The other day my friend Azzurra Muzzonigro asked me to contribute a short piece about how my work space and routine are overlapping with my family’s domestic life and space in our Turin (Italy) apartment during the lockdown for a feature on her blog called “Domestic space is the new public space”. Here’s what I told her.


Ralph seen from my work desk through the small window

My current daily routine is actually very similar to my previous one, seeing that I basically work in a large closet at the end of a long hallway from which we removed a wall so that I could access it from the adjacent bedroom rather than from the door. When we moved in, we had a small opening, a “window” of sorts, cut into the door at the end of the hallway at the height of my daughter’s face (who at the time was seven years old), which ended up right at my eye level, so, upon her knocking, I could open the little panel that covered the opening and see her smiling face perfectly framed in my own “little window”. Luckily, I still have a “real” window in the bedroom next to my studio/closet that looks at the now quiet and deserted outside world (and much further away the hill of Superga).

What is different now is that my little studio/closet window, which opens onto the hallway, is being opened and closed a lot more often, because beyond it there’s a lot more life. I hadn’t thought about it, but this opening has become my true inside/outside view onto a series of intense intra-domestic movements: my wife going from one room to the other, ending up in the living room where she works and where she holds her lessons; my daughter wandering from room to room before ending up in her bedroom where she tries to recreate her social and academic life. There’s actually a great coming and going right before me. And this little window that until just a few weeks ago was used mostly to keep an eye on what the cats were doing (usually sleeping) — or to throw them a crumpled up piece of paper so they would quit bothering me, or that I would use to say hello to whomever was coming in from the front door (at the other end of the corridor) — has now become my primary window looking out at a home bustling with life and activity, full of new and complex interactions; of inventions and revelations; of hope and anticipation; and, sometimes, of tension and anxiety. Even the cats are more active. Well, Ralph, the male, isn’t, he still sleeps a lot; but Marlene, the female, doesn’t seem to understand why we’re always around, why this small window that used to stay mostly closed gets instead opened all the time; and why these weekends are lasting an eternity.

Some window view drawings

With so many people around the world being forced to stay at home, our windows have taken on a much more profound and metaphoric function than ever before. In essence, they have become our primary point of visual contact with the world — a contact that both protects and separates us, but at the same time unites us.

This familiar hole in the wall, to which we had probably never paid much attention, has suddenly become an imposing snapshot of a moment — a huge and strange moment that we are living together from inside our homes and our selves.

Francesco Pozzoli, 13 years old, from Milan (Italy)

About a month ago, when Italy went into lockdown, on my Facebook page I asked people to share a drawing of their window view together with a short text. I’ve received many amazing contributions, many of which from kids. Check my Facebook page to view them — they convey a powerfully shared feeling of anxiety, suspension, nostalgia, and hope.

It would be wonderful if as many of you as possible, wherever you are around the world, contributed to this collection of viewpoints. Take a moment to observe what you see out your window and then try drawing it using the window to frame the view. Then write a paragraph describing it. What do you see? How far can you see (“far” both in space and time)? And how does the view reflect back on you? What do you notice that you hadn’t seen before?

Christian Rotella, 14 years old, from Borgaro Torinese (Italy)

Please share this post as much as possible. Then draw, tell, and share your window views! In the end we will have a collective vision of the world as seen through the eyes of a multitude of individuals who are sharing a common experience.

If you would like me to see your work (and perhaps share it), please mention my name or my Matteo Pericoli public page so I can find it; and please use the hashtags #mywindowview and #windowsontheworld.

Click here to view the post on Facebook:

Fabbriche di Parole - Fahrenheit

Tommasio Giartosio intervista Matteo Pericoli 


Qui il link alla puntata di Fahrenheit del 27/12/2019:

È finalmente arrivato!
Finestre su New York: 63 visioni sulla Grande Mela, un libro (e una copertina) da aprire.

“63 visioni di New York. 63 sguardi dalle finestre di artisti, registi, scrittori, musicisti, filosofi, scienziati e persone comuni che Matteo Pericoli ha incontrato, per poi ritrarne gli scorci e realizzare una storia inedita della Grande Mela: il racconto della città, fatto di sensazioni e confessioni, da parte di alcuni tra i suoi personaggi più famosi.

