Metropolitan Heralds_A Italo Calvino Inspired Spatial Narrative

Filippo Bottini and Ludovica Riva

Italo Calvino is probably the postmodernist Italian writer who most involved spatial imagination into his storytelling. This attitude is not limited into his texts to particularly vivid description of places and a ambientoriented narrative, but is extended to a way of writing strictly directed by spatial logics.
As a public character, Calvino has always kept a shy attitude, trying to confuse his biographical information
and omitting many personal details. It is possible though, through a deep analysis of his writings, to notice an extraordinary correspondence between the events of his personal life and what happens to the characters in his books.
Starting from the texts, this work aims to render an unreleased spatial biography of Italo Calvino. A urban tale of his most intimate and inner side in the form of designed space into the city. After a process of analysis,seven characters are selected in function of their capability to represent spatial images. On the base of these seven characters, seven spaces are thought, designed and placed in the city as independent but inseparably bound to one another, creating a symbiotic relationship able to create an actual inner habitat. The characters from Calvino’s texts become in this project actual metropolitan heralds who, just as their medieval ancestors, bring their lord’s emblem and tell his tale.

Muller 3


First of all, the brief you pursue is truly interesting and poetic. Is it something developed by you or a tutor?

The work has been developed together with Ludovica Riva, my fellow graduate, and professor Davide Fabio Colaci, our tutor. The theme has been chosen and developed by us students, under the guidance of our tutor.

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Who influences you graphically?

We are deeply influenced by those architects and graphic designers who use drawings and images as a tool to let people imagine a different possible world. In our references this is pursued in two ways. On one side, there is the wireframe drawing, without post-processing but with a very careful attention to details and the total rejection of pre-made blocks. On this side we are certainly influenced by the lightness of contemporary Japanese architects’ drawings such as Ishigami, SANAA, Atelier BowWow. On the other side, we appreciate the collage technique instead of the photorealistic rendering, as this allows a more poetic suggestion of the spatiality of our project without adding too much detail, which would distract from the global effect. In this field we start from Hamilton’s pop collages in the 60’s to arrive to contemporary OFFICE Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Fala Atelier, Office OMMX and Dogma.

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What influenced your choice of representation? In terms of aesthetic style, how and to what extent does it refer to Calvino’s identity?

As mentioned before, the lightness of the lines in the wireframe drawings and the choice to use no other color but red aims to achieve a general sense of total lightness with a focus on the colored parts. In fact, these represent an innovative way of perceiving the world, which is inspired by Calvino’s novels. Lightness was one of the most important themes to our writer, who repeatedly mentioned it as the fundamental quality in every aspect of contemporary life.

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What is the effect and purpose of a circular format for certain images?

The circular shape frees the observer from the constraints of the rectangular one, suggesting the existence of a 360-degree space that surrounds the depicted scene, instead of rigidly framing a certain view. One other purpose is to make the observer feel part of the scene, that has no rigid frame.

Cosimo 1

How could all of the images be presented as one body of work which mirrors that of Calvino? (A collection) possibly thinking back to the unwritten last memo for the next millennium?

Calvino’s interiority was very concerned with spatiality. This is particularly relevant in his Città Invisibili, but is also revealed by his ability to think and tell his tales in terms of spatial images. Every tale he wrote is deeply embedded into a well-defined space both on the plot side and on the architecture of the writing itself, which often followed a rigid scheme. The aim of this project is to depict seven ways he used to see the world through seven of his characters, having noted that he very often tended to identify himself with them. The final result is a collection of his unwritten memo for the last millennium in a sort of accidental way, in the sense that we did not focus exactly on those properties, but they revealed themselves at the end of the process, being the real core of Calvino’s whole work. The aim of the work was to represent Calvino and his way of seeing reality, as well as to recount his interiority through the architecture of the city.

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Filippo Bottini and Ludovica Riva studied Interiors Architecture at Politecnico di Milano. During the studying years they both did some academic work as assistant and worked with several Milan based architecture offices, among whom Davide Fabio Colaci.
Filippo also worked for Lula Ferrari and did some personal independents projects for interiors in Milan. Currently he works in DEGW / Lombardini 22.
Ludovica has worked for MASStudio and RBP architects, currently she is working for Migliore + Servetto Architects


Author: Federica Sofia Zambe