The spectacular Venetian Arsenale at this year’s Venice Architecture Biennale is devoted to the history of post-World War II architecture and urbanism. Italy, perhaps more than any country in the world, revels in its architecture and cityscape. It is still a place where architecture means more than simply building—it’s a knowledge for describing and thinking about the world. This, it turns out, is true even for its youngest designers who assembled in the arsenal on Sunday, June 8 for a discussion, “Towards a New Avant Garde.”
Created and organized by the young research group Superscript it ranged over three 90-minute discussions and several key themes emerged in the discussions, including the need of architects to engage the public directly, the importance of evolving new forms of communication and criticism, and the value of capitalizing on opportunities to be proactive.
Given the dire financial situation of the Italian economy it should not come as a surprise that young architects in the country are, like many radical Italian groups from the 1960s, are looking outside the country for opportunity.
Editor David Tommaso Ferrando advocated exploring new forms of criticism using images and social media. “Criticism has to change because the media is changing,” said Ferrando. “With the opportunities to connect and work globally today, identity becomes less defined by nationality and more by an individual’s point of view and how they engage with the profession.”
In a session called Collective Action the young practitioners still living in the country discussed searching for alternative models of practice that will allow them to practice. They are increasingly turning to urban design and planning strategies that have them engage with local citizens and building users, but, unlike these profession in the United States, they have not abandoned form to public policy but instead are looking back to radical practices of the 1960s like Superstudio for models.
In the finals session devoted to Economics the young participants looked ahead—past the economic recession of the present times and asked reflecting on a quote from architect Marco Lampugnani, how do you “create value, not things?” Architecture, if not building, is alive in Italy!