A few months ago, we had locked ourselves at home, hoping that, with a great collective effort, everything would pass and could soon be forgotten. Now, however, we are really forced to wait, to fully experience this transition towards a – we hope – better future. But, in the meantime, we must live with methods and behaviours that have shaken many of our certainties, undermining our freedom to move and to meet each other. For the first time in the history of humanity, a now globalized holiday like Christmas is about to be lived with restrictions that deny one of its main prerogatives, that of sociality. Not even during the World Wars this happened, and in any case, it did not happen on a planetary scale. However, a glimmer of light is visible at the end of the tunnel: just as we are writing these lines, the first vaccinations against Covid-19, greeted by governments with optimism, are starting in several countries.
In the meantime, authoritative psychologists are diagnosing mood disorders, stress, anxiety, panic in the many of us. But what has perhaps not yet been investigated is how this experience will settle in our memory. How and if it will become a «collective memory», to use the famous expression coined in the early 20th century by Maurice Halbwachs. And above all, how it will be possible to manage this memory, elaborating the grief and mourning that this pandemic produced.
The themes of transition and memory therefore seem more relevant than ever. And so, as happened with the previous issue of Compasses, a topic already planned before the pandemic – that of memories in transition – turns out to be surprisingly fitting. This 34th issue in fact collects reflections, projects and achievements that can almost all be traced back to the aforementioned theme, from the conservation of the architectural heritage in Russia to the residential buildings of Iran.
Thus, there is a double fil rouge that binds almost all the articles in the issue and determines multiple geographical and thematic connections. About the first – geographic – topic there are the important reflections of Donatella Fiorani on the treatment of memory and heritage in Russia, strictly connected to the specific insights relating to the conservation of the Narkomfin building (Luca Lanini) and of the Ruina wing of the A. V. Schusev Museum of Architecture (Olga Starodubova), both in Moscow. The first topic goes on with the architectural and artistic research carried out by Aleksandr Brodsky in relation to heritage archetypes (Federica Deo), up to the Massimo Cafè restaurant located in a late 19th century building in Volgograd – formerly Stalingrad – illustrated by Ferdinando Polverino De Laureto. In the second – thematic – topic the intertwining of very distant cases that have in common acting on fragments of a collective and more or less lacerated memory is placed. It thus ranges from the difficult gestation of the monument to the memory of the armed conflict in Colombia – which thanks to the work of Doris Salcedo reaches a result that holds together the remains of a colonial house in a state of ruin with the material and immaterial memory of a war that devastated the population (Federico Calabrese). And it goes on with the treatment of the ruin in the aforementioned A. V. Schusev Museum of Architecture, up to the recovery of the Brucoli lighthouse by Giuseppe Di Vita, which faces the fate of serial architectures at risk of decommissioning which have already established an inseparable relationship with the landscape and the memory of the places that host them (Jenine Principe).
In the midst of all this, the [focus] on the Iranian Palazzina is like a fulcrum on which the suggestions just recalled leverage, an in-depth study by Cristiano Luchetti, who deals with a recurring residential typology in the metropolis of Tehran and beyond, detecting the legacies of memory. As well illustrated in the introductory essay by Attilio Petruccioli – a great expert in Islamic architecture, and Iranian in particular – the fil rouge is highlighted even here, holding together the nine projects specially selected for this issue, all characterized by high quality architecture, which recovers elements of the Iranian construction tradition by reinterpreting them in a contemporary key. The result is a panorama of emerging and/or already well-established architects (among the latter Hooba design, Keivani Architects, New Wave architecture, White Cube Atelier, NextOffice, Habibeh Madjdabadi Architecture Studio) that certainly makes us reflect also on the Italian tradition of Palazzina, not always equal in quality if compared with the beautiful projects selected here.
The remaining articles orbit, at more or less close distances, around the main theme, even when the projects or themes discussed are not explicitly referred to it. This is firstly testified by Anna Cornaro’s article, dedicated to the new complex intended to host the Executive MBA program on the American University campus in Dubai, designed by Georges Kachaamy, where the traditional introversion of Arab architecture is reinterpreted in a contemporary key for the benefit of the users’ comfort. But it is also testified by the second article, dedicated by Cornaro to the book edited by Tiziano Aglieri Rinella and Rubén García Rubio, entitled Dubai Forward. Architecture in a Transient City, which addresses the issue of the transition from impermanence to resilience of a «superlative» city that has so far only looked to continuous growth, while, in the future, it will increasingly face the redesign of itself, through the reconversion of its interstitial spaces. And finally, it is confirmed by the reconfiguration project of a 19th century bourgeois house by Fala Atelier in Porto (Portugal), where memory sales towards the future through the wise use of materials and colors (Daria Verde).
Time, transition, memory, change: these are the keywords that mark all the reflections and projects collected in the issue, reminding us that everything is changeable and transient, starting from our own life experience.