Matteo Pericoli disegna ognuna di queste intime vedute, intrecciandole per comporre un quadro più grande dei meri limiti urbani della città. E così ci invita a compiere un gesto insolito per la frenesia delle nostre vite: affacciarci alla nostra finestra, rimanere qualche secondo a scrutare e interrogare il mondo, fino a diventare una cosa sola con ciò che vediamo.”

Selezione di rassegna stampa:

Alcuni appuntamenti:

  • Lunedì 27 gennaio 2020 ore 19: Presentazione e inaugurazione mostra “Finestre su New York”, Colibrì, Milano — con Azzurra Muzzonigro

  • Giovedì 12 dicembre 2019 ore 8:30: CAP10100, Torino — con CreativeMornings Turin

  • Martedì 10 dicembre 2019 ore 21: La Galleria del Libro, Ivrea — con Gianmario Pilo

  • Mercoledì 27 novembre 2019 ore 18: Eggers 2.0, Torino — con Alessio Cuffaro e Gianmario Pilo

  • Sabato, 16 novembre 2019 ore 17:30: Combo, Milano (per Bookcity) — con Marta Cereda

An essay by Colum McCann published in World Unfurled by Matteo Pericoli
(Chronicle Books, 2008)

Matteo-Pericoli-Skyline of the World-JFK

The American Airlines mural by Matteo Pericoli at JFK International Airport in NY (Photo by Richard Slattery, May 2007)

We leave: it’s inevitable. We sometimes come home: that’s our choice. In the process, we can bring our home country to another land, or we can cart that other, distant country back toward our own and sometimes make it new. And so, every building we have walked through begins to walk through other buildings. Every city skyline we see is informed by the skylines we have glimpsed before. All that we have met meets all that we will meet.
We are connected and remade by what we have seen.

I grew up in suburban Dublin, Ireland. I can still hear the ticking of the white radiators. The back door slammed when the front door opened. A house of open windows, I was always flying out of them.

I first left home when I was seventeen. I went to Mayo, less than one hundred and fifty miles away. The newspaper building where I worked was down a cobbled laneway. I loved the creak of the stairs, and the rattle of the printing presses below. I took the train back to Dublin only once that whole summer. It seemed to me like an enormous journey and I recall how thrillingly new my doorstep felt when I returned: it was like stepping onto brand new territory.

Not long afterward, I broke the border of home again, and went to New York. My heart thumped in my cheap white shirt. I got a job as a cub reporter in the Time Life building and, fired up on innocence and a brash enthusiasm, I ran down Avenue of the Americas, then stopped and lay flat on the ground—for an instant, passersby had to step over me. It was the only way for me to glimpse the panorama. The skyscrapers dizzied me. It seemed impossible that there could only be a small scrape of blue sky.  Later that same evening I brushed the dirt off my trousers, ran to catch the D train, got out at Brighton Beach, and rented a tiny room in a clapboard house that smelled of roach spray and sea breeze. I flopped down on the dingy mattress. How, I wondered, could two such diverse settings exist in one city in a single day?

It seemed to me, even then, that sometimes we have to go far away to explore the dynamic possibilities of our own naivety.

A few years later I took a bicycle across the United States. I rode the little blue highways and the back roads. The stars were my ceiling. Camping out, in forests and by riverbeds, I spent eighteen months learning the roof of the world. From there it was on toward Japan. The sun caught the top of a Kyoto shrine. My wife and I rented a six-tatami-mat room. Later we found an apartment in the shadow of a Kyushu mountain. Then it was back to New York once more: countless windows outside our window.

There have been so many places since. The clean steeples of Singapore. A villa in Capri. A wooden hut in Slovakia. A church in Saint Petersburg. The tall pillars of the Brooklyn Bridge, strung with wires like a harpsichord. Some of these places have been the sites of fleeting visits, others are regular haunts. My memory is decorated by a series of mirrors that throw color and sound onto yet other mirrors: these places flash across my mind and collide into each other, touch at odd angles, then mingle and disperse.

It strikes me now that the purpose of remembering—and perhaps even the final purpose of travel—is to depict, and therefore render forever present, that which is absent. We return by leaving. Travel is a process of deep renewal. Every time I go away, I am back on my New York doorstep. Every time I am on my New York doorstep, I am stepping away into all those other places I have gone and will go.

I am a citizen of my own imagined elsewhere.

