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Jorge Silvetti: Architectural space: Let’s call things by their rightful name (November 5, 1986)01:35:14

Gary Paige introduces Jorge Silvetti, noting his partnership with Rodolfo Machado, numerous awards, urban design, furniture design, publications, as well as his teaching at Harvard and at universities in Italy.

Silvetti states that the goal of his engagement with space is to correlate various types of discourses. He argues that when discussing representation, important boundaries are blurred or forgotten. Discourses are based on forgotten metaphors. He emphasizes the importance of the historical context, quoting Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and Rosalind Krauss regarding boundaries, space and sculpture. He characterizes the work of sculptors and painters as immediate, contrasted with musicians and architects, who require the intermediate step of performance.

Silvetti affirms that architecture happens to things external to the mind, to things called buildings, that result from the decision to make them do something. The performative quality of architecture can be involved in social discourses, which provide two conditions that generate different types of space. He questions whether Le Corbusier’s free plan was actually free, or just a metaphor for freedom. He argues it is a trait of modernism to represent a particular vision of society through metaphor. Anyone working with three dimensional forms necessarily deals with perspective.

Silvetti characterizes Peter Eisenman’s Wexner Center for the Arts as an intelligent proposition on the nature of drawing, and how drawings are used. Silvetti states that by calling things by their rightful names, the space we have been so anxious to define may evaporate while actual spaces re-emerge without mystification. He describes a project in Leonforte, Sicily which attempted to reorganize the town’s piazzas. He describes the history, urban form and current condition of the piazzas. His project correlates and derives inspiration from the relationship between the town, its monuments, and the surrounding landscape.

Analyzing the town of Leonforte, Silvetti found three distinct piazzas. He discusses the building typologies and the original Baroque plan of the town. He found the strong correlation with the surrounding landscape, and determined the main road through the city was misplaced. The scale and proportions of Leonforte informed the design, which used the piazzas as connectors throughout the city. The new forms of the design coincide iconographically with the existing town and especially with the monumental fountain found at the old entrance to the town.

Silvetti discusses the tower proposed for Leonforte, which through optical devices and architectural tools, would frame views of civic and historic sites throughout town. The tower was inspired by an existing monumental fountain, which provided a viewpoint which unified the fragmented site. Silvetti advises dealing with buildings as they are and how they function, and putting architecture to work creatively, without relying on other media or other arts.

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