Actors and Vehicles of Architectural Criticism (12)

Among Criticism, Design and Photography. A Literary and Photographic Way for the Criticism in Shared Works by Vittorio Savi, Aldo Rossi and Luigi Ghirri (1972-1989)
Matteo Cassani Simonetti
University of Bologna

Shared works by the critic Vittorio Savi (1948-2011), the architect Aldo Rossi (1931-1997) and the photographer Luigi Ghirri (1943-1992) represent a peculiar method of work on architectural criticism in Italy during the 70th and 80th. Through words and photographs Savi and Ghirri depict in their essays the Rossi’s architecture with an original genre of criticism: a literary approach based on a specific genre called by Savi «racconto critico»; photography begin an instruments of criticism which use the original subject like a pretext to develop autonomous and original works.
While the subject of the criticism remains the Rossi’s work, the researches by Savi and Ghirri develop an autonomous language that can be read as autonomous critical work; from one side it is a critical read of Rossi’s architecture, from the other side it is based on the research on the meaning of the instrument used. From the first monograph of Rossi’s works (V. Savi, L’architettura di Aldo Rossi, 1976) to the exhibition Paesaggio. Immagine e realtà (1981), from the article by Savi and Ghirri about Rossi’s Cemetery in Modena published in «Lotus International» (1982) to the exhibition at Triennale di Milano Un viaggio in Italia (1987) edited by Savi and V. Magnago Lampugnani, exhibitions, monographs and articles are the principal vehicles to present a shared critical work. Architectural drawings, photographs and literature appear combined by the authors to narrating architecture and cities translating the Italian post-war tradition of narration of places by literature and photography employed, for example, by Elio Vittorini, Cesare Zavattini and Paul Strand and a critical hypothesis based on the Charles Baudelaire’s and Thomas Stearns Eliot’s thought.
The research is focused on the critical instruments used by the authors; after an historical reconstruction of the events based on the bibliography and on unpublished documents conserved in private archives (Vittorio Savi Archive – Doccia; Luigi Ghirri Archive – Modena; Aldo Rossi Archive – Roma) the work concerns significant circumstance of the development of critical hypothesis in Italy during the 70th and 80th.


Matteo Cassani Simonetti Graduated in 2010 from the Faculty of Architecture at Ferrara and completed his PhD in architecture at the Department of Architecture of University of Bologna in 2014. He has participated in national and international conferences and has published papers and essays dealing with 19th and 20th century architectural history. Since 2014 he has been an adjunct professor of History of architecture and, since 2017, Junior assistant professor at the Department of Architecture of University of Bologna. He won an Erasmus-Mundus post-doctoral fellowship at the Department of Arts of University of Haifa (December 2015-June 2016). His main research fields are the relation between modern architecture and history in Italy and architectural criticism and historiography.
Recent publications: Architettura moderna e centri antichi. Piero Bottoni e Ferrara (1932-1971), Bologna: Bononia University Press, 2016; Words, Image, Architecture: Vittorio Savi and Luigi Ghirri. In Luigi Ghirri and the Photography of Place. Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Marina Spunta and Jacopo Benci eds., Oxford, New York: Peter Lang, 2017.


Image caption and credits
Aldo Rossi e alcuni membri della “Tendenza” in occasione della mostra internazionale di architettura “Architettura razionale”, Triennale di Milano, 1973.
Courtesy of Archivio Vittorio Savi.

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