledge and it cannot be separated from the imagination. This is the thesis argued by O. M. Ungers in his essay Designing and thinking in images, metaphors, analogies (2). Following his reasoning, «the awareness that reality is caught through perception and imagination is the true creative process» (3). In this view, the analogy becomes an indispensable tool for the artistic production, which allows a form of knowledge of reality based on the representation of a morphological thought that proceeds by images. «The analogy establishes a similarity, or the existence of some similar principles, between two events which are otherwise completely different [...] In employing the method of the analogy it should be possible to develop new concepts and to discover new relationships» (4). In the book Morphologie. City metaphors Ungers proposes a series of pairs of similar images in each of which one of both represents the plan of a city. The images are matched according to a theme that expresses the nexus, the homogeneous principle that puts them in relation, in analogy: the image of an urban scheme is associated to the one of a telecommunications antenna according to the theme of the radial distribution ("radiation"), and the image of a fortified city is linked to an aircraft carrier according to the theme of "defence" (of a space, of a place). So the exercise done by Ungers consists in the observation/knowledge of an image - in the case of City metaphors the observation of a city map – that allows trough a synthesis the identification of a theme, a formal principle according to which it is possible to associate one (or more images) similar. Therefore, the knowledge, the analytical phase of the project, is a morphological process governed by principles of transformation.
According to Francesco Rispoli the theme «establishes the scope of existence of its possible related in terms of objects and relationships; somehow it involves the identification (existence) of an associated field of organized structures in the archive of memory (historic, disciplinary) and in the repertoire of forms present in the environment» (5). The analogy provides an associated field of phenomena, images that lie in our memory, formed through experiences and knowledge. So it becomes important for the project the selection or the identification of the theme which is «what the project speaks» (6). This choice is up to the subjectivity of the designer, his sensitivity to the context and to the demand (needs, wants) to which he has to answer. When the theme is identified, it is possible to bring out (to come to mind) a field, an area of ​​similar images that “evoke” a formalization of the theme: so the latter takes shape from the similar image or from a synthesis of the images belonging to the field associated.
About the functioning and the role of memory in the creative process Antonio Rossetti (7) within his reading of Kant's Critiques (Critique of Pure Reason and Critique of Judgement) shows how the memory is able to organize the images resulting from experience different and distant in time according to some principles, that he calls «predicates» (8). The different images organized according to the same predicates are synthesized by the memory into a new image that will be the synthesis of all the images arising from different experiences. This image is much more productive (original) and not re-productive as it is a synthesis of different images, as it is not mere re-production of the individual images organized by the memory. A testimony to the fact that the memory presides over the creative process, if you want “poetic” process, product of the "doing by art" (ποίησις), the Greek myth says that Mnemosyne (Μνημοσύνη), hence the word “memory”, was the mother of all the Muses inspiring the arts.
The territory or field of similar images can be internal or external to the architectural discipline and the respective internal or external analogies.
The Aldo Rossi's architectures show in an exemplary manner the internal quality of the analogue process to the architectural language. Rossi's figures, cylinder, cone, cube are elements that transcend all semantic field associated to them (functional, symbolic, social). They are pure forms that offer themselves to the game of analogue references within historicized forms of architectural writing. About the analogue character of Rossi's architecture Alberto Cuomo writes that «the metaphor that is determined is not a metaphor of the external senses to the architecture itself, such as the social [...], but it alludes to the architecture itself, to its different historical configurations, telling of its inability to say what it is external. The “Città analoga”, the analogue architecture, as is known, does not imply that the analogy is a similarity between different fields (the architectural and social), but between different historical interpretations of the same linguistic field of building» (9).
The «theming» (10) of the architecture proposed by Ungers is a strategy to bring the architecture to an autonomy of language too. Each project stems from the identification of a theme always internal to the discipline. The analogy between the house and the city, collected by the De re aedificatoria by Alberti, it becomes the theme that connects the project for the student's housing in Enschede (1963) with the model of Villa Adriana in Tivoli. As the latter, the project at Enshede consists on the city model, made of pieces, fragments that make up an ideal city: «the individual houses, the urban block, the complex of buildings, objects in the garden, the street, the square, the individual environment that the collective» (11).
However, the field of internal analogies does not regards the architecture only as an eminently formal fact, it can also be identified as “tectonics of form”, that is, as a principle inherent in its construction. This is the case of architects, such as Renzo Piano, who prefer the issue of syntax, of the connections between the constructive elements. This is the case for the Cultural Center Jean-Marie Tjibaou (1991-1998) in New Caledonia, designed by Piano, where the orthogonal framework of the structural elements is inspired by the wooden buildings of the local population.
Besides the internal territories, there are the places of the heteronomy where the associative properties of the analogy concern different linguistic structures, as the frequent analogies between architecture and nature. More difficult are the similarities between architecture and social that, as an expression of ethics in their mutual interrelationships among individuals, does not offer territories, to paraphrase Kant's thought, easily be experienced by the senses.
The world of technology and of technological production, by the analogy of Le Corbusier "maison - machine à habiter" or the analogy of Lucio Costa for the plan of Brasilia to the hi-tech experiments of the first Piano, Foster, Hopkins, Grimshaw, was always a fertile territory of linguistic heteronomy.
Analogue processes can be traced even in the most recent and updated ecological paradigms, that try to reproduce for the built environment, such as “natura artificialis”, the regenerative mechanisms (photosynthesis, passive systems, renewability of resources) of the nature. If you want, even the transarchitecture, the parametric architecture, the biomimetic architecture, within the coldness of the computerized calculation that translates it in form, through a technical rationality of the most advanced three-dimensional modelling technologies, is the result of an analogue process.  By this way, the reality produced by man (the built space and the objects related to it) it would become a reproduction of the morphological multiplicity, however irreducible to the most sophisticated computerized calculation, in which the nature is given.
Beyond the language, the forms, the migration territories or beyond the attempts to patch up, as Penelope with her canvas, the edges of the discipline, remains for those that attend the architectural project the need to know to imagine.