It is difficult to find a grand public adventure these days. This is both good and bad news. Newspaper editors aren’t really captivated by an eighty-day journey around the world. Scaling the world’s highest mountains is easy enough if you’ve got the money for it. It’s hard to find a place where a foot hasn’t already been placed, a field that hasn’t been trampled. The Earth is as mapped and documented as never before. On the other hand, adventure has become an acutely democratic notion. A lot of us are lucky that the world has shrunk: we can go places our forefathers couldn’t even have dreamed about. But the primary adventure occurs now in our imaginations.

Passing through the automatic doors into the vast white space of Terminal 8 in New York’s John F. Kennedy airport, one is immediately drawn to Matteo Pericoli’s mural, “Skyline of the World.”  Here, in a sense, is the beginning of travel. The eye finds no resting place. The mural runs along the swooping roofline, the full length of the eastern wall, a block and a half. It is 52 feet in height, and covers almost 16,000 square feet. A viewer might feel as if he has one foot in the vanished past, the era of high-ceilinged railroad stations, and another foot in the open terminal of tomorrow.  

Place and time are bundled together. Seventy cities and four hundred and fifteen buildings merge into one. Each place dissolves into the next. The Sydney Opera House nudges up against Toronto’s City Hall. Stroll down the hill from Los Angeles and you’re standing near the Jantar Mantar Observatory in New Delhi. A canal slips around the Foshay Tower: how is it that the waters of Venice have suddenly migrated to Minneapolis? The Fred and Ginger building in Prague rises up to meet Bangkok. And the Brooklyn Bridge stretches out like a great hand that wants to reach inside your ribcage and twist your heart a few notches backwards.

The content of Pericoli’s work, if I may dare to state it in a single word, is memory. For him, recall is a creative act. He invites us into a landscape in which the viewer can thrust his or her own past, and at the same time he allows us to step beyond the boundaries of our lives. Remembering becomes an act of the imagination, a process without borders or gateposts. Here’s another city—indeed, another country— but we’ve all been there already.  Still, it’s a city made entirely new, as if it has gone through the process of radical recycling. There is a sort of madness here too, a shrinking of the world through the marks of a pencil. Perspective is shifted. The geometry is jagged. Yet the drawing maintains a form that we recognize, a series of intimate lines and well-known landmarks that are both stunning and perplexing at the same time.

Pericoli has created a trance city, in hues of gray, blue, orange, and white, built on our own memories of previous travel and expectations for the journeys we are about to embark on.

Fittingly, we don’t always know where we are when we examine it. Walk down off the Brooklyn Bridge and enter the city of Zurich. Turn left and you’re in Kingston, Jamaica. Swivel around and you’re in Bogotá.

Some of the buildings are instantly recognizable despite their jumbled placement, as if a surreal postcard has just landed, undated, on a terminal wall. But others are relatively unknown. Pericoli has even included his grandmother’s house from a small Italian village, and an imaginary building by artist Saul Steinberg.

“A memory of a journey is a memory in which time and space are mixed up,” Pericoli has written. “They both seem to vanish, as distances and places tend to be compressed into a single, intense yet detailed blur. After a trip, the famous landmark you just visited will be imprinted in your brain as much as the undistinguished building you saw from your hotel room window.”

Although the buildings are chosen for their architectural and aesthetic value, there is surely an understated political intent in play: the buildings are placed beside each other almost as if they could—and should—learn from each other. East meets West. South meets North. They learn from one anothers’ curves and angles. They don’t feel forced or sandwiched in. This statement of potential compatibility takes place not only in a geographical context but also in a manner that’s refreshingly anti-chronological: so that the Azadi monument in Tehran, for instance, built in 1971, is in sight of the Kremlin, which dates back to the fourteenth century, which in turn is just down the hill from La Pedrera, the astonishing “sculpture house” created by Antoni Gaudí in 1912, and now designated a World Heritage Site.

This ability to cross through periods of time, and to create a believable international landscape, and then to invite us to inhabit it—and maybe even to re-inhabit it—is something not many artists, let alone politicians, have ever contemplated. Pericoli demonstrates that nothing original is created through predictability. Even cities might want something better than what they already have, a new perspective, a surprising neighbor.

After looking at “Skyline of the World” for a long time, I began to wonder if Dublin might be represented somewhere, tucked away at the edges, or maybe even in the foreground? I recognized a good deal of the landscape. Seattle’s Space Needle. The Empire State Building. The Jubilee Church in Rome. Still, many of the mural’s buildings mystified me. I wanted to peep over the shoulders of the cornicework and discover what was on the other side.

