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Blueprint: interview with Franco Purini

Franco Purini was interviewed as part of a comparison between three architects who took part in the Blueprint competition, organized by the Municipality of Genoa.
Franco Purini: architect and theorist of architecture, is Professor Emeritus at the University La Sapienza in Rome, and a member of the Accademia di San Luca. Through his writings he has strongly influenced the international environment and today he is one of the most prolific Italian designers in the architectural field. His drawings, a distinctive element of Purini, are kept in various public and private collections, including: the Uffizi in Florence, the Centre Pompidou and the Museum of Architecture of Frankfurt.
The interview was granted following a conference held by Franco Purini himself in the spaces of the Faculty of Architecture in Genova, the event was promoted by the teacher Giulia Pellegri.
Franco Purini’s project, developed together with Lorenzo Degli Esposti (Degli Esposti Architects), is intended to be, as Purini himself defines it: “a rationality that deals with places and helps to build and continue them but, above all, must produce, as Le Corbusier recalled, emotional and spiritual values”.

1 – What do you think about the Masterplan of Renzo Piano?

If your question concerns the large design known as the “Affresco”, my answer is largely positive. The unitary system of design interventions on Genoa conceived by Renzo Piano is the result of an organic and advanced vision of the future of the city. This is a very concrete and, at the same time, ideal forecast of a very important urban center, not only for Liguria but for the whole Europe, which must, like many others, radically transform itself in order to face a new phase of its existence.

2 – What is your opinion about the approach and management of the competition by the Municipal Administration?

If you refer to the competition for the arrangement of a part of the port area, I think that the wording of the notice was flawed on the one hand of a certain approximation, on the other was too detailed in the prescriptions. This prevented the question to be answered from being understood in its true terms.

3 – How did you place yourself in relation to the project and how did you set it up?

My architecture is inspired by a reality that is neither axiomatic nor absolutist and abstract. I could define it as a rationality that confronts places and helps to build and continue them, but which, above all, must produce, as Le Corbusier recalled, emotional and spiritual values.

4 – What were the problems you encountrered during the design phase?

The problems that are faced when designing always concern the search for a working balance between a general idea, which comes from a critical interpretation of architecture in its history, and the situation of the context in which the future work will arise. This context will be profoundly changed by the new intervention. As I have already said, architecture creates new places starting from existing ones.

5 – What do you think about the result of the competition and about the new project called “Levante’s Waterfront” promoted by Renzo Piano?

There is no room in these responses for a reliable analysis of these initiatives. Genoa is a city so complex in its central and linear being that it becomes deeply enigmatic, both in its essence and in its future.

6 – What is your vision of Genoa for the future?

The only thing I can say about a possible future of Genoa is that it must doesn’t forget that it is characterized by an extraordinary coexistence of different epochs living together in a unique way. In fact, in Genoa the signs of the past, unlike Rome, play a decisive role in the image of the new, and it is not a paradox. I would like that the continuity and contiguity of signs relating to different and distant urban seasons that is a founding element of the city are still active for a long time.

7 – When, how and why did you decide that Architecture would be your way?

I was nine years old when, at Quadraro, a very peripheral area of Rome where my family lived, began the construction of the Tuscolano District of Saverio Muratori and Mario De Renzi. I attended the works from that day until the inauguration of the great housing project, which in the light of May, with its colors, sharp shapes and the joy of the inhabitants, who took possession of their homes, made me understand the meaning and beauty of the profession of the architect.

8 – What is your definition of Architecture today?

“The aim of architecture is to express through its second aim, building, the sense of living of the human being on earth”. This is my definition of architecture in the 1980 book “L’architettura didattica” which has accompanied my work since then. I believe, as I said this morning during my speech – I would like to thank Professor Giulia Pellegri once again for her invitation – that every architect must build his own idea of what the art of building is.

9 – What advice would you like to give to future architects?

I said that in my class this morning. Students should ask themselves what they would like to say to others -one thing only- and then ask themselves how to communicate it with architecture. In a nutshell, without a theme that inspires his work throughout his life, obviously adapting to changes in reality but always remaining himself, an architect would not be able to play a significant role, or would not be able to improve living by making, as Le Corbusier has repeatedly reminded us, the happiest human beings.

Translated into English by Marco Grattarola.

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Marco Grattarola AdministratorKeymaster
He graduated in Architecture Sciences at the Polytechnic School of Genoa with a thesis on “Active Architecture”. He did two internships, in an art gallery and in an architecture studio. He currently attends the Master at the Polytechnic of Milan. His interests range from music to drawing, in which he experiments with curiosity and passion.
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