Emmanuele J. Pilia
THE ITALIAN WAY
Formula is a comfortable chair, which surrounds the man firmly in its hot hands
According to a consolidated cliché, positivist criticism interprets the development
of architectural language through a diachronic model. This interpretation situates
different architectural movement in an alternation of thought patterns, wich privilege
expression or content. Thus, a sinusoidal historical model comes alive. The goal of
this view is to find a persuasive argument to explain the gap between organic and
rationalist architecture, go along with positivist model, wich takes progressism like
an ascent to the light, without considering that the idea of progress can conduct to
the decadence and the chasm. If this ploy can be used to read the period between
‘30 and ‘40, this scheme loses its meaning when a new conception of architecture
comes into play. According to this view, “representation” and “realization”, form and
“idea” converge at the same point. Products of this view, in some cases, are more
expressive of many realized buildings: from Piranesi to Marcos Novak, Images of utopian
cities and futuristic projects have always had much influence on the collective
imagination, sometimes greater than that of realized buildings. Architecture, before
being realized, is in the drawing, in the form, before being realized. A form that does
not end simply expressing itself: It is an icon, «evidence not of itself, but of God»1,
and whitout it, God can not manifest itself in the sensible world. Representation gets
free from reference of the real, and it becomes pure form: reppresentation is now the
mirror of a specific culture. This culture is far away from aristocratic idea of haute
culture. Idea of culture is not separable from mode: «In anthropology, culture does not
express an exclusive value, a criterion of excellence. It merely refers to the common
behavior, medium»2. On the other hand, the word mode comes from the Latin modus,
translated by the words: norm, rule, but also etiquette, manner.
Marcello Guido puts his work in this tradition: a work that has many faces and has
many influences. So this is a job that can only be described with the notion of “Baroque”.
In fact, the disposition to confuse the “form” with the “concept” is “Baroque”.
Considering the influence of the counter-reformation, this is logical: intellectuals had
to hide their ideas behind ephemeral topics. This is to remain free and to protect
themselves, their families and those who supported them. The concept is omitted,
it is implied, is hidden from the form, which is now also idea. Write about nothing
becomes a form of protection. But this maniera needs an audience capable of going
beyond the writing and reading between the lines.
Therefore, Marcello Guido’s work can be defined as a theory of action, wich combine
two aspect of the Italian aptitude: on the one hand, there is a particular nuance of
sprezzatura, called by Pareyson as Theory of formativity (Teoria della formatività), on
the other, there is a sort of aesthetics of death, adopted as a singolar view of the
sublime3. Guido expresses this duality through, on the one hand, Guido expresses
this duality through, on the other, a dismissive attitude and playful, polite and ironic,
wich mark the iconic tradition inaugurated by Raphael and mannerism. On the other,
there is virtuosity, the search for personal and glorious gesture, the challenge of the
unknown, which derives from the thought of Michelangelo and Borromini.
Regarding the notion of formativity (formatività), Fabio Quici is the author that binds
more strongly the study of Pareyson with architectural drawing, wich puts a lot of
energy in linking the idea of architectural drawing to heuristic. Infact, as Quici says,
drawing «is never the result of an a priori intuition, but it is always the result of a job
that constant involves a mental activity and gesture»4. Tellingly, according to Pareyson
to form (formare) means just «on the one hand, to make, that is to accomplish, to
perform, to produce, to fulfill, and, on the other, to find the way of making, that is to
invent, to discover, to represent, know how to do, in a way that invention and production
go together, and just by working it is possible to find the rules to the realization,
and the Execution coincides with the application of the rules in the same act of his
discovery»5. In a few words, to form means “to make”: «a way of making such that,
while one makes, one invents the way of making»6. The role of drawing in the architecture of Marcello Guido adheres to the idea of
formativity, in fact his drawing are not merely function of verification of a developed
idea, but they are similar to veritable building sites, «a sort of work in progress, and
therefore, ready to change, to evolve itself, to be contaminated by external input or
further reflection of the architect»7. It is very important to study works of Marcello
Guido to understand his architecture, not only with regard to the complexity of these
spaces, but also to understand what is the inventive process: facades, sections and
plans collapses upon each other. Lines drawing invade the nearby space, hooking it
and dragging it toward himself. Abstract views join togheter, and so it is impossible
to find the subject. An architectural detail appears to the centre of a plan, so it looks
like a piece of a huge structure. Lines are ferociously manipulated, color patterns
shade off into sky, then into a glass wall, in the end an earthwork merges itself with
a remote facade. Sections get independence from other draw from other drawings:
they mirror each other, they overlap each other, they give too much information. Erasures
and cleanings become instrument to explore the form. These drawings are
propaedeutic to buildings, encouraging an irreverent attitude: volumes crumble and
they throw walls along diagonals, make ensure that technical drawings contaminate
Vasari was, after all, talking about the sketch as «una prima sorte di disegni che si
fanno per trovare il modo delle attitudini et il primo componimento dell’opra, e sono
fatti in forma di una ma[c]chia, accennati solamente da noi in una sola bozza del
tutto», expression of «furor dello artefice», wich uses this form of representation «pertentare l’animo di quel che gli sovviene»8.
