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#1 THE AMBITION OF SCALE

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In 1981, Aldo Rossi published A Scientific Autobiography, which started with the following statement:

“I felt that the disorder of things, if limited and somehow honest, might best correspond to our state of mind.

But I detested the arbitrary disorder that is an indifference to order, a kind of moral obtuseness, complacent well-being, forgetfulness.

To what, then, could I have aspired in my craft?

Certainly to small things, having seen that the possibility of great ones was historically precluded.”

These thoughts were published 15 years after The architecture of the city, where Aldo Rossi tried to redefine the concept of city and proposed a new way to understand and study it. Although he openly rejected the way the Modern Movement approached architecture, he was proposing something different but really ambitious at the same time. What happened, then, during this passing of time, that changed him from that optimistic approach to a decidedly more pessimistic way of thinking? Are the possibilities of great things in architecture truly historically precluded?

Le Corbusier and the moderns were trying to turn architecture into something purely rational and reproducible, presenting architecture as the starting point which could guarantee human well-being (though failing). Rossi, as a clear reaction against those statements, proposed a radical manifesto on the city that wanted to change everything as well....but 15 years later he realized he also failed in his attempt.

Since its first conception, the primitive hut, architecture has been defined as the design and creation of buildings and environments for humans. However, architects often fail on the human part, while constantly trying to over determine peoples’ lives or impose their own points of view in the name of progress, art or science. The very last step of this process has been the Starchitect era, where architecture shows up as a way of making money. It becomes a materialization of capitalism, where scale = $, and the craft is converted into an economic asset. It generates monetary wealth but human wellness is no longer the main purpose.

So....what should architects aspire towards in their craft? What should their scale of ambition be?

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