Changing Society, Intersezioni - Redazione P&D - 2015-01-20
ETHOARCHITECTURE AS A HUMAN CO-SCIENCE – Salvino Arturo POZZI
"Ethoarchitecture" is derived from ethos, arché and tecton which translated mean "building of a principle through an ethos" . You connect the word ethos (with the eta) with its usual meaning, character of the soul, dwelling and quote the difference between this word and oikos, house, the dwelling as structure. What is the difference between the "dwelling" (home) in this sense and the structure, the building (house)?
I would like to remind you of a milestone in architectural literature: Genius loci. Landscape, environment, architecture, (1979) by Christian Norberg Schulz. This book describes the city and makes us understand that there is something very deep, subtle that characterises spaces. Something we can define as "non-material" and that has to do with the historyand the relationships. Man lives a space and the space becomes "place" when there is a history and relationships. The difference between dwelling (home) and structure (house) is the same we have between place and space. A structure (house) becomes a dwelling (home) when there is a history of living and relationships. There cannot be a genius loci if there hasn't been adwelling, a history of dwelling, identity processes, habits, breeches/rifts, conflicts, closeness/bonding and relationships. It is precisely because there is all this that there can be a genius loci. This is a living being, non-material, which peeps out from the stones, the buildings, the eaves. It is a living being that materializes through the relationships between manand the forms of a city, a neighbourhood, a square. The ancients felt, through intuition, first the soul of a place then the material. Nowadays this does not happen any more and people build without taking into account that a place has its history, its identity, its vocation and a soul.What is the challenge of Ethoarchitecture?
Ethoarchitecture attempts to recover this soul dimension of the place which the ancients did intuitively. The challenge is to make sure that this process becomes "modern" so to speak. Ethoarchitecture wants to reconnect to an ancient discourse and transform it into a scientific procedure, not just an intuitive procedure directed only by "feeling". This is an attempt to succeed in making human beings feel at home. Nowadays we live the alienation, the loneliness in the big cities. This discipline would like – by means of forms, models, materials – to bring back a just relationship between the lived space, the place and its users. The attempt is to bring back an equilibrium between the perceived form and the perceiver, the man who lives a specific space. Ethoarchitecture can be also read as a "construction of an ethical principle by means of the form". Man is made of so many things. He has a heart, an ability to reason, a consciousness and many other layers we don't know yet. A discipline like Ethoarchitecture needs, therefore, different types of knowledge, the dialogue between different types of knowledge. And in this dialogue we must take into account both horizontal and vertical anthropology. We are made of so many things and Ethoarchitecture is an attempt to return to this unity with a scientific method but with a free conscience. It therefore poses itself another great challenge, that is to overcome this dichotomy between scientific and spiritual knowledge. If man, first of all, gets deeply back in touch with his consciousness, bringing out the Self, and then grafts in all this science, art, technology, the result will be a product, thought or object which will vibrate with the Essence of man itself. This will represent the religion (from "religo" - put together...transcendent and immanent, soul and matter) or the religious process common to the Man of the new millennium.From your articles I seem to understand that the "dwelling", the ethos, takes into account both a temporal and atemporal dimension. In other words it is as if you said that this sense of "dwelling" evolves in time but at the same time, to be really so, it must have characteristics which transcend time.
It is not exactly an elementary discourse. The question is if an ethos without time exists. The word ethics comes from ethos and tecne, art. It is the last word that relates man to his time, which makes the ethos dynamic. The ethos therefore is a kind of root, something which is part of a structure but which is anchored to the soil, supports and feeds the tree. But the ethos has also its own evolution. The root is there and grows deeper and deeper. Man has discovered the existence of codes (the genetic one, for example) which have a predefined structure, yes, but at the same time they are enriched by new information, they evolve. And even if new information is added, the structure of the code remainssubstantially the same. Man's destiny is to succeed in decoding this code and to enrich it with new conscious information. The ethos becomes ethics when one relates with the environment, therefore with life, with the space-time dimension. The really interesting point is that man discovers codes that are not usual, that are unknown. There is a variable which is unknowable and it is from this that man's freedom originates.
