Teorema 008: Centro Direzionale, Florence, 1977, 29.7 _ 21cm, (detail) Blue ballpoint pen and black felt tip marker on glossy white paper, Aldo Rossi.

Teorema 008: Centro Direzionale, Florence, 1977, 29.7 _ 21cm, (detail) Blue ballpoint pen and black felt tip marker on glossy white paper, Aldo Rossi.

Aldo Rossi left a tremendous amount of thought-provoking sketches representing his design process. These playful sketches were part of intense research and also served as a method to facilitate his imagination (Rossi, 2000).

Rossi was born in Milan and attended the Milan Polytechnic, graduating in 1959. Upon leaving school, he became an assistant to Ludovico Quaroni at the School of Urban Studies in Arezzo. Also in 1959, Rossi joined the Il Contemporanco editorial staff, becoming editor of Casabella in 1964. Beginning his architectural career with competitions, theoretical, and small projects, he also held positions in academia – professor at the Milan Polytechnic, the Federal Polytechnic of Zurich, and the University of Venice. Serving as visiting professor in such schools as Cornell, Cooper Union, Yale, and Harvard, Rossi questioned paradigms of architecture and the city. He published his first book, The Architecture of the City, in 1966 (Rossi, 1981).

Rossi’s architecture references recurring themes of ritual and memory. He felt strongly about place as a regional, cultural, and yet global concept (Rossi, 1981). Rossi received the Pritzker prize for architecture in 1990 in consideration of his body of work, including the Cemetery of San Cataldo, Modena, Italy (1971); Teatro del Mondo, Venice (1979); Civic Center, Perugia, Italy (1982); Carlo Felice Theater, Genoa (1983); and Center for Contemporary Art, Vassiviére, France (1988).

Rossi’s vast number of published sketches demonstrate how he utilized images in the process of design and as a dialogue between the past and the future. These pages are layered with elevations, bird’s-eye axonometric views, and distorted perspectives, constantly utilizing the sketch to enforce multiple viewpoints (Rossi, 2000). Many of the sketches, as part of complete pages, intersect and overlap with these views. Rendered in color with active, fast lines, the sketches often include full context and become dense conglomerations of cities. Paolo Portoghesi writes that Rossi’s interest in viewing a design from many angles stems from an idea of torsione, or twisting. This use of torsione, was ‘a means of maintaining contact with memories without abandoning them’ (Rossi, 2000, p. 13).

This sketch (Figure 7.18) reflects the playful nature of Rossi’s design process. The page contains axonometric, plan, and plan/oblique sketches, all oriented to provide multiple views. The images show two types of pen, one lighter in tone, and the other facilitating a free flow of ink and rendering a darker line. Here, a second layer refined his first thoughts and acted as guidelines, encouraging a level of critique. Several of the brief plans have been dimensioned or reinforced to show he studied them more thoroughly than others. At the bottom of the page has been placed three slender towers topped with fully extended flags and a door piercing a crenellated wall. The largest axonometric, describing two adjacent buildings, has been flanked by a yard appearing to contain a giraffe or a horse.

The cube-shaped plan/oblique to the upper left has been detailed with a pediment over the door, a cut corner, and a long walkway. The building appears surprisingly like an animal, especially since it was given two blue ink eyes. The remainder of the page has been left relatively monochromatic, accenting the eyes. Perhaps as Rossi was sketching the small structure, with its corner cut ears and the pediment nose, he could not resist adding a circle to enhance the nose and two blue eyes. This page reflects

Rossi’s strong sense of architecture as being permeated with memories and evoking associations.

From Kendra Schank Smith, Architects Drawings, Architectural Press, Oxford, 2005

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