New York

Aldo Rossi

Aldo Rossi’s open-air Toronto Lighthouse Theater, 1989, was represented here by a model and some drawings. The model of the project is small, yet it skillfully captures the essence of Rossi’s work, its naive, brooding, and authoritarian qualities. This modest structure displays the architect’s formal language in a compressed situation. In plan, the theater is an elongated horseshoe. The rounded end forms the seating for the amphitheater; at the central point of the outer edge is a lighthouse tower for lighting and other production needs. The open end of the horseshoe is filled with a raised stage and flanked by towers at each end. Beyond the stage is a low wall, allowing the panorama of the architectural space and the back of stage sets to be enjoyed. A large perspective drawing shows the theater as a solitary object; only the grass around it serves as context.

The tower as a form and type clearly infatuates the architect as a conspicuous object and site of surveillance. A recent proposal, La Torre di Miami (The tower of Miami, 1987), is represented by a wooden model, with an elevation on one side and a section on the other. The facade features a central doorway with a brass lintel. Above the entrance is a four-paned, square window that shows an internal column; above that is a row of ribbon windows. The section, equally measured and controlled, is a more aggressive representation; it shows the tower to contain a cylindrical core whose conical cap projects above the serene skin.

Rossi possesses a passion for drawing as a way to construct theory and conduct investigation. His drawings are filled with archetypal forms employed to the most idiosyncratic ends. In Fragments Collage, 1988, he has drawn a foreground fringe of ordinary apartment buildings to create an obvious, urban texture. But these foreground buildings are really “background” to the world beyond, evoking the medieval world view from the walled city. Brick walls, tortured passages, and strange open spaces share ground with barrel-vaulted buildings and simple, austere structures. In this collage, the dialectical forces of Rossi’s thinking are given substance; the past and the future occupy space simultaneously. While rendered inventively, restlessly, and colorfully, these drawings betray a sense of rigidity and fixed authority; some truly original thinking about architecture leads to some very limiting ideas of urban space and human action. Rossi remains the most mysterious and problematic of contemporary architects. This exhibition only confirms his strange role.

Patricia C. Phillips