The three short films part of this Strip are aiming at analyzing, exploring and criticizing, through moving images, the War Memorial in Como designed by Giuseppe Terragni starting from a drawing by Antonio Sant'Elia. On the occasion of Sant'Elia's death anniversary, and its celebrations, a workshop tutored by director Ila Bêka and participated by students from Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio was held, promoted by Ordine degli architetti di Como and curated by architects Stefano Larotonda and Niccolò Nessi. The film series has been then included in the "Visione e Regola. L'incontro tra futurismo e razionalismo nel Monumento ai Caduti di Como" exhibition that opened in Como on November 30, 2016.
SIX ARCHITECTURE STUDENTS ARE INVITED by the culture committee of the Architect's Association of Como (Ordine degli architetti di Como) to join the Architettura e Cinema workshop held by director Ila Bêka. Task of this workshop is to produce 3 films that will interpret the War Memorial (Monumento ai Caduti di Como) made by Giuseppe Terragni starting from a drawing by Antonio Sant'Elia that Tommaso Marinetti chose to honor his death in the battle.
During the first meeting, when students start the discussion about their possible approaches, a statement by Sant’Elia is discovered, that immediately treads the path of the research: the goal will be to give life again to this house of death.
"LET US MAKE AN END OF MONUMENTAL, funereal and commemorative architecture. Let us overturn monuments, pavements, arcades and flights of steps… The fundamental characteristics of Futurist architecture will be its impermanence and transience. Things will endure less than us. Every generation must build its own city…" (Antonio Sant'Elia)
Marinetti’s act to choose a drawing of him to make a memorial is interpreted by students as an obscure betrayal of Futurist ideals.
HOW CAN WE GIVE LIFE BACK TO AN ARCHITECTURE THAT IS ALREADY DEAD and whose only function is to commemorate the departed? Three directions are explored.
The first is based upon a formal approach. The construction made by Terragni drifts away from architectural lines drafted by Sant’Elia. Awkward and stocky, it jars on the slender inventions leaning towards the future in his utopian drawings. The decision is about bringing the construction back to its lost impetus through a formal representation is Futurist style. The building is filmed during the nighttime and its lost power is recalled by a rapid and uneven montage (In assenza - Tradimento).
THE SECOND DIRECTION IS BASED UPON A MORE SUBSTANTIAL APPROACH. The construction made by Terragni is unfinished. On the top of its tower Sant’Elia designed kind of a lantern whose light would have transformed it into a lighthouse. Because of economical reasons the lantern was never done. This missing part of the monument is recognized by students as the only way to revitalize Sant’Elia’s principles. The unfinished as regenerating space. The finished as space of death. The top of the monument becomes then an open stage for ephemeral theatrical representations that will evoke this absence (In assenza - Luce).
The third direction is based upon a symbolic approach. In the center of the monument there is a dark room conceived by Terragni for hosting an enormous monolith in marble where the names of all fallen soldiers are written, included Sant’Elia, with blood red paint (In assenza - Epifania).
THIS IMPRESSIVE MASS of such a high density of death intimidates the students who seek refuge at the lower floor, where they discover with great surprise a huge, white and bare crypt. This strong tension between the solid monolith and the empty crypt that supports it becomes, in the eyes of the students, a metaphor for the relationship between the dense meaning that the monument represents for an era long gone, and its contemporary depriving.
The best way to accentuate this depriving consists in creating a sound propagating in the vacuum of crypt to reawaken the monument from its eternal slumber. The singing of a young women appears as the proper sound.
After establishing the three selected directions and briefly setting up, the students start to film.
AT THE END OF THE FIRST DAY OF FILMING, however, something extraordinary happens.
All students fortuitously are in the black area of the monolith when the young woman starts singing to test the acoustics.The dusk lighting, the sound reflected between the walls and the monolith, and the icy cold sliding along the walls produce a kind of spatial catharsis, one that leaves everyone stunned.
The architecture intensely emanates its power. It is an emotional revelation, a Joycean epiphany, a spatial illumination. The sacredness of death, detached from any religious meaning, manifests itself through light, sound and proportions of the space modeled into architecture.
The students realize that to concentrate on the exterior, the roof and the crypt of the monument was definitely a recklessly to evade the strong magnetism of that space. As six small steel balls rotating around a magnet, in the end they were taken in.
BLACK HEART BEATING. Sun and its orbiting planets. Nuclear power plant with working reactor. Seeds imprisoned in the core of the fruit. All these new images overlap to the ones already shot for the three films.
The sheer thrill of perceiving the space sweeps away every kind of conceptual reflection. The essence, perhaps, of architecture.
Disturbance, trepidation, excitement, discouragement. What to do now? Do to abandon the three rational directions related to the Sant’Elia’s project and let go of the emotion provoked by Terragni room? Has the gravitational center of the monument been moved or is its perception to be no longer the same?
THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MONUMENT shifts from the form to the creative process. The real movie is now in the student’s personal spatial perception. Themselves are the film.
We try to give back the whole process through a psycho-spatial-analytical session filmed at night, with the six students around a table. However soon it is clear that switching from observer to emotional protagonist is too much painful. An external analysis is better to prefer. A distance for protecting the experience is needed. Thus the choice is to end the three films, and then in the event when writing a text.
This short film is the first in a series of three aimed at analyzing, exploring and criticizing, through moving images, the War Memorial in Como designed by Giuseppe Terragni starting from a drawing by Antonio Sant'Elia. On the occasion of Sant'Elia's death anniversary, and its celebrations, a workshop tutored by director Ila Bêka and participated by students from Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio was held, promoted by Ordine degli architetti di Como and curated by architects Stefano Larotonda and Niccolò Nessi.
The work investigates the futuristic qualities of the monument, by reflecting about its genesis. Italian futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti chose a drawing among the numerous ones by Sant'Elia and charged the scenographer Enrico Prampolini to develop construction documents for its realization, then Giuseppe Terragni completed the building. During the process, however, a misinterpretation of the futuristic suggestions led to a monumental and celebrative architecture. The short film aims to invert this situation, by decomposing images of the monument and recomposing them in a new order to recall the main futuristic qualities of the project: transience and impermanence. Twisted frames, interpenetration of plans, superimpositions and irregular editing compose the short film, while music emphasizes fragmentations by means of its rhythms. Thus the monument is revealed as a new and more dynamic object. The short film puts side by side images taken from the real building and merges them with pictures of the maquette. As a result, the ambiguity between the real and its representation is highlighted in terms of dimensions and materials, upsetting the viewer's linear perception and bringing observers into the futuristic universe.