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The very-short XX Century of the Genoese Modernism

Valter Scelsi

26:03 min

THIS VIDEO SELECTION ILLUSTRATES THE RESEARCH PROJECT developed by the sixty students engaged in the Architectural Design Lab 2A of Genoa Polytechnic School (DAD: Department of Design and Architecture), during the academic year 2017-18. Throughout the course, held in collaboration with the tutors Francesco Bacci, Elisabetta Canepa and Angelo Torre, we explored some case studies in the architectural heritage built up in Genoa during the alleged "secolo brevissimo del Moderno Genovese", a digression in the city history bridging the beginning of 1946 and the end of 1989, namely a sort of “very-short XX Century”. Every case study became the subject for a two-minutes short film, completely written, directed, shot, edited and acted by students.

FIRSTLY, THE STUDENTS HAVE BEEN ASKED to split in fourteen research groups and to comb through the volumes published, between 1946 and 1989, by eleven Italian architectural magazines ("Abitare", "Casabella", "Controspazio", "Domus", "L’architettura. Cronache e storia", "L’Industria delle Costruzioni", "Lotus", "Metron", "Spazio & Società", "Urbanistica", "Zodiac"), looking for whichever architectural artefact erected in the above-mentioned period all around the Genoa city area. The sifting work has produced a repertory of architectures which inevitably combines with the collective memories of an entire community, leaving to emerge an old matter: we can commonly use architecture as an expressive fact, even without excluding functionality or other sense elements. In this attribution of meaning, the architecture gives evidence of what we can call its “analogical character”, that distinguishes it from otherwise articulated and organized languages, offering itself mainly through its own image.

Once the students have elaborated a detailed catalogue of research results, they selected fourteen case studies: fourteen “modern architectures”, that survive today in a complicated risk and precariousness condition, in terms of preservation, use and identity. This evident vulnerability, both physical and conceptual, is especially due to their nature, to the fact to be authentic products of the Modern Movement.

THEN, EVERY PICKED ARCHITECTURE has been converted into a story, starting point for developing the plot for a short film. Shots of the future movie have been sketched and progressively improved within a six-windows storyboard. The focus was to analyse the state of crisis pressing the architectural character, often opting for a narration from the perspective of the buildings. The key elements described in every video are really varied: daily life, feelings of abandon and loneliness, lack of resources for safeguarding and promoting the existing heritage, innovative and unexpected uses of the structures, complaint by dwellers, reminiscence of some past experiences or events, exploration of the real potentialities of the places, hypotheses of rehabilitation and revaluation, etc. Each short film has turned out an original contribution: the students were satisfied and pleasantly surprised by their first video on architecture, and in some cases first video simply.

The film – which sets itself as an instrument, in its classical way, able to attempt to construct a sense of meaning by assembling, selecting sequences and individual frames – has hosted the stories of our list short and incomplete, which then also wants to be an easy and partial guide of Genoa city.

THE FILM SERIES HAS BEEN PLAYED on loop during the exhibit "Riflessioni sul secondo Novecento italiano: Architetture a rischio", a group video installation set up within Sala delle Colonne, the exhibition hall of Turin Polytechnic School, as a part of the national conference "Conservazione, tutela, ridestinazione per l’architettura italiana del secondo Novecento", curated by Gentucca Canella and Paolo Mellano (12-13 December, 2016).


Anna Zichinolfi, Gaia Santaniello

A walk through contemporary architecture in Genoa: Griffe boutique by Gianfranco Frattini.

The video "Interactions" was conceived and filmed by students of the "Architectural Design" course held by Valter Scelsi at Genoa University. The aim was to focus attention on contemporary architecture and its maintenance: when architectural value is overlooked, even valuable buildings are affected by deterioration.

A young woman lost in thought and walking rapidly in the street notices a familiar place. She stops upon passing a shop and lets her memory drift to when she was a child and used to play right there.

The story introduces the boutique designed in 1961 by the architect and designer Gianfranco Frattini. The shop is located in Via Roma, one of the most important streets in Genoa city centre. Paola Abolaffio commissioned the store as part of a larger business. In fact, despite some adversity, such as the 1929 crisis and the Second World War, the Abolaffio family played an important role in the fashion industry in Genoa throughout the twentieth century.

The two-storey shop has been created by renovating a double-volume space within an ancient building. The interiors are mainly wooden and all the details have been thought out carefully. The space is modern and sober. The architect played with its tight structure and arches, cladding them in wood and creating a lot of gaps. That place was once a play area for a little girl.


Authors: Veronica Puppo, Ariana Nunes Feliciano
Architect: Gianfranco Frattini
Mentioned project: Griffe Boutique
Project location: Genoa, Italy

Italy 2016
Duration: 2'45''