What would happen if my mind were able to pull the drawing apart, allowing me to climb inside?

I found myself walking into the drawing, turning the corner around a mosque toward a citadel, up the street to a glass tower, down an alleyway toward a mysterious house in the shadow of a water tower. Suddenly there were birds and weather and people around me—all things that are absent from the public face of the mural. The further I walked, the more I saw. But so much of the landscape remained foreign to me. On one street, I was lost. On the next I was found. It was like seeing an old friend and then waving good-bye.

And then, suddenly, there was the inner city of Dublin, right in front of Pittsburgh, just next to Valparaiso, on a hill above the Seattle Public Library. I could almost smell the water off the Liffey, see the traffic trundling down along Burgh Quay, hear the hawkers in the alleyways of my youth. I heard footsteps. The opening and closing of doors. I realized then that I am constantly leaving, trying to discover new places, both imaginatively and physically, and yet always coming closer to home.

But let’s face it—even the best airports are exercises in contemporary vulgarity. Travelers are tense. Officials are on edge. Security guards are suspicious. We take off our belts, our shoes, and our jewelry and are shunted through a metal detector. We leave behind water bottles, lighters, key chains. The flight announcements sound out around us. The cell phone user behind us seems to think that “etiquette” is a village in France. The departure screens hold news of delays. We invariably end up in the longest line, listening to inescapable tinny Muzak floating through the air.

At the worst of times, it seems as if there might be no escape. Travelers are locked in. Most airports break up the sight line with ads, or blankness, or a crass nod to the corporation itself. But somehow, when it came to designing the interior of Terminal 8 in JFK—possibly one of the last airports where one might expect it, given the distinct lack of imagination most of the older terminals display—American Airlines managed to avoid slapping its own back. They refused the temptation to even put a plane in the skyline. The terminal itself can be seen in the far left-hand corner, but this seems more like a postmodern wink than an advertisement.

The mural came about through an odd collision of mistakes, reconsiderations and brave imaginative gestures. The terminal was originally supposed to be much larger, but after 9/11 the plans were scaled back and American Airlines were faced with the prospect of a blank wall almost 400 feet long. Airline officials had seen Pericoli’s previous work and they contacted him in January 2005. They wondered if he’d be able to fill the space somehow. Pericoli loved the challenge of combining his architectural background with his artistic instincts. Trawling the Internet and his memory both, Pericoli began to sketch. He assembled photos from cities all around the world and then copied them meticulously into place. His battery-powered pencil sharpener sat at the ready on his desk. He used 2B pencils on vellum, allowing him to excavate the drawing with what he terms “a fresh palette.” He found an order in chaos and beauty. He never once used a ruler. Of course, it would have taken many years to do the drawing directly on to the wall, so instead he toiled at home in Queens on a drawing that was one thirty-second the size of the final mural.

Month after month, his dreamscape grew.

When the drawing was finished, it was sent to Professional Graphics in Illinois, where it was photographed in sections using a Hassleblad camera with a Sinar digital back. The trick was to enlarge the drawing without destroying it. Every inch would be almost three feet high. Suddenly every window ledge had a potential jumper, an art critic at each precipice. If Pericoli had gotten it wrong, they’d leap. But it was here that the artist’s attention to detail paid dividend. Pericoli is, I feel, the sort of artist who could be entrusted with the last grain of sand, perhaps one of the few who’d be able to capture its complexity. With “Skyline of the World,” he was so careful with his pencil work that the intimacy could be blown, quite literally, sky high.

Professional Graphics printed the drawing on almost one hundred vinyl panels, which ranged in height from 30 to 52 feet high. The printing process alone took the better part of ten days. The installation—the application of the massive sheets to the wall of the terminal—took months of planning. Of course, the drawing, as in any good work of art, really took a lifetime.

The mural went up in May 2007. Applause rang out from architects, security guards and travelers alike. From some parts of the terminal the view of the mural is obstructed: rather than a mistake, it seems like a conscious attempt to interrupt the sight line, as might happen in any real city. Even the slits on the walls, where the drawing must give way to the air conditioning vents, seem to be a tongue-in-cheek nod to the fantasy at play here: a strange wind blows around this landscape.

Ukranian writer Vitali Vitaliev has said, “A good traveller doesn’t know where he is going, but a perfect traveller doesn’t know where he comes from.”

