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Cersaie 2010: Conferences and Seminars
Leaving traces

Wednesday 29 September - 2.00 p.m.
Galleria dell'Architettura

Leaving traces is a characteristic of human activity on the Earth, a necessary condition for maintaining a personal or collective memory, whether desirable or not. Introduced by Fulvio Irace, the meeting between philosopher Maurizio Ferraris, author of Documentalità, and Swiss architect Mario Botta will take this observation as a starting point for comparing two different views, those of the creator and of the decipherer of traces. Ferraris and Botta will discuss the themes of history, memory and behaviour of humans in the places where they live, where the landscape testifies to the presence of countless traces.


Fulvio Irace More

Fulvio Irace

Architect and Professor of history of architecture, Milan Polytechnic
Biographical notes
Fulvio Irace is a full professor of “History of Architecture” at Milan Polytechnic, where he holds the History of Contemporary Architecture chair at the Faculty of Civil Architecture and the Faculty of Design; he is also a visiting professor at the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, and a member of the board of teachers for the PhD course in “History of Architecture and Town Planning” at Turin Polytechnic.
He is a member of the scientific committee of the Vico Magistretti Foundation and is on the board of trustees of the Piano Foundation.
In 2008-2009 he was a member of the jury for the Mies van der Rohe European Prize.
From 2005 to 2009 he was a member of the Scientific Committee of the Milan Triennial and curator of the Architecture and Territory sector.
One of the founders of the national association AAI (Archivi di Architettura Italia – Italian Architectural Archives), he is one of the promoters of the “Architecture and Design” section of CASVA (Centro alti studi e valorizzazione delle arti – the Centre for Higher Studies and Valorisation of the Arts) of the Municipality of Milan.
Architectural editor for the publications “Domus” and “Abitare”, he has worked with the most important national and international magazines in the sector, and in 2005 was awarded the Inarch Bruno Zevi Prize for architectural criticism. Since 1986 he has been an opinionist in the field of architecture for the Sunday Supplement of “Il Sole 24 Ore”.
Attentive to the historiographies of Italian architecture between the two World Wars, to which he has dedicated much work through various exhibitions and publications, more recently his studies have concentrated on contemporary Italian architecture, and the figure of Renzo Piano, the subject of various monographs and an important exhibition at the Milan Triennial.
In the field of criticism and historical methodology he is the author of the following works:  Dimenticare Vitruvio, 2001 and 2008;  Le città visibili: Renzo Piano 2006; Divina Proporzione, 2007; Gio Ponti, 2009.
He has curated a number of architectural exhibitions.

Mario Botta More

Mario Botta

Biographical notes
Mario Botta is born in Mendrisio, Ticino, on April 1, 1943. After an apprenticeship in Lugano, he first attends the Art College in Milan and then studies at the University Institute of Architecture in Venice. Directed by Carlo Scarpa and Giuseppe Mazzariol he receives his professional degree in 1969. During his time in Venice he has the opportunity to meet and work for Le Corbusier and Louis I. Kahn. His professional activity begins in 1970 in Lugano. He builds his first single-family houses in Canton Ticino and subsequently all over the world. He has always committed himself in an intense architectural research and since 1996 he is involved as creator and founder of the new academy of architecture in Mendrisio, Ticino where he is Professor and held the directorship in 2002/2003.
His work has been recognized with important awards such as the Merit Award for Excellence in Design by the AIA for the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco; the International Architecture Award 2006 by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design and the “European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage Europa Nostra”, The Hague (The Netherlands) for the restructuring of the Theatre alla Scala in Milan; the International Architecture Award 2007 by the Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design for the Church Santo Volto in Turin and the wellness centre Tschuggen Berg Oase in Arosa. His work has been presented in many exhibitions.
Among his realizations must be remembered the theatre and cultural center André Malraux in Chambéry, the library in Villeurbanne, the SFMOMA museum in San Francisco, the cathedral in Evry, the museum Jean Tinguely in Basel, the Cymbalista synagogue and Jewish heritage centre in Tel Aviv, the municipal library in Dortmund, the Dürrenmatt centre in Neuchâtel, the MART museum of modern and contemporary art of Trento and Rovereto, the Kyobo tower and the Leeum museum in Seoul, the office buildings Tata Consultancy Sercices in New Delhi and Hyderabad, the museum and library Fondation Bodmer in Cologny, the church Papa Giovanni XXIII in Seriate, the restoration of the Theatre alla Scala in Milan, the new casinò in Campione d’Italia, the church Santo Volto in Turin, the wellness centre Tschuggen Bergoase in Arosa, the Campari headquarters in Sesto San Giovanni, the winery Château Faugères in Saint-Emilion and the Bechtler museum in Charlotte, USA.

