Parallelograms & Arabesques


     The distance between Bauhaus and the Baroque is so great as to be insuperable: Bauhaus would find far greater affinity with the exuberant austerity of the Romanesque, while the Baroque would be more at home in the all-out orgy of the aesthetic of a high Hindu temple-discotèque. The Apollonian and the Dionysian all over again, two teams in the same league century after century who never manage to get the upper hand one over the other. Walter Gropius sent the masses on their way to a new address in a dreary uniformity of bausiedlungen of his construction, while he himself chose to live in the bourgeois comfort of a Biedermeyer apartment during his long sojourn in old Weimar.

     The worst nightmare of Josef Albers would have been compulsory participation in the Carnival parade at Rio de Janeiro.

     A recurrent element in the paintings of Sandro Zendralli is to be located in the form of the arabesque, a leitmotiv which throughout his compositions can assume several forms and undergo countless variations: das werden, a continual becoming. One canvas includes two arabesques which seem to symmetrically frame the space, as if executed simultaneously with both hands.

     In contemporary architecture, the arabesque would seem to have superseded the Apollonian classical rigor of the parallelograms of the International School from Walter Gropius to Mies van der Rohe. Le Corbusier already had his hand in the Pandora's cookie jar when it came to architecture à la odalesque. But in more recent years it has been the likes of Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind, and Zaha Hadid who have offered the world an array of sumptuous curves as not seen since Detroit in the Fifties, to the point where their buildings come to resemble the roller coasters at Luna Park, a Miami beachside hotel, or a spaceport on Star Trek.

     Sandro Zendralli: "I think it's perfectly fitting that they build in this manner. Because there is an evolution and also a creative aspect to these skyscrapers. Fortunately they were built by great architects who know what they are doing while giving a new impulse to architecture. They don't copy the past, facing the new technical challenges that skyscrapers bring with them. It makes complete sense to me that they do not refer any longer to the parallelism of facades, since the facade should be structured in a manner different from that which came before in the course of the technical revolution of the last decades.

     "The new style follows certain technical principles that had not yet been discovered in earlier times. Thus there is an evolution: in order to grow in height you cannot rely on parallelisms any longer. The upper levels need to be less voluminous than the bottom part of the building, almost like in a pyramid.

     "The triumph of velocity. If you look at today's skyscrapers, they might be illuminated only partly while the rest remains dark. People don't want to lose time over renting out the building, and technique allows you to follow these laws of society in ways which not long ago were unthinkable.

     "Symmetry works in a site that is free from any contextualizing element surrounding it as in the case of my buildings at Ravecchia, where two are symmetrical while the third keeps the symmetry only with regard to the first two, while on its side towards the torrent, I adapted its orientation following the direction of the river.

     "Hence the given natural circumstances break the symmetry of the first two architectures and dominate the plan of the third palazzo. According to this I also managed to create a rapport between my project and the castle, which you can see in the distance: a second element that forced me into this kind of asymmetry.

     Does this mean that symmetry might indicate a sort of independent closure as found in an oasis in the desert or an island?

     Sandro Zendralli: "... or in numbers..."

     Your painting of the mountains and the hand imprints: its chaos establishes a contradictory yet harmonious order; this cancels out, yet gives a prospect as if through a filter or griglia, to the mountains behind. Almost a question of confronting specific topographies.

     Sandro Zendralli: "From an architectural point of view, it depends if a ground lies on a slope or incline, or on flat land. If the garden is at ground level I have to protect it, to lend a sense of security, which is why I create walls, not too high, including a lot of plants, so you have the protection of the wall, and the greenery, as filter that helps to look outward and to hide within.

     "If the ground stretches out over a slope, I have to make the wall higher to elevate the garden, giving it an inclination like in Ravecchia: not only the wall serves as protection of the gardens at ground floor, but I also created the moment for the parking lot. The massive wall picks up the dimensions of the facade which becomes very light as opposed to the wall in front of it. Here I followed the equilibrium between the void and the full. Where the wall is left massive, without any openings, it functions as contrast and protection. The entry to the garage is lateral, so that the harmony between the void and the full is maintained."

    A sustained tension, a steady current or a certain intensity, is maintained throughout: that creative impulse which guides the artist's hand. To qualify as "impulse," the fundamental prerequisite which is required by an action or a process, or any attempt whatsoever to bring into concrete being or material manifestation, is the quality of "urgency."

     The idea of impulse also carries with it the implication of a certain spontaneity, an imperative caprice so strong, so overwhelming, that in order to restore peace of mind it must be answered, be consulted until it is conducted to its conclusion, brought to its fulfillment or catharsis. It is a metaphysical hunger, a thirst, which calls to be satisfied or quenched. An impulse is at the same time a reflex, a spark, a transmission of energy, an instinctive need. "Drive" in English or "Trieb" in German would serve as satisfactory translations.

     At the same time the term "creative impulse" could be employed interchangeably with "inspiration:" that enthusiasm by which the gods guide the fingers of the player on the lyre, the ankles of the dancer across the sand, and the hand of the painter over the expanse of the canvas.

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