Pericoli’s work is both tactile and clued in. He is very much an artist of the world. He is known for his compelling drawings of the Manhattan skyline and of the view from Central Park “outward.” But his imagination also seems to live in a gyre—for him, cities appear to spin in elaborate circles. He can induce a sort of vertiginous tornado in the viewer. There is turbulence and then there is a touchdown.

We are in a place we knew, but he has made it different for us. In this sense, even more than a traveler, Pericoli is a perfect guide. He leaves people out of his drawings precisely because he knows that they will eventually walk themselves in. They will find their own Dublin. Or Tokyo. Or New York. He opens up the windows of all these cities and invites us to fly outward from them. The skyline, therefore, is our own. He has allowed us that most revelatory moment of creativity when we look up and think that, even if we have once been in that place and have left it, we would one day like to return.  

We leave. And we sometimes come home.

Occasionally the walk is only the length of a city block. A departure, if you will. A moment away from the security gate.

Matteo-Pericoli-Skyline of the World @ JFK

Final sketch of Skyline of the World

Visit Colum McCann’s website

The New Yorker, September 12, 2011 issue

In one of my rarely-opened drawers, I stumbled across this September 12, 2011 issue of The New Yorker magazine with a portion of my original, 2001 West Side drawing from Manhattan Unfurled (top) and a 2011 drawing of the same section of the skyline (from Canal St. to the Battery).

Click here to watch a New Yorker video about the making of the drawing:

Very excited to be talking about the LabLitArch at Princeton University next week!

From the LabLitArch News page  

The first workshop was held in April, in collaboration with professor Marco Maggi of USI University of Lugano (CH), Institute of Italian Studies, and organized by the City of Lugano.
An array of participants, including USI literary students, graduate design students, and two selfless local architects (Flora and Michela), attended. Professor Maggi’s area of research, which focuses on the “mental space” of the reader, allowed for a more in-depth exploration of how a literary text “carves out” a space from within the mind of the reader.
While working with one of professor Maggi’s students who has been visually impaired since birth, we realized how her ability to deduce an architectural space (obviously only its interior since its exterior shape isn’t perceivable to her) is incredibly similar to how a reader perceives the “structure” of a literary text, where words function not so much as “building blocks”, but more as excavating toolsthat actively create space by subtracting material from a solid mass (imagine, for example, the city of Petra in Jordan). A story, in fact, is obviously un-knowable from the “outside” and it’s only once we’ve begun to penetrate it (by reading it) that we start to slowly create a perception about its “construction”.
For this edition we worked on texts by HemingwayDeliusTabucchi and A.M. Homes. Here is a short video on our 20+ hours of practically continuous work: YouTube LabLitArch Lugano Video

The second workshop was LabLitArch’s very first experiment with music. It was in fact called “Laboratory of Musical Architecture”. It was held in May, in collaboration with professor Andrea Malvano of the University of Turin’s Department of Humanities. Professor Malvano, who has degrees in both literature and music (piano), selected pieces by BachSchumannSchoenberg and Glass. The participants, all trained musicians or music students, worked with two experienced LabLitArch architects (Michelle Vecchia and Alessio Lamarca) to produce five amazing models:

We applied the very same methodology and approach used in many Literary Architecture workshops, i.e. working mostly backwards in search of possible motivating and implicit original inclinations that were at the basis of the creation of the musical pieces. As with literary texts, we avoided manifesting what is somewhat already explicit in the music. By working in the opposite direction, so to speak, we tried to get as close as possible, if it is even ever attainable, to the composer’s original creative sparkor insight or intuition.

This led us to the realization that, in music as in literature, movement in this direction forces us to leave our familiar disciplinary turf and we end up reaching a kind of expansive narrative ground probably common to most human artistic endeavors. Perhaps there indeed exists a sudden creative impulse, which is neither made of words nor of notes — it’s just there, as a not-yet-manifest expression of a narrative intuition. If so, narrative is truly all-pervasive. And architecture, with its fundamental narrative elements such as volume, space, light, weight, revelations, suspension, etc. seems to be an ideal tool to analyze, explore and even enter this boundless space of narrative.

Insight from both of these workshops will hopefully be included in the Literary Architecture book I am working on with Il Saggiatore. Work is progressing well and, as an additional sneak preview, I would like to share this new sketch of the book’s structurehere. At first glance, it may not seem so different from the previous sketch; but to me, and my very-limited writing experience, it represents a huge step forward!

