TEACHING DUAL ACTIVITY IN THE LABORATORIES OF OUR SCHOOLS
Associate Professor Federico Bilò, Department of Architecture UdA, Pescara
Consider the following statement by Colin Ward: "the teaching of architecture does not reserve any space for the study of the non-noble and of an unspecified period. […] What is ordinary has been discarded: and it is like restricting the botanical sciences only to lilies and roses ». We call this non-noble building production of an unspecified period non-architecture, an expression of common sense and not of specialist knowledge. Non-architecture predominantly configures the built environments where we live and where, conversely, the presence of architecture is almost nil. Therefore, the study of non-architecture cannot be postponed: and the design laboratories should deal with it systematically.
In fact, architectural knowledge is formed, or should be formed, by drawing on two sources: architecture itself, with its anthropological, technical and aesthetic reasons; and the physical world, in the latitude of meanings covered by the term: the one configured by non-architecture. But in order to draw on, observation is crucial: knowing how to see architecture, knowing how to see the physical world and non-architecture. Now, knowing how to see is something that is learned and refined by drawing. The observing-drawing couple, therefore, is crucial in the training of an architect and requires calm, slowness and constancy: method. Furthermore, it must apply to both sources: both to architecture and to non-architecture; each individually, in fact, is a bad teacher. Architecture alone is too abstract and self-referential; the non-architecture alone is too poor and circumstantial. Only a good balance between what has been learned from each source guarantees usable knowledge, the ability to transfigure and, ultimately, the elaboration of knowledge that allows us to produce actual projects.
In this sense, it is important to feed the elaborations of the architectural intelligentsia with what can and must be learned from non-architecture, that is, from the knowledge of the common conscience on the merits of inhabited space. And this in order to reduce a distance that has no reason to exist, to contaminate an alleged disciplinary purity with the impurity of life; in order, therefore, to produce architectures that are more in keeping with the expectations of users and places.
To this end, as we have been saying for some years, we propose to practice, and to teach in the laboratories, Dual Activity. The Dual Activity uses the disciplinary cognitive apparatus and, if necessary, renews it: to read non-architecture in a useful way, to bring it back to material useful for making architecture. The Dual Activity, therefore, allows you to translate the knowledge of common sense, expressed by non-architecture, into the specialized knowledge of Architecture. According to Roberto Longhi, it is necessary "not to imitate what exists, but to reveal what, vice versa, is concealed from time to time by the dominant conventions". In other words, according to Longhi, in certain moments and places in the history of Italian art, "a successful encounter has occurred between the realistic and the transfigurative instances typical of every form of expression". And precisely the relationship between these two moments is what interests us, because, together, they constitute the Dual Activity.
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