Constructing Models: Montage as a Tool for Making architecture
‘This is not the time to accomplish something. This is the age of the fragments’
Reference and practice are fundamental in building one owns vision of the world, Ettore Sottsas affirmed that in order to draw architecture; other origins, information and catalogues are necessary to obtain ideas and models. That’s why every day, out of my personal archive, I try to compose a catalogue of ideas to assemble from time to time. They are notes, possibilities which I call annotations.
Annotations are abstract forms, figures without background used to assimilate the real. They create an imaginary which aims to undo the autonomy of the image. The imagination creates semiotic links which do not correspond to the existing combination of images we register on a daily base.
In his Morphologie. City Metaphors (1982) Oswald Mathias Ungers proposes a way of thinking and projecting through metaphors and analogies produced through images and demonstrates the idea through figures which can be reassembled every time with a project.
This school of thought accompanies the work of every architect. Storing images goes hand in hand with creating images, which are then slowly transformed into something else, or once compared to each other define working models linked to specific themes.
The model is an intellectual structure setting targets for our creative activities, just like the design of model-buildings, model-cities, model-communities, and other model conditions supposedly are setting directions for subsequent actions. As a result of images being the focal point of our culture, it’s very important to re-read the words of the German architect. His thesis stands in opposition to the functionalism of the period when it was written. Ungers theory is one of the many ways of seeing and knowing the world. A theory as a reading of reality, as a conferring of other meanings to signs and consequently as an understanding of architecture as an instrument that translates theory. 3
Ungers tries to simplify the process of building the project, for the same reason I believe it is extremely important to not consider notes as formal references to the project but only as circumstances which invite us to reflect on specific themes, instruments of thought.
Images which are conceived in this manner become models which don’t describe but underline resolute conceptual decisions on specific themes. They provide indications, create conditions to reflect upon, they exist as places of debate. Through his reflections the observer becomes the producer of content. Structure, form, space, the necessity to use the architectonic shape as an expressive one, are secondary compared to the collected themes .
Montage is used as an instrument to take note on ideas, produce a narrative strategy through simple operations: multiplying signs, the exchange of scale, reversals, grafts, superimposition and erasure. Necessary operations to pose relative questions on a project that only at a later stage can be applied to architecture. 4
The annotations are the first instrument through which we can put some order within the personal archive. The archive is out of an affection for signs, a fragment, a space, an image striking us more than another, we store it, therefore to images we combine texts, quotes taken from books which are an integral part.
Annotations aligned one next to the other form an interpretative Atlas of reality. Taking notes is simultaneously a process of the project and a practice I try to develop in a methodological key. It’s true that in this way I have the possibility to re-organize fragments of reality to build my own Atlas.
To build an Atlas upon the definition given by Aby Warburg, who employs photos to build her own cognitive process: cut outs, reproductions used to organize a tale, then the charts produced are fixed through a photographic representation which determines an accurate place of the fragments, montages create sequences to be interpreted. To build an Atlas in that way is a research of experience to construct new meanings.
Notes for me can build a narrative, retracing themes I previously deal within projects through my experience as an architect.
Today all this seems obvious, but I’m convinced that precisely because we are surrounded by so many images it’s even more important to find a way of thinking through images. To put in place a physical and mental system to catalogue and organize this huge cultural asset which is slowly replacing reality. To re-establish a position within the cognitive process first of all means to acknowledge a different quality to an image. The seriality has conveyed to these annotations a narrative form much nearer to the practice of drawing that today can be used as an instrument to create a new language freeing as such the thought mechanism from the past trap of what we have already thought.
A precise order doesn’t exist, the same image refers to different stories and projects and can be employed in different ways. Through this process the observer becomes the producer of content. This kind of operation of assemblage refuses completely any formal value and attributes a different meaning from the original to the new images produced.
The character of the selected images
The origin of the images is different.
Postcards define accurately the location and the architectures which are embedded with a precise iconography, just as architectural photography selects iconic buildings where the formal importance makes them perfect and efficient to be adaptable and recognizable.
These buildings, although twisted and reinvented, maintain intact their origin and can be read as elements with their own independent history, amplifying the meaning of the new image produced. The personal picture is since its birth thought in relation to its specific function.
The building picture, which is part of the history of architecture, reflects upon the meaning of the evolution of the discipline of architecture. As a result, every building contains traces of other buildings in a kind of evolutionary process. Working on modifying existent buildings means to make the evolution process undeniable, not necessarily do these evolutions directly represent new buildings, but define an aesthetic activity of appropriation of what exists in our imaginary.
Many annotations are digitalized, relating back to printing as a means to define a new territory of research, bringing the divisions of different levels of the software which generates them in a stratification realized through the superimposed printing on a glass sheet. Printing on glass allows to have distance between the levels re-establishing a level of three dimensionality, rendering it real. The transparency of the glass transparency is a precise characteristic which enables us to look at the images from two point of view; front and rear. The glass is the matrix for a double visions.
1 Ettore Sottsass scritti neri pozza
2 Morphologie. City Metaphors (1982), Oswald Mathias Ungers Walther Konig, Colonia
3 its very important to distinguish the theory of building images, the theory is build during time only through the project.
4 then I prefer to talk about an operative strategy more than theory.
Article by Luca Galofaro