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Souvenir – Activable reminder

Perhaps the observation of things has remained my most important formal education; for observation later becomes transformed into memory. Now I seem to see all the things I have observed arranged like tools in a neat row; they are aligned as in a botanical chart, or a catalogue or a dictionary.¹


G – Yes, indeed, if you think about it, each city corresponds to an abacus of iconic places that we attach to its identity.

B – Milan with the Duomo, London with the Big Ben, Barcelona with the Haussmann Plan, Rome, or perhaps the whole of Italy, with the Colosseum, like France with the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.

D – It’s strange to think that a people identify with objects and architectures.

C – But, according to you, how does something become identifying for a community?

F – Maybe when people appropriate it and give it social, cultural, religious value…

A – In my opinion, it is also a matter of memory, facts, and historical events.

B – I think it is a question of permanence, a past that we still experience today.

G – Actually, if you think about it, all cities grow on the physical signs of the past, on very ancient events which come to us through the permanence of the form.

B – Not always… In the city not everything remains…

G – Well, permanence can also change, evolve.

C – Without leading to disappearance, though.

Notre Dame - Souvenir attivazione

casalecasale, Active souvenir, Milan, 2021.

A – You are right, if I think of Notre Dame today, I can only think of the tragic event that disfigured it. Nevertheless, although it’s different, it’s still there.

D – Hell! I remember that April 15th. There were only images, sounds and writings of the burning Cathedral on TV and on the internet.

A – I felt bad looking at those pictures. I was sad and I didn’t understand the reason, although when compared to other tragic events, there were no victims there.

F – Okay, no one died. But maybe we felt that way because a fragment of the collective and cultural identity we were talking about earlier died.

B – For sure, Notre Dame is a symbol. The face of a city well carved in our mind changed overnight.

D – It’s weird to think that a monument could change.

Notre Dame - Fiamme

Fabien Barrau, Burning Notre Dame, Paris, 2019.

G – But still, the image of the cathedral that we have in mind now is the one pervaded by flames.

C – Has the iconic and symbolic image of the intact Notre Dame changed then? I mean… Do we now associate France to the burned Notre Dame?

A – I haven’t been to Paris since the fire, so I don’t know what souvenirs they’re selling now. Do they keep selling the old ones with the whole spire? Did they make new ones without it? Did they cut the spire of the old ones?

(Collective laughter)

A – Guys, I’m serious! Also, do you know that souvenir means memory?

Notre Dame - Souvenir attivo

casalecasale, Active souvenir, Milan, 2021.

B – So, which memory should we associate to Notre Dame? Before, after or during the fire?

G – Well, regardless of what it is, Notre Dame’s souvenir will have to change somehow from the traditional one.

C – I think we need something to remember the event.

B – Something that represents the moment of transition from the old to the new identity, perhaps.

F – Something that recalls not only the shape of the monument, but the events that it went through.

A – The feelings that these events have transmitted, the glow of the fire or the smoke that rises.

G – And the spire inexorably consumed by the fire.

D – Like a small performance of a burning candle, which catches fire and slowly consumes.

C – The symbol of a candle is great! It also represents the sacredness of an event, if you think about it.

F – Then, it usually leads to commemorating something or someone.

A – And the cathedral that, in the end, holds up and resists to the event.

A memory to activate. An activatable souvenir.

Notre Dame - Souvenir - Vista laterale

casalecasale, Souvenir, Side view, Varese, 2021.

Notre Dame - Souvenir - Vista

casalecasale, Souvenir, View, Varese, 2021.

Notre Dame - Souvenir - Vista frontale

casalecasale, Souvenir, Frontal view, Varese, 2021.

Translated into English by casalecasale.

Cover: Benedetta Badiali, Active souvenir, Milan, 2021.

¹ Aldo Rossi, Autobiografia scientifica, Il saggiatore, Milano, 2009, p. 53.

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casalecasale Author
Casale is a physical an intellectual meeting place, is a laboratory of ideas, design and production, is experimentation, drawing and writing. Casale was born in 2020 from the idea of five young architects (Andrea Albizzati, Francesco Acquaviva, Benedetta Badiali, Gloria Aiolfi, Federica Demo) with the aim of designing and producing design objects and put reflections on it. It is a multidisciplinary research and experimentation project that blends the singularities of each component, through mutual contamination, reaching a platform where you can share and develop your own visions and projects. With the dissemination of images and content, questions and reflections are asked on different issues, related to lived experiences.
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