Creative Responsability in Architecture: interview with Michelangelo Pistoletto, artist, Paolo Naldini, Managing Director of Cittadellarte, Emanuele Bottigella and Tiziana Monterisi, architects

La Redazione,09/01/2009

“Now we know. By edict felicitously emanated by Michelangelo Pistoletto, the Third Paradise exists. After the mythical first paradise inhabited by Adam and Eve, the Eden host to the felicitous

“Now we know. By edict felicitously emanated by Michelangelo Pistoletto, the
Third Paradise exists. After the mythical first paradise inhabited by Adam and
Eve, the Eden host to the felicitous cohabitation of male and female, after
the second, determined by the acceleration of technology and its transformation
into prosthesis, now we finally have the sign of the Third Paradise.”
Achille Bonito Oliva, The invention of the Third Paradise in “La Repubblica”, 19th November 2007.
What is the relationship between the grand sign of the Third Paradise
and turning point architecture at the Art at the Center exhibition 2008?
Answering the question, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Artistic Director of Cittadellarte
M.P.: The myth of the Third Paradise, symbolized by the grand sign
of the exhibition, poses living as the primary articulation in the organic
relationship between people and the environment. The house
is the third skin for all of us: the first is the epidermis, the second,
clothing and the third skin we constructed around ourselves is the
house, which is protection per excellence, but also the connection
between individual and society. The house establishes the relation-
ships between individuals and the complexities of communal living.
Society forms and organizes itself in all inhabited nuclei. At Cittadellarte
we have called houses Living Structures, because we see the
habitation as a living thing, part of nature. We create this skin that we
want to be organic, just as we ourselves and the world that surrounds
us are organic.
The word Paradise comes from the ancient Persia, and means protected
In the exhibition, the three circles signify the protection of the Third Paradise,
intended within the dimensions of communal life on the planet. The
dimensions of the outer circles remain fixed representing the past, while the
dimension of the central circle is destined for growth. The first of the outer
circles signifies a natural Paradise in which man was totally integrated into
nature, the second, the artificial Paradise created by man. The union of the
two generates the Third Paradise.
Between the artistic symbol and the architectural practice there develops
a perspective and the solidarity to resolve and surpass the epochal
conflict created by the separation of the two worlds, the natural
and the artificial.
This exhibition is a declaration of the commitment that art and architecture
take on in the global process of responsible social transformation.
The UN has proclaimed 2008 the international year of the Planet
Earth, with the goal of involving every State in providing scientifi-
cally valid answers and instruments capable of reducing the vulnerability
of our Planet. What can Cittadellarte, and more generally,
what can culture and art do for our Planet?
To answer this, Paolo Naldini, managing director of Cittadellarte
P.N.: We know that the building industry on the whole is one of the sectors
most responsible for the negative effects on the Planet, in terms of greenhouse
effect, pollution and a great deal of waste that cannot be adequately
degraded and reintegrated into the natural cycle.
There is a concept of civitas in art, intended as a position of responsibility
and activity in the world, that operates not only at local level, but that
considers the entire planet as its home. In the cosmopolitical vision of the
civitas of art, the local becomes the global.
Creative responsibility, the vocation of Cittadellarte, can be one of
the tools contributing to the diffusion of the awareness of the need
for an epochal turning point. Cittadellarte itself, a former wool mill,
demonstrates how reutilization rather than new building, can in some
cases build a sustainable strategy. But it is not just the building in itself
that implements the practice of responsible transformation: education
activities, exhibitions and information, relations with the world of enterprise
and the start of new productive initiatives, up to arriving at the
spirituality inherent in the relationship between man and the world, are
all concrete elements in the strategy that models the activities of Cittadellarte
each and every day. In this way the relationship between art
and sustainability surpasses the dimension of simple proclamation to
enter into the sphere of projectuality, the world of doing.