Maurizio Ferraris More

Maurizio Ferraris

Biographical notes
Maurizio Ferraris is professor of Theoretical Philosophy at the University of Turin, where he directs the LabOnt (Ontology Laboratory). He is editor of Rivista di Estetica, co-editor of Critique and columnist for La Repubblica. Directeur d’études at the Collège International de Philosophie, Fellow of the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America and of Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung, visiting professor at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales of Paris and at other European and American universities, he has written more than forty books which have been translated into various languages, including Storia dell’ermeneutica (1988), Estetica razionale (1997), Dove sei? Ontologia del telefonino (2005, Castiglioncello philosophy award) and Documentalità. Perché è necessario lasciar tracce (2009). In 2008 he was awarded the Viaggio a Siracusa Philosophy Award for his career and in September his book Ricostruire la decostruzione will be published by Bompiani.


Video interview

Fulvio Irace
Mario Botta
Maurizio Ferraris

Press release How to "leave traces" in today's liquid society

With the advent of new technologies, art and writing appear to have abdicated from their destiny to last over time. All that remains is architecture and its journey through the centuries, its projection towards the future. Cersaie is the setting for a dialogue/encounter, moderated by Fulvio Irace, between the philosopher Maurizio Ferraris and the architect Mario Botta



How much of contemporary architecture is destined to last? And how much of contemporary culture will we be able to transmit to our children and our grandchildren, in a world dominated by “immaterial” culture? This is the premise behind “Lasciare tracce” (Leaving Traces), the face-to-face encounter staged yesterday at Cersaie between the philosopher Maurizio Ferraris and the architect Mario Botta from Ticino. This is an exceptional encounter - moderated by Fulvio Irace, full professor of History of Architecture at the University of Milan – between the creator (the architect) and the decipherer of traces (the philosopher), both of whom face the same challenge in the interpretation of this natural human need: the need to leave our mark, to leave behind a trace of ourselves that goes beyond the confines of an existence that we might say, en passant, is suspended between centuries, indeed millennia, of natural, human non-existence.  


“The relationship between architecture and philosophy has never been an easy one, in particular for architects – observed Professor Fulvio Irace in his introduction to the encounter – yet there are philosophers on the one hand and architects on the other who are convinced that the traditional approach to creating culture, to creating architecture, remains entirely valid; convinced that we still have not only the opportunity to “leave a trace”, but indeed the duty to do so”.  


And there is but a thin line between the themes of history and memory and how Man effectively behaves in the places he lives in. A more or less indelible and appreciable – or at least significant – demonstration of this is evident in the numerous traces left behind on the landscape by architectural works.


“The pharaohs - observed Maurizio Ferraris – had grasped the concept to perfection, and, rightly, built an object designed to last for thousands of years - but with something more: the interior of the pyramids is dotted throughout with writing, above the walls, and the various chambers contain papyruses, which, it is worth pointing out, are destined to last much longer than the files we store on our computers. Architecture is the most definitive way possible of leaving traces, and it is no coincidence that the first forms of architecture in history we are familiar with were designed as funeral monuments, as if they could – as if they should -  place eternity within Man’s reach”.  


