A Modern Eden
Cities were born with closed, defined and recognizable shapes in opposition to the messy and dominant natural environment. They were the refuge of people from a world too complex to understand and control.
Today they seem to have completely lost this kind of value. Cities no longer have real boundaries and they have dimensions that go beyond the simple physical aspect. Basically, the current situation is opposite to the past because people live in a sort of huge “urban nature” with chaotic connotations.
“A modern Eden” is a utopian project which reinterprets the thesis work “Exodus or the voluntary prisoners of architecture” made in 1972 by Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis. Koolhaas imagines that a double wall passes through the central part of London and delineates “a strip of intense metropolitan desirability” able to exercise an irresistible attraction to citizens. In this scenario the population will begin a slow exodus to move, independently, into the space between the two walls and becoming, in this way, a voluntary prisoner of that construction.
“A modern Eden” uses the same architectural concept but it reverses its meaning. In Koolhaas project the area inside the city center is an exasperation of the metropolitan living; in “a modern Eden” is an exaltation of the natural environment. Paradoxically, in a world where urban spaces have lost all the comprehensible characters, can nature be the new element able to developing places for living?
“A modern Eden” is a city that takes the configuration of an inhabited enclosure and separates two realities: urban and natural. The contrast between this new space and the pre-existing urban context is emphasized in the strongest possible way. For this reason, access to the area is only allowed from a single entry, located at the center of the whole system. The walls have residences inside that are turned in the direction of the natural part; on the contrary, they have no openings and connections on the side facing the city.
The wall have 22 floors. 4 floors are used as underground warehouses; the ground floor spaces are the storage of farm equipment; 15 floors are divided in apartments and the last 2 floors, grouped in a single one floor, have a shuttle to transport people. Residences are designed in a different way depending on the number of people who can live there.
The natural area has a width of 770 meters (as in the Koolhaas project) and it is divided into 3 levels of terraces. The first one, close to the residences, is characterized by agricultural lands; the second one is occupied by gardens, parks and sports fields; the third one is a wooded area, wild and not controlled by people. A series of buildings with common spaces for working and leisure emerge at the heart of this total natural environment.
“A modern Eden” is a city in the city but it is also the possible genesis of a new type of city, alternative to the metropolis. It is a “no quality” architecture, far from stylistic research and innovative shapes.
Who influences you graphically?
The most important reference was DOGMA, but, of course, also the graphics that Rem Koolhaas used for his thesis project had a great influence on my work.
What is your take on the architectural continuum? How and to what extent are we always answering to and or influenced by the past and precedent events?
This is a tricky question. Past events constantly influence the present and determine the development of each future event. In architecture, it is unthinkable not to keep a continuity with history. Even the most radical architectural gestures are just part of a dialectical historical process.
In my opinion, in order to evolve way of thinking is crucial to contest the past but only with a careful and non-superficial interpretation.
What dictated the choice of Rousseau nature featured in the perspective?
I decided to use the nature of Rousseau’s paintings because my aim was to generate a strong, vivid and colourful image, in contrast to other drawings. I tried to create a perspective with a dreamy and visionary character, able to represent the atmosphere of the whole project.
For this reason I preferred to borrow a natural picture from the art world, avoiding the realistic one.
What defined the selection of drawings you choose to reveal the project through? How do these sit in relation to the original montages by Koolhaas?
“A modern Eden” works with current issues like city expansion, environmental problems or the role of nature today. The utopian aspect of the project wants to stimulate the observer to a different sight towards architecture and its role.
“A modern Eden” is a vision which tries to be as close as possible to reality to demonstrate the concreteness of its message.
That is why I used canonical architectural drawings (masterplans, plans in different sizes, elevations, sections, axonometries) considering, paradoxically, my project as a usual one.
For the same reason I focused my attention on the “realistic” aspects of Koolhaas’ drawings and I avoided the ambiguity of his collages.
Why the general absence of colour?
My purpose was to experiment the potential of simple pictures. I am convinced that is possible to make fine drawings able to communicate interesting ideas even without colours. Furthermore, I think that the total use of white and black palette increases the perception of a project far from reality and destined to remain forever a simple drawing.
What other medium would you be keen on exploring other than the two dimensional drawing?
I believe that exploring different approaches to architecture is fundamental, especially in this period of rapid technological evolution for expressive mediums.
In my opinion it might be interesting to accompany this project with a written story (similar to Koolhaas in “Exodus, or the voluntary prisoners of architecture”) or with a short movie (as sometimes Superstudio did). I am sure that both methods would emphasize the utopic aspects of the work.