How can we connect all this to architectural forms?
Today we know from cognitive and behavioural sciences that if forms, typologies, proportions, colours, lights vary, we can cause a change in the behaviour and the psyche. If the form changes, the thought of man changes. The sense is that the action of the conscious man can help other men to evolve. Man can choose a re-evolution, that is a new evolution which has at its base a deep knowledge of man, through re-reading his most positive anthropology, that can be defined horizontal, with another vertical and spiritual anthropology, which can be also objectifiable. A re-evolution is a conscious evolution. There are places that help to be more human and places that weaken this ethical potential, these roots. One of the aspects of culture is to harmonise the needs of modern man to the necessities interpreted as processes generated by history. It is a brutality to conceive forms that have at their basis "only" a break with the past. These new forms must be built in continuity but only with a process of re-elaboration. Architecture is, by nature, something that has to be lived in time by different people of different eras.
Can you give me an example?
When I go for a walk around Aversa, my city, and I look at the balconies of the buildings, I realize that until the 40s they were made in a certain way: without reinforced concrete but with a base of stone embedded in the brickwork or, later, with marble slabs on cast iron shelves; in the 70s, instead, not only is reinforced concrete used, but also a form (continuous balconies) that breaks the harmony, the rhythm of the façade.
I seem to understand that Ethoarchitecture needs, in a sense, a language which is new in many respects. What could be, in your opinion, the objections of the academic world?
I can talk about my experience in Italy, in the south. I have had great difficulties in completing my studies because I had chosen a frontier research. Ethoarchitecture puts together different disciplines and I have often had difficulties in being understood. Abroad, the situation is already different. The number of students is smaller and the fundamental planning different: didactics become research and vice versa, with great ease. I have the feeling that often our creative potential is kept under lock and key by the academic world, afraid of being stripped of its privileges. This is a characteristic of the Italian academic world with its marked component of self referencing.
How was your passion born which brought you to this new vision?
Everything originates by chance. Or maybe nothing happens by chance. I grew up in a house surrounded by countryside and Tonino, the person who was in some way my baby-sitter, used to surround himself with animals. From the interest for animals and plants to the one for man. And from here to architecture centred on man and his needs. Add to this the fact that I wanted to be an ethologist. Lorenz, the father of modern ethology, was very much in favour when I was young and his figure has accompanied me in some way.
When did you link the two words?
During a sleepless night. I thought of a mathematical proportion linking architecture, ethology, psychology and cybernetics.
What innovations will Ethoarchitecture be able to bring in the field of planning?
The instruments of analysis borrowed from ethology and anthropology and their expression in a suitable code of representation and reading, which makes them closer to the world of architecture, will give us back a method of analysis at an urban scale by means of which parameters can be defined and guidelines identified not only to transform the existing spaces but also to plan new ones. A new profession will enter the field, the research analyst, who, having knowledge of different disciplines, will have the task to determine parameters, that take into account, this time, man and his whole complex reality, and that will be needed as indispensable data before any processing, simulation or test, in urban planning and design, following a biological direction.
Salvino Arturo Pozzi graduated in architecture in 2000 magna cum laude and completed a PhD in Design in 2006. Soon after his degree he began dealing with the studies of human behaviour in the urban environment with a biannualscholarship at the CNR of Naples and has earned a post PhD at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Urban Ethology of Vienna. He has been a member of ISHE (International Society of Human Ethology) since 2009. He has participated in many national and international conferences, has written articles on the analysis of the anthropic dimension of the urban environment and on the new frontiers of urban planning. He is a freelance lecturer in seminars at universities in Italy and abroad and teaches regularly a special part of the course in Anthropic Analysis at the Chair of Evaluation of Architecture and Environment – Department of Architecture of Aversa (SUN), on the analysis and representation of the "human dimension" in urban environments.