Most of the urban debate today is based on a duality that confronts the inner city -the economic, cultural and lustful centripetal motor- versus the pastoral countryside -the “empty land” devoted to the production of food and goods-.
Still, what stands in-between them? These peripheral areas of impunity and unintentionality have a name: “zwischenstadt”.
It is precisely in this in-between city that we are going to swim.
The uncontrolled changes and cluttered developments that shaped the Italian provincial landscape from the seventies on will be our site of interventions. In defiance to a rich artistic, architectural and agricultural heritage, the Italian “provincia” (a very particular kind of zwischenstadt) has been shaped by a multitude of solitary interventions: little houses, housing blocks, shopping malls, industrial warehouses, headquarters, infrastructural leftovers, malls, … that homogenized the development of entire regions. The provincia was never a project, it was a consequence.
Geographically, “provincia” defines a scattered and large territory formed by the sum of a mid-size city, its suburban environments and countryside around. This ensemble structures a territory in which topics of mobility, production, housing, leisure, transgenerational co-living and labor are not defined by the speed and the propelling power of the metropolis, yet they can offer a higher quality of life (larger living spaces, good food, cheaper living costs) and a deeper encounter with natural environments, other species and cosmic rhythms.
Vita Activa and Dolce Vita.
Acting on the periphery around Vicenza, we will close-read and learning from its most definitive idea and answer: the Palladian Villa.
Originally ideated as farmhouses erected on a land devoted to agriculture (with the exception of the Rotonda), these villas were both a pragmatic answer and an abstract model. Not villas of seclusion, but villas of conviviality, they formed the typological answer for a humanistic desire of living the “used-to-be” countryside within an enlightened circle of intellectuals.
Today, the pastoral nuance got lost in favor of a “battlefield” filled with any kind of reliquiae and in which nothing has been projected, in which everything is a (bad) result.
We will embrace the typological answer Palladio gave us centuries ago to affirm maximum and common in the provincial as well as to understand how to dwell, to work, to move, to love, to betray, to get older, to have fun, … in the in-between city.
Palladio will be our friend with whom we will talk continuously in order to learn his gestures as relevant architectonic model for a “off-the-city” life. What are the consequences that emerge from the field when we “reinject” the Palladian villa principles in the contemporary in-between city of the Vicentine suburbia?
Palladian villa will be for us a figure of thought in which we will look for answers and elements able to represent a tentative of universality of a specific problem of a spatial (society and life) organization.
The good life in the countryside now turn to be La Dolce Vita in Provincia.