Lavin leads seminar in Rudofsky's Italy


Pantalica Trogodyte, Sicily

Sylvia Lavin leads students to explore Bernard Rudofsky’s Raw and the Cooked in Italy with the assistance of the Charles Moore Traveling Fellowship.

Bernard Rudofsky's Architecture without Architects remains the best-known and most influential manifesto calling for cooking architecture less and allowing more  of it to be consumed raw. The book and exhibition together constituted an important theorization of the built environment outside the understanding of architecture as defined by the theoretical, geographical and political constructions of western notions of modernity. Rudofksy not only distinguished architecture from building but asserted that 'naif' forms of building exhibited forms of expression and embedded themselves in society in ways that were far better than the work produced with the pedigree of supposedly sophisticated western traditions.
On the one hand, as important as this argument was in 1964, developments in the interim have contaminated many if not all of the purities Rudofksy found in the world of non-pedigreed architecture.  Colonial power, the exoticization of the primitive, notions of cultural patrimony and global capital have not only made many of Rudofksy's sites into museums and tourist attractions, but have begun to suggest that there is not space 'outside'  the operations of modernization that Rudofksy (and Venturi and others interested in the vernacular) hoped to escape.  Architecture is everywhere.  On the other hand, many contemporary artists and architects are also seeking ways to provoke new forms of immediacy, to find forms of experience that, if not naif, are at least engaged in problems of embodiment and experience.   Recalibrating the relationship between between the cooked and the raw is one of the few continuous threads in current cultural thinking, which makes a reconsideration of Rudofsky all the more urgent.
The seminar traveled to three sites in Italy, a country that contains not only the highest number of world heritage sites, but both a long tradition of architecture with a whole lot of architects as well as a more recent tradition of a whole lot of architects without much architecture.  One site is now part of a highly successful tourist industry, one is a failed tourist site and one was already a tourist site in the 18th century but has long since been forgotten.  
1.1 Pantalica Trogodyte, Sicily 
"Durability and versatility are characteristic of vernacular architecture. The rude chambers whose doors can be made out of mud in the picture were cut into the nearly perpendicular declivities of the Anapo Valley by the Sicilyi, who inhabited Sicily about 3000 years ago. Originally serving as burial grounds for an adjacent prehistoric town, they were converted into dwellings during the Middle Ages. As a rule, they form multistoried apartments connected by interior passages.Similar establishments are scattered all over Sicily-”
1.2 Apulia Trulli Houses, Alberobello
"Peasant houses, called Trulli, dot the almond and olive groves of southern Apulia. They are built of annular layers of stone that terminate in a false conic cupola crowned by a keystone ... Despite the passage of a dozen nations, the type has survived almost without change since the second millennia B.C. It still serves the inhabitants well."
Apulia Trulli Houses, Alberobello
1.3 Anticolo Corrado, outside Rome
"Of Italian hill towns exemplified by Anticolo Corrado: "The very thought that modern man could live in anachronistic communities like these would seem absurd were it not that they are increasingly becoming refuges for city dwellers. People who have not yet been reduced to appendages to automobiles find in them a fountain of youth."
1 Rudolfsky, Bernard. Architecture Without Architects:A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture. New York. Doubleday + Company. Inc. 1964