From Steven Holl to Citterio and Viel, a journey into the correspondence of loving senses between two disciplines that are closer than you think

There are at least two completely different ways of looking at the correspondence of loving senses that has always combined in a single vibration architecture and music.

Transforming buildings into real musical instruments

The first, most spectacular, is to retrace the series of projects that cyclically transform buildings into real musical instruments, as it did some time ago, in a poetic way, the great David Byrne. The musician, former frontman of Talking Heads, has transformed Fargfabriken, an ex industrial space in Stockholm dating back to the late nineteenth century, in the extension of a real organ, connecting the instrument to the tangle of electric and gas pipes and exposed metal beams to resonate the building without using any amplifier or electronic sound. Playing the Building , the title of the experiment, was a real concert "for flow of air and architecture".

The sea organ in Croatia

Another example of this kind is, on the seafront of Zadar in Croatia , the enchanting sea organ by architect Nikola Bašić, formed by a staircase that slopes down to the sea with thirty-five pipes of different inclination, shape and length. Here, thanks to the wave motion of the water, the reeds produce ever-changing sounds, modulated according to seven chords and five tones, defining a magical encounter of nature and artifice.

Steven Holl, music as a remedy for prolixity and lack of wit

But if we are looking for a less figurative and literal language, more allusive and perhaps stimulating that embodies the relationship between music and architecture, we must go fishing in the repertoire of Steven Holl. The great American architect has long theorized the need of the design discipline to be inspired by music . He explains it himself with these words that introduce a portfolio renamed Architectonics of Music: "Research on music and architecture continues to be a source of inspiration and is particularly necessary in the present moment in which pedagogy and architectural practice are verbose, without direction, without ideas and spirit". And again: "Music, like architecture, is an engaging experience: it surrounds you. You can move away from a painting or a sculpture, while music and architecture envelop the body in space".

Architectonics of Music includes a selection of projects that experiment new architectural languages ​​ born from the bond interdisciplinary that Holl cultivates. There is the Maggie's Center Barts in the heart of London with a stained glass facade inspired by the neumatic notation of 13th century medieval song music, and where a new insulating material, a type of glass never used before, brings an imaginative colored light inside. There is the Narrow House, a private residence in Texas , which "quotes" in the water flows outside the Musica for strings, percussion and celesta by Bela Bartok: "Through four movements, the piece is made up of a clear division between heavy (percussion) and light (strings). Where the materiality of music resides in instrumentation and sound, this architecture attempts a correspondence in light and space", explains Holl.

The American teacher taught with Dimitra Tsachrelia at the Advanced Design Studio Architectonics of Music at the Columbia University school of architecture. In 2017, "we focused on the work of composer Iannis Xenakis , an engineer, architect and mathematician who truly related architecture and music with innovative conceptual strategies. In the laboratory we experienced the potential of a future architecture, open both to experimentation and connected to the spirit. While we ask ourselves what is architecture?, We also ask ourselves: what is music?".

The film about Citterio and Viel as a score

But why do we periodically feel the need to evoke a link between these two disciplines? First of all because masters, writers and intellectuals have always done it: Leon Battista Alberti, for example, advised architects to study music, while Goethe described music as "architecture liquid" and architecture as "frozen music". And then because architecture and music share a sense of rhythm and harmony. As happens in The Importance of Being an Architect, the film that celebrates the half-century of professional activity of Antonio Citterio, of which twenty alongside Patricia Viel.

Read also: The Importance of Being an Architect, documentary-film about the Citterio-Viel studio

The film is structured as a musical journey in four acts, and the music is not simply an accompaniment, but a measure of the narrative scan. "Giorgio Ferrero, who together with Federico Biasini has signed the direction, is also a composer" tell Citterio and Viel. "This led him to instill a kinesthetic approach to space in the film". music, with cinema, thus becomes a way to get out of the often cold narrative of architecture used by architects and the small circle of professionals, to become the instrument of a choral story. As it should always be.