Yet a trace is not worthy of that name unless it is “registered”. Just as we feel a closer bond with a pyramid than with an ordinary stone – although the latter may be even more ancient – it is the process of registration, beginning with writing, that allows human actions to have a lasting effect, to become traces. Were it not for registration, the document – observed the philosopher and author of “Documentalità. Perché è necessario lasciar tracce” – even some of the most common concepts, such as marriage, profit, revolution, holiday, could not exist. All of these are “social” objects, which exist because they have been transcribed, filed, shared.  


“Registration – replied Mario Botta, from the height of the fifty-year career that has led him to create works and buildings in which present and past, memory and future – is the essence of the spirit of our times. It is no coincidence that the very first act of architecture consists of placing a stone on the earth, not a stone on top of another stone. It is this first act that takes us from a natural condition to a cultural condition. This is why architecture belongs to us – because it represents our living space, shaped by the signs that build that space. In today’s globalised society, identity is increasingly bound up with the identification with a particular territory, communicated to us through architecture. Meanings that move well beyond the original functional value of a building, which more often than not is transitory”.                


So what we’re saying is that the pyramids – but also the Pantheon – are of interest to us not for their original function, but as a demonstration of something that belongs to us, something we are able to identify with. Is this still the case? Is it possible to envisage a future for modern culture, when its points of references are supports – from floppy discs to videotapes, to quote only the most striking examples – that are so weak? Getting back to architecture, is it possible to conceive buildings destined to last if we consider that nothing that is built today has a life expectancy of more than a few years, or at best a few decades?


“Ours is not, as has been said, a communication society – insisted Ferraris – but rather a registration society. And if we stop to reflect, what has been taken up afresh – from the landline telephone to the iPad, from the TV to the computer, is in fact nothing other than the original “spirit of the pyramids”: the desire to leave as many traces as possible. The evolution of these supports we’re all familiar with actually runs parallel to our nature, and came about as soon as supports equipped with memory became available. We’ve now reached a point where we are at risk of  the “filing syndrome”: because everything is registered everywhere, we no longer bother to create copies, and the result is that the most extensively registered society in history is the one at the greatest risk of its traces being lost forever”.  


This appears to be a problem linked to the weaknesses in the hardware – or in modern constructions – which once again becomes a cultural issue. Because at the end of the day what we are looking at in these traces is nothing other than ourselves, something that reflects our time. And if we have the sensation that the modern traces are not destined to last, this is because – as the philosopher from Turin and the architect agreed – we have neither the time nor the inclination to ask ourselves any questions on what the traces mean to us. And unlike in the past, there is no longer a powerful enough system of values and ideologies ready to step in and compensate for this shortcoming of ours.   “Architecture - observed Botta – is a faithful reflection of a history that belongs to us, so faithful indeed that it offers a decidedly unforgiving image of how we really are. The rich impression we are faced with when we enter a European city is the result of a series of historical layers that move in from the outskirts towards the centre. All we can do is add another piece to the “crust”. The challenge we face is to see to it that people recognise themselves in that piece and feel that it belongs to them: either we create the antibodies able to give a universal value to the local, or we really will be sucked into the void of the global, of the non-place. When we act upon an area, we act upon a slice of history. This is a huge responsibility, and indeed is the greatest challenge we face”.  


What Botta and Ferraris put forward here is a “critical theory” regarding the fragility of the cultural models imposed by globalisation, in an encounter that brought a large audience flocking to Cersaie, among which there were many young architecture students.


The ultimate aim of the encounter? To make sure that the prophecy made by Andy Warhol – who said there would come a time in which everyone would we world famous, but just for 15 minutes, on You Tube, Facebook or some other non-place – never comes true. While architecture remains one of the main responses – perhaps indeed the only one these days – to the human need to really leave a trace.  



Cersaie Press Office - 30 September 2010 -

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