Check the original post from the LabLitArch website:

di Marco Maggi
Arabeschi N. 12, Dicembre 2018

Con l’aria di disegnare architetture e profili di città, Matteo Pericoli conduce da vent’anni un’indagine profonda e affascinante sul senso dei luoghi e dell’abitare. L’autore stesso la definisce una «ricerca dello spazio attraverso il disegno del dettaglio».

Manhattan Unfurled The East Side – Financial District (dettaglio)

All’origine fu Manhattan Unfurled (2001), lo skyline della City di New York srotolato su due nastri di carta della lunghezza di dodici metri ciascuno; quindi il rovesciamento di prospettiva con Manhattan Within (2003), la città vista dall’interno di Central Park. Seguirono London Unfurled (2011) e prima, in forma di ‘capriccio’, niente meno che World Unfurled (2008). Nel frattempo la sperimentazione sulla forma panoramatica era stata affiancata da una ricerca sulle ‘vedute’, con The City Out My Window: 63 Views on New York (2009).

Con l’inizio di questo decennio Matteo Pericoli ha orientato sempre più la sua ricerca sulle relazioni tra architettura e letteratura. Lo strumento d’indagine è sempre lo stesso, la sua matita, al più ora affiancata dai modelli in tre dimensioni costruiti nell’ambito di un Laboratorio di Architettura Letteraria proposto con successo nei dipartimenti di architettura e nei corsi di creative writing delle università di mezzo mondo, da Ferrara a Taipei, da Gerusalemme a New York.

Abbiamo incontrato Matteo Pericoli a margine dell’edizione del Laboratorio di Architettura Letteraria svoltasi alla Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo di Torino tra il 16 e il 19 novembre 2017.

D: Il Laboratorio di Architettura Letteraria si presenta come un’«esplorazione transdisciplinare di narrazione e spazio». I partecipanti sono invitati a costruire con colla e cartoncino un modello architettonico capace di restituire a un potenziale visitatore l’esperienza percettiva, cognitiva ed emotiva ricavata dalla lettura di un testo narrativo. Da quale percorso è nato questo progetto?

R: Volendo fingere di rendere in maniera lineare un percorso che è stato in realtà tortuoso e spezzato, costellato di sorprese e casualità più che guidato da un disegno consapevole, direi che all’origine fu la tesi di laurea in architettura con Volfango Frankl e Domenico Malagricci, che erano stati collaboratori di Mario Ridolfi. Lavorando con loro avevo avuto il sentore che l’architettura fosse qualcosa di diverso dalle cose che avevo ascoltato nei corsi universitari a Milano. Tra l’altro, loro, anche per ragioni anagrafiche, disegnavano tantissimo, facevano tutto a mano, in un momento in cui – si era all’inizio degli anni Novanta – si stava affermando la tendenza a fare tutto al computer.
Fu grazie a queste persone che mi venne la curiosità di andare a vedere le architetture dell’ultimo Michelucci, dalle quali compresi un principio che ho cercato poi di applicare all’architettura letteraria: l’intuizione, cioè, che il materiale da costruzione non sono tanto soffitti e pareti, bensì il vuoto; che l’architettura è in primo luogo modellazione dello spazio.
Fu su questa spinta che mi decisi ad andare a New York, dove finii per lavorare nello studio di Richard Meier (dove peraltro scoprii, con un certo sentimento di rivincita, che là si faceva tutto a mano!). Qui però mi accorsi anche che ciò che mi interessava veramente fare era narrare col disegno. Volevo esplorare la dimensione della linea, che è l’elemento grafico più vicino alla parola, alla narrazione, per provare a dare una forma all’affetto che provavo per quella città. New York Unfurled è nato così, poi sono venuti tutti gli altri.
Anche il fatto di dover parlare, pensare e leggere in un’altra lingua ha forse favorito quel processo di ‘sganciamento’ dal linguaggio che mi ha condotto ad apprezzare la lettura in maniera diversa, a partire dall’esperienza sinestetica di percepire altro oltre alle parole. Come quando, passeggiando in una piazza con qualcuno, anche se sei concentrato su ciò che stai raccontando, quando arrivi dall’altra parte ti sei formato un’idea di quel luogo.

D: Poi ti sei trasferito a Torino.

