Theses

Davide Sacconi – Archetypes: A Project for the Brazilian City

First Supervisor: Pier Vittorio Aureli
Second Supervisor: Mark Campbell

Davide Sacconi is an architet graduated with honors at the Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. In Rome he founded Tspoon, a research based office that has been awarded in several national and international competitions for architecture, landscape, urban design and editorial projects. He subsequently studied at the Berlage Institute in Rotterdam where he graduated under the mentorship of Elia Zenghelis and Pier Vittorio Aureli. In Rotterdam he worked as well at MVRDV on several urban design and large scale architectural project in Taiwan, Indonesia and Morocco. Between 2012 and 2014 he has taught at Bartlett School of Architecture (UCL) and he is now teaching at the Syracuse University London Program and at the Liverpool University. Davide is the co-founder of UGO an award winning practice based in London and Rotterdam.

Brazil is the territory of the encounter with “another nature”, where a continuous negotiation between exploitation and the impossibility of a complete domination generates a tension that cannot be resolved thus constantly re-emerges in the cultural, social and politico-economical milieu.

Modernity – a complex of ideologies and techniques – and in particular modern architecture, has been historically the instrument to control and exploit the territory and the population, and ultimately to construct its identity. Yet the European culture vis-à-vis the vastness of the “primitive” produced distinctive forms of life, thought, art, and in fact of architecture that had to rely on the struggle between the symbolic dimension and the material reason.

Such irreducible conflict, typically understood as the symptom of a chronic lack of development and a fault in the process of modernization, can be instead conceived as an opportunity to radically reframe the very idea of modernity.

To exploit such possibility the thesis proposes the notion of archetype as conceptual device to construct a theoretical and methodological framework.

Archetypes are understood as singular objects, materially and historically determined, that, assumed as examples, can analogically represent a set of related forms and therefore an entire problematic context. The archetype therefore operates through the mechanism of analogy, a logic that allows to bypass the oppositional relationship between abstract ideas and concrete singularities on which the typological discourse is found.

Confronting both the imposition of an all-encompassing order as well as the subjection to a pervasive economic logic based on bio-political control, the notion of archetype conversely allows modernity to unfold in the construction of a common frame, where the conflicts and the struggles that constitute the city are not solved or deceived but exposed to reclaim the political dimension of urban life as space of continuous negotiation.

This framework provides both an instrument to read throughout history the city as an index of power relationships, as well as a method to design architecture as concrete manifestation of the city itself. The history of the Brazilian city is archeologically reconstructed through the analysis and representation of exemplary architectural forms that sign, through their material presence, paradigmatic shifts in the transformation of power relationships thus in the deep structure of the city.

In the early modernity the reduction is the archetype that articulates the encounter with the alterity, resourceful and overwhelming vastness of the Brazilian territory, within the framework of conversion. In the mature modernity the archetypes of the avenida is the instruments through which the possible insurgence of a massive urban proletariat is tamed and the conservative power structures based on the institution of the family and on the catholic culture maintained.

In the late modernity the campus – intended as universities, business or industrial poles but also as gated communities, favelas or shopping malls – is the archetype that informs the urban relationships, unconsciously but sharply regulating inclusion and exclusion, identity and difference, and dragging the characteristics of the public space – essential to urban life – into a privatized, securitized and controlled environment.

The design proposal uses the cities of Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belo Horizonte as context, public space as theme of enquiry and the campus as the physical and conceptual territory through which the project could be elaborated and tested. The project will elaborate a number of interventions to expose and transform this condition, making explicit the conflicts at stake in the urban form. Intensifying, opening or cutting across the boundaries of different campuses the project will unfold in a series of strategic operations that aim to instrumentalize the finiteness of architecture as trigger and representation of a collective ethos, an open challenge to the limitless character of urbanization.

The design method implies a radical reconsideration of the notion of program – the “organic” founding principle of modern architecture as opposed to the static visual order of classical antiquity. Abstracting the specific material nature of architecture into a system of norms, program reduces it to a mere instrument to exert power and extract value from territory and human activity. Archetypes instead are architectures liberated by program, where the normative definition of performances and behaviour is substituted by an exposed rule, a principle governing conduct and action where form and activity tend to intimately coincide. Designing archetypes implies the representation of civic liturgies, actions that establish the collective ethos of a community through the repetition of specific performances. Within this horizon theory, praxis and form coincide but are at the same time clearly articulated in a polar tension that opens up the possibility to engage with the city addressing a different value and dignity for urban life. An architecture without program: the city as program.


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