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Picture from Memento, by C. Nolan.

In my 2003 Phd thesis at IUAV (Shape and Monument, contemporary european city between imagine and imaginery) I worked on the crisis of Monument from Postmodernity to Contemporary. It seemed that architectural culture used history as a collection of shapes to magnify architectural symbolism in an non-sense age (which goes from late ’70 to late ’90). I meant to demonstrate that the matter was’t irony but a certain need of cultural summons to keep architecture linked to a molecular urbanism and design language. The real matter was that there was no more clear connections between citizen and cities under the paradigm of dwelling. So architecture, in its traditional ‘representational’ function, must impose its presence to the city, addressing particularly to tourists and urban nomads, with short time and no urban roots.

Now, after 10 years, the matter of representation is more clear. I mean that on one side technology gave us more instruments to produce, collect and memorize images, and on the other we can face a general dismission of symbolic use of shapes in contemporary architecture. I think that this means that almost two past ways of reading the city are obsolete: on one side our membership to a city/civilization is no more based on the capability to collect and memorize images from city-scapes (I refer to Lynch studies) – this means, perhaps, that a phenomenological approach to the city is no more liable; on the other, symbols are somehow detuned in their capability to keep us together under a unique territorial identity.
We constantly produce our images and also our imaginery, but it’s difficult to understand if we can talk about collective imaginery. But we produce a huge amount of images without being able to memorize them (or leaving this task to machines!). Will this fact corrupt the principal function of public space to represent our civilization?
I don’t even have an answer. Deleuze early works dealt with difference and repetition, meaning that our culture needs in the same time to move forward the new and backward to some kind of persistence. A totally new approach in producing culture is not falsifiable, it deals with the tabula rasa approach, with no possibility of genetical evolution, if we methodically ignore the repetition phase to analize the results.

We are made also of past, but, at the same time, we are prisoners of the present, as in Memento movie.

Marc Augè has written about future and our incapability to imagine it. We are convinced that brand new architectures lead to the future, but they are simulacra, or perfect representations of what does not exist. We subverted the process that produced our historical cities (I’m italian, but I think that every city has an history), in which monuments are intended as fractures, tatoos on the collective skin of the city (monumentum comes from latin, and has the same prefix as monstrum and moneo, which means to warn, addressing to the future).

Our cult of imaginery has been a good propeller to escape from Postmodernity, but we sometimes forgot that we cannot have, at the same time, a metalanguage to see and comprehend the general picture. Postmodernity had irony, we have ecology, or an holistic approach to design.

I like brand new architectures, but they comes from a general misunderstanding of this process: they start as images (simultaneously made by softwares) and then become a part of the city. But it’s quite clear to me that city is more than the sum of its architectures, and that we are designing non-symbolic monuments, so that we have to improve urbanity in a brand new way. The risk is that we will loose the sense of beeing part of a territory, just simply loosing the sense of reality: we are in a poor world near the collapse, we risk the end of our civilization.

But we can also forget it, for sure.

…john G. raped and murdered your wife…