LabLitArch – Jeffrey Eugenides ‘Middlesex’

R: Nel 2009 iniziai a tenere un corso alla Scuola Holden intitolato La linea del racconto. Facevo disegnare agli allievi della scuola di scrittura la loro finestra, quindi chiedevo loro di descriverla con le parole. Mostravo loro le opere di Saul Steinberg per indicare il territorio di confine fra scritto e disegnato che volevo che esplorassero. L’anno dopo quelli della Scuola mi chiesero vagamente di fare ‘qualcosa di più’. Fu così che nacque l’idea dell’architettura letteraria. Vedevo tutti questi ragazzi che parlavano di architettura dei romanzi, di funzionamento delle storie, e volevo dire loro: «Io in teoria sono un architetto, o comunque un appassionato di questa cosa che è lo spazio: perché non mi fate vedere, invece di parlarne, come funziona la narrazione, perché non proviamo a capire insieme perché, come si dice, le storie stanno o non stanno in piedi?». Il primo laboratorio fu sconvolgente, erano tutti studenti di scrittura, dunque nessuno sapeva costruire un modellino, c’erano cartoni dappertutto, ma le idee erano così incredibilmente avanzate, sofisticate, erano idee che non mi ero nemmeno lontanamente sognato durante gli studi di architettura. Fu allora che intuii che l’architettura letteraria non era un’idea ma un possibile cammino di scoperta.

D: Quali contributi può portare il tuo laboratorio alla comprensione di che cos’è un testo letterario?

LabLitArch a Gerusalemme

R: La cosa forse più interessante di un’operazione come questa è che accende la luce su cosa succede nella parte destra del cervello mentre leggiamo. Pensiamo alla lettura come a un’attività confinata nell’emisfero sinistro, quello del linguaggio, ma in realtà qualcosa succede anche dall’altra parte. Il laboratorio consente di gettare luce su questa zona in penombra. Però al tempo stesso vorrei che la ‘magia’ avvenisse in maniera non scientifica. All’inizio, dopo i sorprendenti risultati delle prime edizioni, ero stato io a chiedere a dei neuroscienziati che si occupavano della percezione dello spazio di aiutarmi a comprendere cosa accadeva nel laboratorio. Ora, pur continuando a leggere su questi argomenti, preferisco cercare risposte dal laboratorio stesso, che ripropongo sempre quasi identico, sia perché spero di riprodurre ogni volta la sorpresa della prima volta, sia per misurare eventuali scarti, che sono grandi elementi di apprendimento. Soprattutto, credo che le risposte più profonde, più ancora che dallo studiare o anche dal progettare le architetture letterarie, vengano dal disegnarle con la matita e realizzarle col cartone: lì si vede subito come funziona una storia, se sta o non sta in piedi…

D: L’unico precetto dell’Architettura Letteraria, come spieghi ai partecipanti al laboratorio, è di essere ‘letterari’ e non ‘letterali’. Cosa intendi dire?

R: Se ‘costruisci’ Gita al faro di Virginia Woolf e fai il modellino di un faro sei fuori strada. Hai usato quello che l’autrice ti ha suggerito e ti sei fermato lì. Ma cosa significa la gita al faro, cosa è successo prima, la morte della nonna, l’assenza, il motivo per cui tu vai al faro… Tutto questo è assente. Se il faro lo inserisci alla fine, perché è coerente con la costruzione, allora può funzionare; però ci deve essere tutto il resto… Nella Gita al faro il faro può essere una soluzione architettonica diversa, il faro può anche essere un buco.

D: Di recente hai esplorato un altro aspetto delle relazioni tra letteratura e spazialità, con l’illustrazione delle architetture d’invenzione di due classici della letteratura italiana: i mondi ultraterreni di Dante per un’edizione scolastica della Commedia commentata da Robert Hollander e le utopie urbane di Italo Calvino per una traduzione brasiliana delle Città invisibili. Ti sei cimentato anche con le immagini di copertina di alcuni libri. Quali lezioni hai tratto da quest’altra diramazione del tuo progetto di ricerca letteraria attraverso lo spazio e il disegno? Come declini, in questo caso, il tuo precetto di essere letterari e non letterali?


