Alessandro Armando, Giovanni Durbiano
Nobody dares to argue that architect knowledge is not critical knowledge. The criticism of the world is ingrained in the project, which that world aims to transform. But the breadth of the perspective opened by critical awareness is a historical product, changeable over time. For some forty years (at least since the accusation against Italian architects of “Retreat from Modern Architecture”) a certain notion of “critical” knowledge has taken on an increasingly dominant function.
With the crisis of the link assumed by the Modern between architectural language, program of social transformation and ethical horizon, the designer does not act only on the basis of a provision, determined in a certain space and in a certain time; but through the project it opens a discourse on the world, which presupposes other unverifiable spaces and future times. This is the case with what happened in Italy between the fifties and eighties of the last century, when the project is interpreted as the neutral vehicle of a speech developed primarily in the architect’s head. The prevalence of intention thus allows the architect to propose his own “vision of the world”, whose legitimacy, being based on the origin and not on the effects, does not need to be negotiated with anyone, and continuously runs the risk of being self-referential. If, on the other hand, the project is intended as the product of a strategy continually deviated by the instances that the project itself encounters from time to time, then the critical condition loses the aura of thirdness, and enters the game of action as a tool, among others, the performance of the project. Placing critical knowledge within, and not above, practical work allows you to open up a systematic reflection on the power of the project. It involves a shift of attention from the subject-author to the object-project, and allows an analytical and verifiable treatment of the design practices. The design action can in fact be understood as a specific set of skills and powers, straddling technique and politics, bureaucratic and symbolic dimension, forecasting and narration.