Renato Rizzi masterclass: biography and projects, the interview - ISPLORA

ArchiTALKS #1: Renato Rizzi


To be an architect one must have an obsession.

With the release of Isplora's first ArchiTALKS, dedicated to the architect and lecturer Renato Rizzi, it starts a journey across Italy seen through the architects’ eyes, between practice and research, different ways of understanding and dealing with the profession. A journey over places and architecture, entering the architects’ firms, sharing work tools and ideas of the future, questioning the contemporary value of the profession and the role of the architect, revealing anecdotes, dreams and goals, in what can be considered not only an educational experience but also an analysis of contemporary architecture, through its protagonists.

The lesson starts with the biography of Arch. Renato Rizzi, full professor in Architectural and Urban Composition at IUAV University in Venice, addressing the role of form and place in design activity.

Starting from his studies at IUAV in Venice, the architect's educational path unravels through his work experiences and interactions with important architects such as Peter Eisenman and John Hejduk. What emerges is the idea of the architectural profession as a "laboratory" and a tension between the two components of architecture: “archè” and “technè”, two poles that separated because of the dominion of the scientific paradigm, an approach supported by the work and figure of philosopher Emanuele Severino.

With Severino’s philosophy, a great question slowly emerged that I have had to face, but it will take a lifetime to answer. Because the question is: what does the word architecture mean? The word architecture, fortunately or unfortunately, consists of these two words, these two Greek roots, arche and techne. Now, without giving definitions of what arche or techne are, I only want to say that techniques are the part that belongs to the meaning of the word “architecture”, where all things are separated. While in the first root "arche" all things are bound and "eternal". Therefore, the word architecture summarizes Severino’s thought in an extraordinary way, because we  (architects) are in the middle between arche and techne and we must combine these two extremes that cannot be switched but we must keep them together.

An intellectual and positioning work, which is reflected in the method and design practice of Arch. Rizzi, in his ability to "recognize opposition" and seize the opportunities provided by projects and places, "listening and not dominating".

Watch Renato Rizzi's ArchiTALKS

Million and million of years, and an enormous amount of time is lumped together compared to ours, but what happens in this process of elliptical condensation? There are the repetitive elements of time, there is the past of time but in the recursive elements the future of time also appears and therefore the pebbles speak about your present, your past and at the same time your future. When we (in this case it is a reflection about myself) start a project without worrying about the project we have to start from studying places, precisely because places are like condensations, their shape, their morphology, their topography, their geology are a sort of manual of images that consolidated in that place but those images are rich in memory and therefore the models that for example we make before starting a project, it’s like X-raying places in such a way that the place makes its own singularity re-emerge and that concept of space that today occupies our mind is definitely deleted, because places in modern culture are spaces, but space in contemporary time is a concept that is neutral, continuous, and homogeneous.

Themes reflected in the issue of "representation" and construction, in the need of form and the importance of time. Long and meaningful projects, rich in historical traces such as those for the Elizabethan Theater in Gdánsk and the Cathedral of Solomon in Lampedusa.

The problem was, what does it mean to design an Elizabethan theater in Gdánsk today? After the last real big theater was designed by Aldo Rossi and called "Il teatro del mondo", the Theater of the world was a theater that was built and demolished, it was an apparition. First of all, the competition was in 2004, in 2004 Poland became part of the European Community that is, it definitely turned its gaze from the east to the west, before then it looked towards Moscow, then it looked towards Brussels. The Elizabethan theater is a theater where, compared to the Italian theater, the stage projected halfway into the pit while in the Italian theater the stage was set, should be set in the infinite point of a perspective where all spectators have be oriented towards that point. Among other things, the Gdánsk theater is both an Italian theater but above all it had to be an Elizabethan theater. That is, there are two issues that couldn’t be reconciled, but somehow were held together. But the real problem was that originally the Elizabethan theater didn’t have a roof because it was the court, it was a farmyard where they temporarily set up a stage and everyone watched these plays from the internal loggia. Here the problem was not to mimic something historical but to make something that made sense at that time. The retractable roof with vertical wings was the solution that allowed to plan that project. Why? because for example the gesture of raising wings is a gesture that belongs to the nature of man, it’s a natural element that has been brought into the form. I just want to say that the Elizabethan Theater in Gdánsk and all its formal planning derives from these considerations that bring into play Europe as such, but also brings the whole history of theater back into play.

Watch Renato Rizzi's ArchiTALKS

The traits and complexity of the design proposed by Arch. Renato Rizzi emerge in these projects, a work where the figure of the architect becomes a "witness" and the goal is to create a sense of "wonder".

Because if one believes that with his work he can change the world. I think he's already making a mistake. You can't change anything and I don't want to change anything. The only possibility you have is not to change or change things, it’s to produce wonder so that wonder can somehow be the force that changes ideas.


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