The 1960’s was a rather revolutionary period for worldwide architecture. The ideas of the modernists for a single, unified approach in architecture had started to be questioned, and new movements begun to arise in all parts of the word. One of the most important among them was the radical architecture movement in Italy, expressed by groups like Superstudio, Archizoom, 9999 and Zzigurat.
These groups formulated the idea of a continuous city, a space without limits and borders. They saw urban space as a work which remains “in progress,” one that gets formed through the plurality of its possible readings. The piazza was for them the manifestation of the social and political conflict, translated in space, and their main canvas of experimentation. A significant number of utopian collages, installations and models were created, in order to express these ideas in public.
It is not a coincidence that these ideas about the evolution of public and urban space were formed and projected by Italian architects. The continued importance of squares and public buildings for Italians goes back to the medieval creation of the city states, and even today, every corner of an Italian city is being constantly inhabited and celebrated. This unique relationship, not as common to other European cities and even less in eastern metropolises, comes to a peak during the Notte Bianca, when people of all ages overflow museums, squares and cultural spaces until the morning hours.
The Notte Bianca (White Night) is a cultural initiative of cities all over the world, that consists of a series of events that take place during a single night once per year, accompanied by an extraordinary opening of museums and shops. The idea was first applied to Paris in 2002, and one year later in Rome, when its spectacular success and participation led to the biggest blackout ever recorded in Italy. The initiative gained popularity and importance among Italian cities, and as a result a White Night – or its alterations like Red or Yellow Night – is held every year in numerous places.
What was special about this year’s event in Florence, which was held April 30th, is that the organizers perceived it as an expression of the radical ideas of the 1960’s. The utopia of the continuous space as introduced by the radical architecture movement was the theme of the Notte Bianca, and it led to an extraordinary opening and series of events of all kind in non-conventional buildings, even hospitals. The experiment was rather successful. For one night, it felt like the city was indeed transformed into a gigantic piazza with no borders, a space unified but yet ready to surprise you in every corner, where everything was possible.
Moreover, photos of the structures created for the occasion in the city’s central squares clearly brought to mind the utopian sketches and collages of the first radicals. It may be an excess to describe the Notte Bianca as the reincarnation of the radical ideas, but such society-involving initiatives come rather close to these ideas’ modern translation.
What similar initiatives take place in your city, and what is their impact on the collective regard of the urban space?
Credits: Images by Marilena Mela, otherwise linked to sources. Data linked to sources.