June 14, 2016

Why Atlas?

Once upon a time, a quick glance at an architecture student’s bookshelf could suffice to guess how many years he or she had been studying: if the space set aside for Domus or Casabella occupied more than one meter, they must have failed to get their degree on schedule. The history of architecture arranged on the shelves was never interrupted in its flow. Before and after were on the same level, easily within arm’s reach. The shelves for magazines represented their owners’ awareness of the history of contemporary architecture, tangible proof of the slow acquisition of that knowledge.

The Internet put a stop to that. Knowledge of contemporary architecture is now more liquid, and no longer follows a precise chronological order; the downside is that it is extremely precarious, temporary by nature, awaiting organization. An enormous mass of immediately available information has taken the place of personal knowledge gathered over the course of years. The history of contemporary architecture no longer exists inside us, but in our personal devices, and the gap left on our bookshelves is the most accurate reflection of all this.

While the flow of time happened on a horizontal plane on our shelves, in the web chronology proceeds vertically.

On the web, very recent architecture is always in the foreground, always placed above earlier architecture (which has the dismal fate of slipping lower and lower in the ranks). The web is stratification, its model a stack of documents. Unlike the shelf where everything is within easy reach, the webpage doesn’t offer easy access to the past: crushed by the weight of the frenetic flow of the contemporary, yesterday’s architecture becomes harder and harder to find.

While in the past, knowing the topography of our shelves, we could quickly locate earlier works of architecture, today we have to take a different approach: we have to search. But “searching” has its drawbacks: its output is an architecture separated from the topography of history; before and after cancel each other out and everything becomes a random mass of information. That’s why it is so easy to get lost in the web: without knowledge of the before and after, it is hard to get one’s bearings, to follow the red thread that links any work of architecture to Architectural History.

We have decided, then, to construct a large part of divisare like an atlas.

The idea is not a new one, but it is a simple way to bring out the potential of the existing albums. And the results are surprising: hundreds and hundreds of titles that narrate the last ten years of a very vast archive of projects.

A long filing job, done by hand, project by project.

The list of titles in the index is provisional, and to some extent we believe it always will be. The option of growth and greater depth in the coverage of different themes is an integral part of this project.