Archetype Revisited

aaa - call for papers

This paper was written for the competition Architetti Cercasi, organized in two phases: a call for papers (result published on 24.08.2010), on key themes of the contemporary housing, and an architectural competition (result to be published in October 2010), focused on those themes and their practical application on the given site and program.

(the Italian version here)

The language of contemporary architecture speaks in disparate and varied ways. Nevertheless it is interesting to note how several projects instead of a new language, propose and identify with an “archetype revisited”. That is, more than taking a step forward, taking a side step, rediscovering the archetype and giving it new connotations.


In the past two decades residential architecture has, in the most successful cases, responded to new demands caused by social changes such as fragmentation of the family unit, greater job mobility (increase of teleworking and SOHO, small office home office) and the spread of new housing types such as cohousing.

Is there a common architectural language that could be associated with those new demands? An overview of recent, internationally published, housing projects shows how they can hardly be grouped according to a unitary language: once disconnection between form and content is digested “anything goes”, as evidenced by Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi.
In such a diverse production, however, there are several projects share a common approach, not a language maybe but a strategy. They seek to establish a relationship with the place that is formal but not philological, an operation of identification and abstraction at the same time, an approach that I called “archetype revisited”.
Two categories of archetype revisited can be mentioned: the “house” and the “village”. For example, the profile with gabled roof features the Sliding House, by dRMM: a clear formal connotation combined with a highly technological solution. Herzog and de Meuron play with the same archetype, with an irony absent in earlier works, in House Fröhlich, VitraHaus and the new Feltrinelli Foundation. The archetype of the village is found in Sou Fujimoto’s buildings in Hokkaido, in BIG housing developments in Holbæk and Malmö, but also in museum projects such us the first version of the Parrish Art Museum, by Herzog and de Meuron, and the Hepworth Wakefield by David Chipperfield.
“Archetypes revisited” retrieve certain forms from the collective memory for an operation different from the research of Aldo Rossi or even from the educated and respectful design of many Alvaro Siza’s pieces. The connotation is to be found in the light quotation, in the ambiguity of scale, in the respect for volumes and not for tectonic of the surrounding buildings, in high-tech/primitive form synergy and in the underlying values such as relationship, warmth, protection, identity.

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