R: È una domanda buffa, perché, nel caso dell’illustrazione, il precetto di essere letterari e non letterali non vale. A mio parere l’illustrazione dev’essere un servizio al testo, è lui che ‘comanda’, quindi va fatta con dedizione e ‘altruismo’. È una cosa diversa dall’architettura letteraria. Sono, per così dire, due sport diversi: l’illustrazione è una specie di tiro al bersaglio, devi centrare l’obiettivo; l’architettura letteraria, invece, è come il tennis: l’obiettivo è rinviare la palla entro uno spazio che è delimitato, ma che al contempo offre soluzioni diverse. Nel caso di Dante e Calvino, ho cercato di sottolineare tutti i passi in cui era chiaramente descritto come funzionano le loro architetture. Di lì in poi ho dovuto cercare soluzioni a problemi architettonici che né Dante né Calvino avevano dovuto affrontare, in quanto le loro architetture sono fatte di parole e non di tratti. Erano comunque sempre soluzioni fornite a problemi ‘tecnici’.

D: L’ultima domanda è rivolta al lettore. Uno spiraglio sui ‘tuoi’ autori è offerto dalle Literary Architecture Series pubblicate su ‘Paris Daily Review’, ‘La Stampa’, ‘Pagina99’: in ordine sparso, Fenoglio, Faulkner, Dostoevskij, Tanizaki, Carrère, Ernaux, Conrad, Calvino, Vonnegut, Ferrante, Saer, Dürrenmatt… Quali sono i tuoi favoriti? E soprattutto, che tipo di lettore sei? Come ti poni di fronte a un’opera letteraria?

Tanizaki, La chiave

R: Tutte queste letture sono state in qualche modo sorprendenti. In realtà per sei anni avevo chiacchierato tanto ma non avevo fatto nulla, nel senso di costruire architetture letterarie. Poi il direttore de ‘La Stampa’, Maurizio Molinari, mi lanciò la sfida. La prima fu Gli anni di Annie Ernaux. La chiave di Tanizaki è un’architettura perfetta. Mattatoio n. 5 di Vonnegut è una lettura che tutti dovrebbero fare, non ha niente a che vedere con le etichette che gli hanno appiccicato, la fantascienza, l’umorismo… È uno sforzo immane condotto con una leggerezza inimmaginabile, per me è quasi eroico. Credo che sarei più pronto a ricostruire domani la cupola del Brunelleschi – con qualcuno che mi aiuta! – piuttosto che scrivere una cosa così.
Nel corso di questi anni la lettura è diventata per me una sorta di viaggio esplorativo. Mi faccio prendere per mano, se lo scrittore o la scrittrice lo vogliono, oppure mi affido al mio desiderio di esplorare la storia alla ricerca di sorprese narrative, spesso soffermandomi a osservare i dettagli, così essenziali nell’architettura come anche nella narrazione; alle volte mi trovo a gioire e godere di quello in cui mi imbatto, ogni tanto a intristirmi per le potenzialità mancate, o per dettagli progettati male.

Leggi direttamente dal sito di Arabeschi:

It’s finally here and it is so exciting to see the Laboratory of Literary Architecture in a major academic publication! The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City, edited by Jonathan Charley, features a chapter on the LabLitArch, which includes a narrative on the genesis of the laboratory, images, project samples, the Literary Architecture series, as well as a dialogue between professors Carola Hilfrich and Jonathan Charley about the pedagogical implications of the LabLitArch.

Excerpts from the dialogue between professors Carola Hilfrich and Jonathan Charley:

“One of the valuable features of the LabLitArch project is that it seems to suggest a ludic alternative to a super-rationalized modern education system.”

“It sets up a process of playful experimentation … that has all the edginess, marginality, contingency, and frustration as well as the serious stakes in liberating our thought from habitual constraints.”

“Seeing the process at work felt like being in loophole of knowledge production; a place where participants, thrown out of the respective boxes of their home disciplines, move into a hybrid, interactive, and reconfigurable field.”

“I think of Matteo’s Laboratory as a unique environment for exploring the potential of … moments where literature and architecture, words and buildings and spaces, readability and inhabitability intertwine with humans.”

“Asking us to put our hands on works of literature by architecturally removing their verbal skins, the LabLitArch makes us grasp their actual texture rather than their form or meaning, so as to shape it, collaboratively, as a habitable space.”

“LabLitArch is perhaps most transformative for our thinking and doing at moments of counter-intuition, competing intuitions, mixed intuition, or intuitions that fail us; and that its emphasis on intuition, or gut feeling, includes loops through the whole body and its more intentional responses, as well as through the imagination and the environment.”

“Matteo’s Laboratory is itself a theory of intuition and failure. Intriguingly, its teaching method in collaboratively haptic creativity advances from the outset a non-subjectivist approach; and it does produce end-results, in the form of architectural projects.”

Details here:
And here: