Featured on : Il Giornale dell’Architettura, 25th April 2015
The article was written following the dispute between David Chipperfield and the ‘Comune di Milano’ about the MUDEC project – Città delle Culture museum – recently opened after 15 years of work. The architect has eventually decided to remove his name from the building thus not recognizing himself as the author of the project. The reason of such a drastic decision has been triggered by a Viterbo basalt stone pavement required by Chipperfield’s design specifications replaced during the construction process by a lower quality Etna lava stone. According to the architect such a change has led to a final result unworthy to bear his name.
‘No creator was prompted by a desire to please hi brothers. His brothers hated the gift he offered. His truth was his only motive. His work was his only goal. His work, not those who used it. His creation, not the benefits others derived from it, the creation which gave form to his truth. He held his truth above all things and against all men. He went ahead whether others agreed with him or not with his integrity as his only banner’.
[ The Fountainhead, film, 1949 ]
‘‘ Well, sir, if you think of all those illusions that mean nothing to you now, of all those things which don’t even ‘seem’ to you to exist any more, while once they ‘were’ for you, don’t you feel that – I won’t say these boards – but the very earth under your feet is sinking away from you when you reflect that in the same way this ‘you’ as you feel it today – all this present reality of yours – is fated to seem a mere illusion to you tomorrow? ’’.
[ Luigi Pirandello, Six characters in search of an author, 1921 ]
There are characters whose story is born from someone’s hand; characters that have defined qualities, drawings of faces and impressions of personality that remain illusions – or intangible ideas – if a reader does not make them a reality or what appears as such.
In 1921 Luigi Pirandello shaped six characters that since then wander around the pages of a script; they all have a story and experience a drama that we grasp through the words of the author. They see their lives transformed and modified on a theatre stage by incapable actors who pretend to behave like them, but they never manage to be the same as them. What then is the limit that allows us to determine where an illusion ends and reality begins instead? What leads us to identify a boundary between mind and body?
If the world of ideas conceived by Plato as an ideal universe were only the random result of our imagination, and most of all if all that we believe real becomes as such exactly through the gesture of our actions, I wonder if a play might contain in itself the elements needed to clarify some doubts.
Imagine reading the script that Pirandello wrote several years ago, unaware that today I would have filled his writing with my thoughts and turning it into something that has never been before and probably never was intended to be. The script contains suggestions; a drawing of what actors will play, the way they will speak, the actions they will make and the clothes they will wear, but everything is only drafted; the script remains essentially unfinished if a reader does not enrich it with his own personal touch and decides eventually to put it on stage. What Pirandello did with his ‘Six characters in search of an author’ was to build a scene and a story, then at the end of the written pages, he left his pen on the desk in order to deliver to an unknown audience an ‘empty’ script whose essence lies in the action of someone else; in that performance that gives it life.
This makes me think that every architect – or spaces’ thinker – should have the task of designing a script and letting his Self not to be an indelible mark imprinted on the project, but rather a rapid disappearance. If the hand of the author struggles to break away from his work, every representation of the Six characters will look wrong as not conform to what the author has proposed in his writing. If Pirandello were to remove his name from any theatrical representation that does not faithfully follow the story he wrote, then we would no longer have the pleasure of attending any performance, but we would rather see the perpetual sorrowful scene of an ‘empty’ script on the desk of its author.