Antonino Saggio  I Quaderni


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Antonino Saggio
University La Sapienza, Faculty of Architecture L. Quaroni - DiAR
Rome, Italy


From what point of time can we start the idea of the Hybrid space in order to have ideas and inspirations for the current interest on this theme within contemporary digital culture?

A very interesting moment to start our investigation is the XVI century in Rome. We can shortly focusing, as an introduction on two key examples Casino of Pio IV in Vatican Gardens in Rome and Gardens at Palazzo Farnese in Caprarola). They are relevant because they opened d up the idea of hybridation in the treatment of land and vegetation together with space and architecture

The idea of to day is that architecture, can become a reactive landscape, complex, animated and alive in a process of combination with other elements of technology. Thus Information Technology plays three key roles in this context:

- First of all, it supplies the “mathematical models” to investigate the geological, biological, physical and chemical complexity of nature.
- In the second place, IT supplies decisive weapons for the real construction of projects conceived with this complex “all digital” logic);
- In the third place, IT endows architecture with reactive systems capable of simulating types of behavior in nature, in reacting to climate, usage flows and ultimately also emotional behavior, and so offers a new phase of esthetic research we have frequently discussed when speaking of the challenges of Interactivity.
- And in the fourth place, IT, or rather the Information Age, also supplies an overall different model of the city and urban landscape.

The presentation of prof. Saggio will elaborate on these concepts showing very recent examples coming from his Chair at La Sapienza Rome and from the Research group Nitro (“New Information Technolgy Research Group”) based in Rome and in Sicily.

necropoli etrusca di Sutri, V sec a.C ca



Introduction: The idea of Hybrid Space

From what point of time can we start the idea of the Hybrid Space in order to have ideas and inspirations for the current interest on this theme within contemporary digital culture?
I think that a very interesting moment to start our investigation is the XVI century in Rome because in that moment the idea of merging of different systems and elements had a new light and force. Previously, in the first decades of the XV century, one can see the moment of birth of a “pure” architecture based on the invention of the perspective and in the following creation of a whole architectural “hard” world (see for example Santo Spirito in Florence by Brunelleschi). The XVI century can be seen instead as the moment of the creation of a much more “hybrid” idea of space and of architecture. If in the first case geometry, modular systems, proportions are the key words, in the second, merging, combining, coexisting of different scale elements and finally hybridization are the key concepts.



One key stone example, is the Farnese gardens in Caprarola (near Rome). In this case architect Giacomo del Duca developed an advanced system of hybridization between natural elements (gardens, vegetation, slope and above all water), artificial elements (wall, viaducts, retaining walls and fountains) and elements of symbolic nature and decoration. This example as well as other contemporary ones (such as the Garden of Bomarzo) opened up the idea of hybridization in the treatment of land and vegetation together with space and architecture.


Giacomo del Duca, the Gardens of Farnese palace, Caprarola (Viterbo, Italy) 1565







The first one is “Casino di Pio IV” architect Pirro Ligorio in the Vatican Gardens in Rome. In this landmark example one can see the hybridizing of three systems. The first one is the decorative and symbolic archeologist memory of the ancient roman architecture. The second is the spatial organization of the “voids” (i.e. the different buildings are organized not as singular elements but as a coordinated systems of mutual relationships). The third factor is the combination with the sloping topography of the site. The interlocking of these three elements can be seen here for the first time. The Casino became the prototype of numerous examples along the next two centuries of Hybrid urban space creation in Rome (i.e. Trevi Fountain, Navona Square and The Spanish steps to mention just a few).



Pirro Ligorio, Casino of Pio IV, Vatican Gardens Rome 1562





SILVIA LA PERGOLA Advisor A. Saggio La Sapienza Dalla Trinità dei monti all'ex Porto di Ripetta >

Naturally we could see other examples later on, but the key concepts of hybridization have been founded in these two examples. Now, we have to make a jump of four centuries and start to address the new conception of space, land, architecture and artifacts, which emerged in the 1990s. This process is due to many factors related to the whole society shift from an Industrial model to an Information one. Some of the side effect of these overall shifts is the new importance of environmental issues and the emergence of a new key concept: it is the concept of landscape. The concept of landscape is, in its own nature, a hybrid and crossing one in which coexist many factors, many forces, many elements.

These days, not only the process of design is multidisciplinary but also the product is hybrid. More and more we are confronting with buildings that are natural elements, with objects that are half natural and half artificial, with gardens that are technologically rich. Within this process of hybridization Information Technology is the driving force. Let’ address this issue.




Hybridization: No design Limits

If it is true that architecture is based on its specific materials (patterns of use, concepts of space, construction methods and technologies, research into expressive language), then it is just as true that it is also built through the use of “other” materials; materials apparently foreign to architecture, but ones that in reality make up the backbone of a broader and deeper reference connecting architectural considerations to the world and society, to the scientific and philosophical concepts of their own time. This concept of Hybridizing different areas of thoughts, different techniques and different spaces is at the foundation of my work and of that the book series IT Revolution in Architecture which I found and edit since 1998. There are at lest three books within the series that deal directly with this topic and all of three have in common the Prefix “New” in the title. They are: New Flatness by Alicia Imperiale, New Wombs by Maria Luisa Palumbo and New Scapes by Paola Gregory.



