Vacchini house Costa, 1991-1992, Tenero-Contra, TI
Can a project be nostalgia-free?
Ș t e f a n S i m i o n
The Afterwards Nostalgia
Nobody can escape nostalgia. It is the outcome of past experiences; it gathers habits, prejudices, heritage – all which is contained by our transmissible culture. Nostalgia is to architecture what representation is to arts such as painting or sculpture: at stake is the relation to the model and the emancipation from it. Nostalgia isn’t a mere look back, but also an unconscious and unnoticed attempt to blend the promises of the possible with the model of the déjà-vu.
We can only try and resist nostalgia, recognize it, in order to choose another path on the occasion of a new project. Drawing a plan or a façade, a window or a door, relying solely on proportions and composition – on that which esthetics tells us by means of sight, all these belong to the empire of nostalgia. It is the memory of pleasant times reading a book or being absorbed into a late conversation with a glass of red wine in a specific place, with certain qualities which we need to repeat. The architecture of nostalgia is the architecture of the esthetical choices, of hierarchy and composition.
Vacchini left us an alternative strategy that tries to avoid the nostalgic charge. He has brought into light an ancient path to build the future: by means of logic which conjugates the essentials of architecture: light, orientation, type, technique, material. Just as the Egyptians have done thousands of years ago, building the pyramids. In order to do that, he gives up the sketch, the model, all gesture that connects memory to anticipation. In fact, he radicalizes the issue at stake: future cannot be anticipated. You can only act now, when you make the project. Architettura e una cosa mentale, he used to say. Architecture comprises two fundamental and distinct moments: the project and its realization. Between them there is an unbridgeable gap. So he isolates what he retains as key matters of the project: the accidental can be eliminated. Only the essential, no compromise. Architecture becomes diagram. The best of these diagrams seduce and, more important, resist the passing of time, exactly because they have their own laws built into form by means of rules and principles. It is as close as it gets to the embodiment of ideals.
But afterwards, in Vacchini’s inaccessible territory – the built realm, architecture cannot escape its condition. The built work produces its effect. The experiences of inhabitants transform as future nostalgia.
Stefan Simion obtained a degree in architecture at "Ion Mincu" University of Architecture and Urbanism, Bucharest in 2004 and he's the author of the thesis "Vacchini" in 2009. As a laureat of the SCIEX award attributed by The Rector's Conference of the Swiss Universities, he has conducted a post-doctoral research on the work of Livio Vacchini during the academic year 2013-2014 in EPFL. He taught architectural design at UAUIM (Bucharest), Pratt (New York), EPFL (Lausanne), International University of Rabat (Morocco). Currently he teaches architectural design in Bucharest and he's an associate architect of the office www.theposter.ro/ with Irina Melita.