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Opus Incertum
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  This is an Open Access Journal Open Access journal
ISSN (Print) 2239-5660 - ISSN (Online) 2035-9217
Published by Firenze University Press Homepage  [41 journals]
  • Questioni di facciata' Il colore dello spazio, lo spazio del colore e
           la bellezza del bianco

    • Authors: Grazia Maria Fachechi
      Abstract: A difficult aspect to put into context, colour is not of secondary importance, but rather is of primary consideration in the design of a building as to how it will be perceived, starting with its facade. White as a colour (whether the sum of all colors or their very absence and negation) seems to have been the preferred choice of architects throughout the ages. It was determined by the materials in use but also by cultural-symbolic reasons. White was mistakenly believed to be “the colour” of Classical Antiquity, but only because of the decay of time and the loss of pigments that characterized, for example, the pediment in Classical temples. That’s why it was considered particularly suited for expressing the ideal of formal perfection, beginning with the Renaissance, continuing with the Baroque, Neo-Palladianism, Neo-Classicism, as well as the architecture of the fascist period. So rare in Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, eras characterized by a tendency for a more or less insistent use of polychromy, in which white was just one of many possible colours, the monochrome modality becomes a growing option. However long seen as a reference to Classical Antiquity, and from a philological point of view due to the Modernist movement the negation of historical truth or the recognition of colour as aesthetic error, white has risen as a contemporary symbol. It is considered on the one hand perfect for expressing a neutral state which doesn’t speak but is spoken about, allowing its context or content to emerge. While on the other hand it is perfect for the search for other dimensions outside of time and the surrounding space.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Appunti per una semiotica storica del bianco in architettura

    • Authors: Giovanna Perini Folesani
      Abstract: The paper is a short survey of the meaning and value of the colour white in western architecture from the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th century, based on a selective commentary of often well-known passages from major art literature sources. A special emphasis is obviously placed on theoretical texts such as Alberti’s De re aedificatoria and Serlio’s treatise, but also on 16th century Italian books on the emblematic meaning of colours (e.g., Morato, Sicillo Araldo).
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Senso del colore e assenza di colori nell’architettura sacra medievale e
           nelle sue ‘rivisitazioni’ in Italia: qualche considerazione sulla
           facies esterna

    • Authors: Grazia Maria Fachechi
      Abstract: As Michael Pastoureau contends, the Middle Ages was the era of colour, when many things had the “right to colour”. Things that would not be polychrome anymore in the modern and contemporary age, such as building facades and sculptures (he says so, but of course it is just a generalization), which will instead conform to a purely monochromatic, often totally white, aesthetic. Though during the Middle Ages a polychromatic appearance of buildings and sculptures was usually preferred, we have extraordinary examples of Cistercian buildings where colour was programmatically refused (even stained glass windows were in grisaille), which influenced modern and contemporary architects, such as Le Corbusier. So, we can say that the Middle Ages continued and strengthened the relationship between form and colour which characterized the temples and sculptures of Antiquity. Even though studies on polychromy in Medieval monuments have recently become more common, we still lack a critical overview that, based on single case studies, can interpret the data and answer the questions: what was the "chromatic approach" of the Medieval architect, and how did he express it'
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Mura di luce, facciate di diamanti. Metafore del bianco
           nell’architettura del Quattrocento

    • Authors: Mario Bevilacqua
      Abstract: Building with light: a utopian idea that in its incessant changing of meaning, techniques and functions, crosses the entire history of western architecture. Raising crystal walls - transparent, or made of gold, of gems and diamonds, in other words of light - is an inherently Christian metaphor, though by no means applied to sacred architecture only. High and mighty walls of shining precious stones defend the Celestial Jerusalem: pure white, as evoked in specific working techniques of stone walls, is thus a metaphor for strength, protection, salvation, that finds abundant use in civil architecture. Out of a variety of late Mediaeval examples, during the second half of the 15th century emerges the theme of the “diamond palace”: not a building typology or a specific model, as intended so far, but rather a wall's finishing work that can be found in a great variety of contexts with military, defensive meanings. In the earliest and most ambitious examples (Naples, Milan, Finalborgo, Ferrara), the residence of the soldier, miles christianus, becomes an ideal bastion of faith, built, like the walls of the Celestial Jerusalem, from gems and light.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Bianco e colori. Sigismondo Malatesta, Alberti, e l’architettura del
           Tempio Malatestiano

    • Authors: Massimo Bulgarelli
      Abstract: The use of white Istrian stone on the exterior of the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini is due to a variety of reasons. On the one hand it is a reference to the evocative power of the colour white in ancient Roman architecture, recalling the origins of the city - the arch of Augustus and the bridge of Augustus and Tiberius - as well as, in more general terms, an Imperial attribute, already recorded in ancient literary sources, and well known by Leon Battista Alberti and the humanists at the court of Sigismondo Malatesta. On the other hand, the colour white is one of the aspects of the identification of the patron and the building. Together with white, in fact, red and green are also used – in the marble crustae of the gateway and in the painted traces of wall surfaces found recently on the sides of the building - showing the heraldic colours of the Malatesta. The Temple, like Castel Sismondo, was adopted as an emblematic image in Sigismondo's medals together with the family livery.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • «Il bellissimo bianco» della Sacrestia Nuova: Michelangelo, Vasari,
           Borghini e la tradizione fiorentina come nuova identità medicea

    • Authors: Eliana Carrara, Emanuela Ferretti
      Abstract: The story of the San Lorenzo complex is closely linked to the Medici family, as a rich historiography has well documented. Much research has been devoted to the patronage of Giovanni di Bicci and Cosimo il Vecchio. Intensive research has also been carried out on Michelangelo's Sacrestia Nuova, and the role played in it by Popes Leo X and Clement VII. Only recently was the connection between the two branches of the family and the church of San Lorenzo explored: the Medici descendants of Cosimo the Elder and those of Pier Francesco il Popolano, which would then generate the dynasty of the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The paper analyses the role of Cosimo I in the commission of the Sacrestia Nuova, that was to remain unfinished due to Michelangelo's departure from Florence in 1534. The Sacrestia became a sort of laboratory where the various trends of the Ducal policy of the arts could meet: the connection with the main line of the family; the reflection on Quattrocento artistic tradition; the dialogue with Michelangelo's heritage. A new picture emerges, in which Giorgio Vasari and Vincenzio Borghini's intervention appears as fundamental in the definition of the facies of the chapel, later to be put in question by the restoration works commissioned by the Palatine Electress in the third decade of the 18th century, to such an extent that it can be said that two centuries of 'Medici expressiveness' are reflected in the Sacrestia Nuova.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Palladio a colori, Palladio in bianco e nero: il mito del bianco
           nell’architettura palladiana

    • Authors: Damiana Lucia Paternò
      Abstract: In Palladio's architecture the choice of colour is strictly related to the use of specific materials: stone, plaster, rectified bricks. His buildings can vary from the candid white of Istrian stone, to the warmer tones of Vicenza stone, and the bright red that characterises some of his buildings at the beginning of his Venetian period. The Four Books of Architecture, although at the origin of Palladio's fame, have created the dogma of an exclusively monochrome Palladio, white and stony. From the early 17th century, the parts in red stucco were often hidden under layers of 'fake stone' plaster with the purpose of correcting what was considered to be an error ascribable to unqualified craftsmanship and problems related to the construction site. An interpretation which was considered accurate until very recently, then refuted in the last decades of the 20th century thanks to a more careful attention to the materiality of Palladio's built structures.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Bianco come mimesi, allusione, fusione. Bernini, Borromini… Mies van
           der Rohe

    • Authors: Saverio Sturm
      Abstract: There is a series of various meanings and intentions which led the foremost masters of Baroque architecture to choose the colour white as the characterising element for certain environments. Bernini choses the monochrome palette for interior spaces destined to the nobility, but more often searches, through the grain and chromatic purity of Roman travertine, the ideal of a “naturalised” architecture, as mimesis of the natural world. Grafted instead with erudite allegorical references, Borromini's candid architecture does not want to represent an imitative or narrative nature, but rather a convincing allusion to the acting forces, to the dramatic tensions and symbolic meanings that pervade it. A possible synthesis between the two positions is identifiable in the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, notwithstanding the evident contextual difference. His obsessive attention to detail and technical solutions recalls Borromini's methods, whereas his use of colours is closer to Bernini. Only in the case of Farnsworth House did Mies choose a purely white architecture: a deliberate neutralisation of the building elements, with the purpose of ceding the main role to the surrounding nature, thus allowing a visual and ideal fusion with the polychromatic nature of the Illinois forest.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • L’uso del ‘bianco’ nel restauro architettonico a Roma
           nel XIX secolo

    • Authors: Olivia Muratore
      Abstract: The essay highlights how the debate on the approach to restoration interventions that is still currently ongoing, could already be recognised in the great restoration projects carried out in Rome in the first two decades of the 19th century, together with some of the maintenance practices undertaken throughout the whole century. Attention is especially placed on the external finishings of architectural structures, and in the practice of the so-called whitewashing of the facades during the 19th century. Although very commonly used for conservation and urban regeneration purposes, these practeces were strongly criticised and occasionally attacked by personalities of the field of restoration that were more sensitive to the importance of safeguarding the 'patina' which time had left on the surface of architectural structures, and that would otherwise be inevitably lost. Some of today's theoreticians of restoration find food for thought in those issues, which they continue to propose as an element for discussion amongst the various positions which see in the treatment of the surfaces of historical architecture a fertile ground for methodological debate.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Costruzioni letterarie e valori cromatici nel Danteum di Pietro Lingeri e
           Giuseppe Terragni

    • Authors: Carlo Albarello
      Abstract: In 1938 Giuseppe Terragni and Pietro Lingeri designed the Danteum, a monument to be erected in the new via dei Fori Imperiali in Rome. The project area, before the Basilica di Massenzio, is endowed with special symbolic value, since during the Fascist period this was already considered a suitable site for the architectural competition for a Palazzo Littorio. Both in the 1934 competition and in the 1938 project the problems connected to the inclusion of new elements onto the ancient remains called into question the chromatic issue as one which designers should take into far greater account. In this respect, the Danteum is the monument that more than others displays a quite interesting sequence of spacial structures which parallel Dante’s work while, at the same time, offering a peculiar chromatic synthesis in the ideal and material relationship with the various features of the historical period and the archaeological site. In this work the resulting mix of literary and architectural language was to serve as a tool to promote the ideology of the Fascist regime, while making of Dante Alighieri, through his work and thought, the interpreter of an autocratic view of political power.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
  • Le radici del bianco nell’opera di Richard Meier

    • Authors: Massimo Zammerini
      Abstract: Richard Meier’s work is the outcome of the revitalization of a vast linguistic-architectural heritage extending far beyond the Modernist experience. Meier subjectively rearranges the different roots of the Modern Movement employing a scientific attitude which looks back to the past from a typically American perspective, consisting in a rather free manipulation of the model for its immediate implementation in the present and its future reproducibility on a large scale. In the second half of the 20th century the architect takes a critical view of Modernism according to a research method which has something in common with the historical recovery of classical models typical of Neoclassicism. The work of Richard Meier stands out as having a real narrative pattern. Over time the artist improves and refines a kind of language which, though explicitly indebted to the work of Le Corbusier and his relationship with the Mediterranean Sea, pays closer and renewed attention to some spatial and language solutions. These, in turn, reflect and sum up relevant clues and suggestions drawn from the entire architectural heritage, going as far back as classical times, and take new life in the spaces and forms of its architecture where the presence of total white offers a valid solution to an otherwise inevitable short-circuit. The colour white artistically encapsulates the vast array of forms fixing them in a timeless frame.
      Issue No: Vol. 2
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Heriot-Watt University
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