Interesting analogies can be found by looking at all three volumes together, interesting “common movements” exactly towards this process of hybridization.
I was led to working in architecture with the conviction that no limits must be placed on the design and this is again a way of thinking at hybridazation.
As a consequence of this “no design limits”, there must be no misunderstanding between the materials and meanings, between the means and the ends. For a long time now, there has been an attempt to confine architecture to those hard materials of permanent structures: steel, reinforced concrete, stone and granite. As a consequence of this artificial confinement, terms have been invented that are reductive or simply ugly. When working with green spaces, trees, meadows, flowers or movements of earth or temporary structures, there was the "art of gardening"; when stone was substituted by papier-mâché, there was "set design"; when the materials were mobile, there was "furnishing"; when the objects were used in public spaces, there was "urban furnishing".

But if we turn the question around, everything becomes clear. Design in relation to space is architecture but it is an architecture, depending on the case, needs and limitations, that uses different materials. From hard and permanent to light materials made of water, vegetation, reflections and light. This type of reasoning opens up a whole range of activities to the designer that, depending on the case and need, multiplies the possibilities of the project.

"Depending on the case and need" means, for example, that when the architect cannot build a wall of stone, he can build one with a spray of water; when he wants to redirect flows and lines, he can do it with a painting or projection (if we do not wish to use ancient obelisks); when he needs a new spatiality, he could perhaps use fabrics, curtains, or if he really needs them he can dig his spaces out of the earth or hang them in mid-air like a balloon.

Today, architecture and information technology directly face the issue of the urban setting. This happens not only because we have new tools for conceiving space (palimpsests, layers, dynamic diagrams, in-between spaces, emerging forms, etc.) but because the real and the virtual can now be combined in a manner once unheard of. So we can look forward to an Information Era Baroque, with its new Piazza Navonas, new Trevi Fountains and new Trinità dei Monti of 2006; in other words, a new, interactive urban choreography.





Hybridization: The role of IT

Contrary to what one might think at first, the conscious acceptance of the IT paradigm and its tools makes reasons, influences and processes more profound.
Along with helping create great tools for simulating complexity, a fundamental outcome of the research and modeling allowed by the scientific and mathematical basis of Information technology, a vector is also connected that penetrates into the richness of relations with the material, in a continuous hypothesizing of changing and interrelated relationships, in giving center place to the method of hypotheses and simulation instead of rigid theoretical assumptions. And so research goes deep: into a surface that becomes loaded with interwoven movements and active flows – i.e. New Flatness - , into a body that is transformed to its core, - New Wombs - and even into a new concept of landscape and nature – New Scapes.

The aspect of hybridizing the natural and the artificial is at the center of the conception of space nowadays.

Landscape as a fundamental paradigm in the creation of architecture has, for at least twenty years or so, been a reference word for the entire architectural debate.
Human beings from the electronic and post-industrial civilization can re-settle their account with nature because if the manufacturing industry dominated and exploited natural resources, then the information technology industry can help increase their appreciation and conservation. At least in technologically advanced countries, this structural change of direction opens up the opportunity for a “compensation” of historic proportions. Green areas, nature and structures for leisure time activities can all now be placed in areas built up frequently with very high density construction. In other words, precisely because of those reasons we have already mentioned, the process is not “on the surface”. We are not dealing with circumscribing and fencing off green areas to contrast with those other residential, tertiary and managerial areas as was part of the logic of organizing by dividing the industrial city. On the contrary, we mean creating new integrated parts of the city where that interacting group of activities typical of the information society exist alongside a powerful presence of nature. Naturally, the tools change as well. If zoning was the method for planning the industrial city through the division into homogeneous zones that were distinct among themselves and simulated the Tayloristic concept of industrial production, then multi-functionality and integration have now become the necessities for the information city and its new anti-zoning areas. The nature intended in this concept of landscape is no longer floral or “art nouveau-style”; neither is it the nature of the masters of the Organic Architecture, counterpoint to the mechanical and industrial world. This concept of nature has in fact become much more complex, much more difficult, much more “hidden” and is also investigated by architects and designers with an anti-romantic eye through the formalisms of contemporary science (fractals, DNA, atoms, the leaps of an expanding universe, the relationship between life and matter, topological geometry, animated forms). In other words, through the categories of complexity. Hidden in this context are the figures of flows, the wave, whirlpools, crevasses and liquid crystals; fluidity becomes the key word. It describes the constant mutation of information and places architecture face to face with the most advanced research frontiers, from biology to engineering, to the new fertile areas of superimposition such as morphogenesis, bioengineering or biotechnology.





Avery interesting examples is the Giardino Sonoro (Gardens of Sounds) built in Florence by the musicist Lorenzo Brusci and the landscape creator Massimo Passerotti. The Giardino Sonoro is composed by a series of installations that interrelate contemporary musical electronic composition with architecture and garden thinking.



LORENZO BRUSCI e MASSIMO PASSEROTTi "Il Giardino Sonoro" Florence >

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