1. Kant, I. (2000). Critica della ragion pura, Roma-Bari: Laterza.
2. Ungers, O. M. (1982). Progettare e pensare attraverso immagini, metafore, analogie, in ID. (1982). Morphologie. City metaphors. Colonia: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, 7-14. The essay is published in the original bilingual version German-English in “Ventre. La rinascita dell’architettura”. 2006, 6. An italian traslation is reported in the text anthology AA. VV. (1991), Oswald Mathias Ungers. Opera completa 1951-1990 (Vol. I). Milano: Electa, 230-232. 
3. Ungers, O. M. (1982), op. cit., 8.
4. Ivi, 12.
5. Rispoli, F. (2016). Forma data e forma trovata. Interpretare/progettare l’architettura. Napoli: Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici, 110.
6. Ibidem.
7. Rossetti, A. (1996). Forme del frammento analogo. Napoli: Edizioni Graffiti, 80-83.
8. Antonio Rossetti in his restitution of Kant's thought defines all knowledge as a Judgment, that is the accord of a predicate (concept) to a phenomenon: that sunset (phenomenon/event) is beautiful (concept). The memory brings together the experiences derived from the observation of different phenomena such as a sunset, a piece of art, a person and assigns them to predicates: «heavy, pulsating, joyful, elegant, grotesque and many other». In the act of remembering the memory brings to light, makes it appear (φαίνομαι) the images associated with one or more predicates. These images are then synthesized «into a mental process» in a new image.
9. Cuomo, A. (1975). L’analogia e il sogno, in ID. (2013). La città infinita ed altri scritti. Melfi: Libria, 32-33.
10. Ungers, O. M. (1982). Architettura come tema, Quaderni di Lotus, 1. 
11. Ungers, O. M. (1979). L’architettura della memoria collettiva. L’infinito catalogo delle forme urbane, in Lotus International, 24.

Francesco Sorrentino is an architect and lecturer at the Department of Architecture (DIARC) of the University of Naples Federico II. He works in the field of architectural and urban design, restoration and design. In 2012, he achieved the title of PhD in Architectural Composition, with a thesis in which he investigated the theories that led to the birth of urban design in Europe in the light of the studies around the seventies were developed in Italy. He has worked on numerous projects and has participated in exhibitions, awards and design competitions. Since 2009, he is member of the editorial staff of the magazine "BLOOM" (ISSN 2035 – 5033). He is the author of scientific articles in specialized journals in the field of theory of architectural composition.
Aldo Rossi, Sacrario del Cimitero di San Cataldo, Modena, 1971-78.

Aldo Rossi, Sacrario del Cimitero di San Cataldo, Modena, 1971-78.