Marotta, Antonello (2014) Stratigraphies: archaeology as a threshold and passage. City, territory and architecture, Vol. 1 (9), p. 1-8. eISSN 2195-2701. Article.
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Like every phase of the history of thought, the contemporary age ponders over the meaning of the past. Thinking back over places that already have a history in the archaeological sense leads us to certain questions that concern, at close range, our way of understanding design, the city and the territory. The need for the ideas of our times to interact with these sites, with their sedimented past, has determined a variety of solutions, some with a historical-philological focus, others aimed at revitalisation, yet others in which design chooses the path of non-intervention and, finally, some - and this is the aspect we will analyse - aimed at interacting and creating contact with the past, with a mechanism fit to generate new spatial, social and behavioural principles.
This vision necessarily considers the past as matter that is alive and under tension, and grasps bonds with it as extraordinary opportunities, excludes mimicry and philology, aware that the past as such has changed over time. What remains is a substance endowed with meaning, a meaning that comes alive again through interpretation and the yielding of value and new life to the present.
The design discipline is implementing numerous courses and we can summarise them under the concept of archaeology and trace.
Archaeology is a subject linked by its nature to history and calls up an archaic dimension, whereas the trace takes us into the world of interpretation, analysis, and research based on circumstantial evidence.
In Post-modern years there was talk of the end of narration and of the need to focus once more on the list. According to this idea the necessary information had to be retrieved from the past and could then be freely assembled to form a framework, but it gave debatable results for architecture was being turned into an eclectic, citationist construct.
We need to take a step backwards, towards the end of the Sixties, to pick out, from among the themes investigated by Michel Foucault, reflections on history that in present times refocus on disciplinary aspects.
In 1969, with L’archéologie du savoir (The archaeology of knowledge), the French philosopher had undermined the model of history that advanced, recorded and invoked strata, archaeological levels and thresholds founded on different planes, involving the city as much as society. Foucault maintained that the strata of history overlapped, “they intersect without being able to be reduced to a linear pattern” (Foucault 1980). The French philosopher had formalised this unavoidable relation between memory and past, including life as an internal process. History, eliminating the irruption of events, was interpreted as an ideal, coherent and, consequently, linear model. Foucault introduced the principle of heterotopia, of the co-presence of various times in the same place, belonging as much to the past as to the present. Memory is deeply different from the past, in that it is coloured by the present, is alive and “darns” experiences, rewriting them to be able to exist and be able to carry on narrating. Whereas the past, as such, shows what there was, the times passed through, what has inexorably disappeared. Memory, on the other hand, questions time, calls it back to itself like a pressing need of redefinition. With L’archéologie du savoir, Michel Foucault challenged a structure of knowledge that was unidirectional, linked with univocal power, calling up differences, schedules and the multitudes of signifiers and polysemic elements.
The analysis the French philosopher constructed on history adapts well to highlighting the stratigraphic and topographic complexity of the city, analysed in its evolution. The city sums up different times and phases of development in its structuring, so as to make it a complex structure of passages, and of temporal thresholds.
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