Theatre of the Dialogic Self: Carlo Aymonino’s Civic Architecture

Tairan An (MDes '17)

The Roman architect Carlo Aymonino (1926-2010) is one of the most prominent protagonists of the Italian Neo-Rationalist Movement of the 1960s and 70s. This thesis takes as its subject three of Aymonino’s civic projects, which he quite self-consciously conceived of, then fashioned, as a continuum: first, the psychiatric hospital in Mirano (1967), which found expression in a neo-Enlightenment geometrical encasing of a pyramid within a square; second, the Monte Amiata residential complex of Gallaratese, Milan (1967-1972), which oriented low, rectangular building blocks towards an amphitheatre; and finally, the civic center in Pesaro (1976-1979), which in ghostly fashion reiterated Mirano only to overturn its programmatic premise. My aim here is to see how these three projects allow us to explore a set of fundamental issues in which the fragmentation and collage suggested by postmodern aesthetics collide with the programs expected of certain typologies: when Aymonino stitched these three projects together, he was suggesting architectural, philosophical, and theatrical links between the asylum, the residence, and the civic plaza. The purposeful combination he made, then, allows us to consider the interrelationship and opposition between an architecture for social outcasts, an architecture of home, and an architecture for the urban collective as well as the tension between the stoicism of pure form and an excessive symbolism that speaks simultaneously to memory, to the reality of the tectonic, and to the theatre of the city. Aymonino’s civic architecture, this thesis aims to show, dramatizes the architectural and urban dialogue—dialogue in the sense that Mikhail Bakhtin has theorized it—between the public institutions of the city (where social expectations are the most overwhelming) and the individual relation’s to others – other bodies, other social groups, other ideologies. What I see as a dialectic of architectural autonomy against its social responsibility unfolds as a dialogical drama in the hands of Aymonino.