What is Cittadellarte doing in terms of sustainability?
P.N.: Last year we inaugurated an exhibition on the theme of Turning Point
Products that we used as the vehicle to spread and promote the culture of
environmental sustainability and responsible building. We met and began
an intense collaboration with the ANAB – the National Association of Bioarchitecture,
with which we have launched two new activities, naturally
interconnected, on this theme: the realization of an Italian observatory of
turning point architectural projects and N.O.V.A.CIVITAS (Nuovi Living
Structures), an enterprise for architectural design and the marketing of turning
point building products.
But we have to find some way to involve more people in this doing. For
this we realized the first edition of a post-graduate training course, in collaboration
with Città Studi in Biella and the Turin Academy of Fine Arts,
called Master in cultural and sustainable enterprise, the cultural mission of
the Italian product. Graduates taking the course studied models of interaction
between creativity and art, the territory, enterprise and the public administration
aimed toward sustainable development, acquiring specialized
skills to use in a potential career within enterprise, the public sector or as
individual professionals.
In which other areas does Cittadellarte exercise creative responsibility?
P.N.: Cittadellarte declines the concept of creative responsibility in a
number of other disciplines and languages, beginning with that of literature.
A part of Art at the Center consists of an exhibition entitled Turning
Point Literatures, which present the essays and literary works that over
the last twenty years have contributed to spreading messages of responsible
social transformation, and that this year is based on the theme of
responsible building.
2008 is also the year of intercultural dialogue. Cittadellarte with Love Difference,
Artistic Movement for an InterMediterranean Politic is realizing an
ambitious project, financed by the European cultural fund, called AS_TIDES
NETWORKS, which realizes a series of intercultural workshops in the cities
of Brussels, Barcelona, Graz and Malta, extending the Geography of Transformation,
the network of Cittadellarte’s contacts that realize projects aimed
toward the responsible transformation of society in the world through creative
projects and ideas, in a word, the civitas of art.
Without innovation there is no progress. But ever more ofter the
most avant-garde solution come from the past. Does the turn that
architecture has to make today mean turning back?
Answering this, Emanuele Bottigella and Tiziana Monterisi, Cittadellarte Architecture Office
E.B.: The architecture of the past, even that of just a century ago, followed
rules of construction that should come back to being fundamental even in
contemporary architecture, because they are capable of offering optimal
performance in terms of both energy efficiency and living comfort: the use
of compact spaces, orientation that exploits sunlight to the maximum, the
use of architectonic solutions to prevent dispersion of heat and light, that
use of the natural materials typical of the territory. All this has to be looked
on today as a model of sustainability for both man and the environment.
T.M.: Architecture today has to related both to the past and to tradition with
a view to technological innovation and planetary well-being.
The materials it uses should no longer come from the open cycle petrochemical
industry, but from the short chain of the vegetable chemical and
certified forestry sectors, meaning managed in a sustainable way.
Like in the past, natural architecture uses local materials that contribute to valorizing
the territorial patrimony, and to reducing transport related pollution.
Does it cost more to build according to the criteria of natural
E.B.: The additional costs are entirely recovered after construction. In effect,
bio-architecture considers the energy and economic balance of a building’s
entire life cycle. If in addition to this we also consider the human
health factor, then natural architecture is without a shadow of doubt convenient
even in economic terms.
Why is natural architecture still not very widespread in Italy?
T.M.: Natural architecture follows an economic prospectus very different to
the traditional economy in which a product has to cost less to reach a larger
market. The biggest driver for this type of architecture is linked exclusively
with the diffusion of a culture of sustainability in the population. This is
what happened in the Northern European countries, and even in Austria,
where this type of culture was quick to catch on and, paradoxically, legislation
only came later on. In Italy, the situation is exactly the opposite: we are
struggling to adapt to a certain type of legislation imposed by government,
for which neither designers nor builders are properly prepared.
What are the main problems faced by architects working in the field
of natural architecture in this country?
E.B.: The biggest difficulty lies in communicating the values of sustainability
to the client, thereby becoming mediator between the culture of marketand the culture of sustainability.
T.M.: Italy is at least twenty years behind compared to other parts of Europe.
Nevertheless there are already numerous examples of natural architecture
here, which we wanted to present in this exhibition, realized thanks
to the collaboration with the ANAB. The projects on display neither are nor
attempt to offer an exhaustive representation of the Italian scene, but instead
an important starting point for realizing, at Cittadellarte, and Observatory
on Turning Point Architecture in Italy. At the same time we are realizing an
Atlas, in collaboration with Edizioni Ambiente, to create itineraries capable
of giving greater visibility to the patrimony of Italian natural architecture.
by Federica Cerutti, Coordinator of the Cittadellarte Communication Office
 published in "Arte al Centro di una Trasformazione Sociale Responsabile: Architettura di Svolta", Eco di Biella, 22 May 2008.