In this regard, it is very interesting that Laura Thermes talks about an «impetuous
and telluric»9 architecture to introduce the Marcello Guido’s work. An architecture
that emphasizes «the genetic moment compared to its results»10. But is even more
interesting that Laura Thermes uses two images of Romanticism as comparison: As
first image there is the archetypal image of the Gothic cathedral, wich illustrates very
good the vertical emptying of the “Museum of the Horse” in Bisignano. But is even
more interesting that Thermes uses the Caspar David Friederich’s “The Sea of Ice” to
compare it with the new project of Toscano Square, in Cosenza. These two images
refer to a imaginary Sublime, wich, in Italy, meet with a eschatological formulation,
as the present in the Edmund Burke’s volume A Philosophical Enquiry into the origin
of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful11, where he laids the foundations for:
«an aesthetics of terror, oriented toward to the loss of ego: sublime is an “delightful
horror”, in which the instinct of self-preservation of the subject is inverted into the
desire of annihilation»12. The destructive and plastic action of Marcello Guido drink
from source of the sublime. A sublime that John Dennis has already decrypted in his
The grounds of Criticism Poetry 13, in which the author «had seen the true source of
the sublime in the enthusiastic fear aroused by religious ideas which were considered
by him as the most terrible of all. Of these ideas, according to Dennis, none is more
terrible than that which reveals the wrath and vengeance of an angry God. Nothing
is more terrible than the wrath of the infinite power, because nothing is as inevitable
as his revenge»14. So, Guido highlights this terror, he finds its form and accentuates
its character, because this form is immanent, it doesn’t looks for ways to reconcile
with the present, it does not delude itself to repress an indomitable instinct. After he
has caught the teaching of “formative” of Pareyson, he also catches his invitation to
give «an exceptional evidence of himself, higher than the subject himself could have
imagined that it becomes a fixed point, becomes an image of himself that serves as
a model and guide, a model of itself to itself, an achievement not to be missed, a
commitment, a line not to derogate»15. In this sense, Guido expresses the destructive
(and self-destructive) trend of the seventies protests. In fact, he has experienced
first hand the two sides of the coin: on the one hand, the promise, of a costume and
infrastructure modernization, follows on the long wave of economic boom, on the
other, a radical break «revived instincts and ways of feeling belonging to the archaic
and obscurantist Italy, and petrified into a timeless abyss»16. It is no coincidence that
the Toscano Square project has generated so much confusion: it is not reassuring, it
is an unbearably cynical to an indifferent to moral rectitude environment.
Antonio Cuono emphasizes the sublime and terrifying nature of Guido’s architecture,
and he also emphasizes a relationship between Toscano Square and Friederich’s
picture: «The mountain of Ice rises threatening, it suspends itself in the incommensurable
eternity, on the edge of the universe just prior to break itself and to hide
itself, like a monstrous animal, below the infinite silence of the polar cap»17. The
comparison with the Romanticism is made even more evident from the nature of this
work: Toscano Square is a place that, before the intervention of Guido, is not born
of a project, it is not an area planned and designed to encourage the meeting. The
ground collapses on the weight of the re-emerged tragedy, which has opened itself
from the breaking the terrain seal, crumbles itself into a myriad of sharp glass plates,
it loses the opportunity to reconfigure its own coherent unit, and therefore also the
possibility of peace. The structure, which supports the scales of a monstrous past,
threatens to erode the few remains of the ancient structures, on which they are
suspended. The buildings, that surround and protect the square, open wide the door
to a dizzying descent into the underworld of the subsoil, from which the structure is
desperately trying to escape, climbing on each ledge available, clawing at each wall
where is not possible find support, wriggling furiously with indescribable fervor. If we
pass through the spaces of Tuscan Square, we are entering the battlefield where the
devil has been recalled and defeated, but at higher price: the inability to reach the
sky. This is the dimension that reaches Marcello Guido: without conciliators compromises,
1-Florenskij P. A., 1977, Le porte regali (saggio sull’icona), Zolla E., a cura, Edizioni Medusa, Milano, p. 64.
2-Ferrarotti F., Lusso, moda, consumo onorifico, in Perniola M. (a cura di), Àgalma n° 2, Meltemi, Roma 2002, p. 16.
3-Perniola M., Àgalma n°18. 40 anni di Estetica Italiana (1968 – 2008), Mimesis editore, Milano 2009.
4-Quici F., Tracciati di invenzione. Euristica e disegno di architettura, Gangemi, Roma 2004, p. 9.
5-Pareyson L., Estetica, teoria della Formatività, Sansoni, Firenze 1974, p. 59 – 60.
6-Ibid., p. 59.
7-De Sessa C., Marcello Guido. L’impegno nella trasgressione, CLEAN, Napoli 1999, p. 15.
8-Vasari G., by the editions of 1550 and 1568, digital copy edited by Multilingual Inventory of Cultural Heritage in
Europe, 1999, consultable at: http://biblio.signum.sns.it/vasari/consultazione/Vasari/indice.html
9-Ibid., p. 10.
10-Ibid., p. 10.
11-Burke E., A Philosophical Enquiry into the origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, 1756, digital copy
edited by Bartleby, consultable at: http://www.bartleby.com/24/2/
12-Perniola M., Àgalma n°18. 40 anni di Estetica Italiana (1968 – 2008), Mimesis editore, Milano 2009, p. 42
13-Dennis J., The grounds of Criticism Poetry, 1704, digital copy edited by Reppresentative Poetry Online, consultable
14-Perniola M., Àgalma n°18. 40 anni di Estetica Italiana (1968 – 2008), Mimesis editore, Milano 2009, p. 59.
15-Pareyson L., Ontologia della libertà. Il male e la sofferenza, Einaudi, Torino 1995, p. 32.
16-Perniola M., Àgalma n°18. 40 anni di Estetica Italiana (1968 – 2008), Mimesis editore, Milano 2009, p. 50.
17-Cuono A., in AA.VV., Espressioni contemporanee, Marcello Guido, Gruppo Mancosu Editore, Roma 2007, p. 56.