Copyright (c) 2020 Maria Teresa Lucarelli
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
The theme that this issue proposes is undoubtedly of great suggestion; equally undeniable is that it is a subject of many facets and complexity not only because of the different definitions and interpretations that have been given to “time” since ancient times, but also because of its relationship with architecture that is appropriated and nourished by time.
As can be seen from the contributions of the Dossier, which introduces the essays and research presented here, many distinguished scholars – architects, philosophers and intellectuals – have tried their hand at investigating this relationship, developing, in the specificity of their thought, interesting critical reflections that focus on the aspect of memory, continuity and/or change, declining in a harmonious way the concept of permanence, «[…] included in the continuous and changeable flow of becoming» (Truppi, 2012), with that of temporariness intended not only as a solution to the emergency but as attention to the varied housing needs of a society in constant change, a strategic design option in which attention to flexibility, in the articulation of spaces and reversibility, in the definition of uses can allow for greater durability over time.
In the debate that periodically reopens on the subject, the events that occur, often completely unexpected as the pandemic that has recently hit us and/or announced and mostly underestimated, such as climate change in progress, seem to question the classical relationship between time and architecture that finds in the Vitruvian triad and its balance the maximum expression.
Therefore, it is undeniable that the firmitas has allowed Architecture to remain in time; that utilitas has enhanced its function by favouring its duration and that venusta has satisfied the need for beauty necessary to assert its essence and existence.
One could say, as R. Secchi (Secchi, 2013) says, that «[…] the Vitruvian triad does not admit the abuse of one category over the others but prescribes the achievement of their right balance […]». In reality, even though these principles remain a stable and not only symbolic reference for Architecture, the economic, social and environmental phenomena that over time have passed through Societies. In particular starting from the Industrial Revolution, seem to have significantly changed this balance, in many cases in favour of utilitas to improve the quality of life but often denying venustas; acting also on firmitas as witnessed by the catastrophes, even recent ones, generated by natural events or, even more serious, by human neglect. It is evident the lack of attention paid in recent decades to the temporal stability of the manufactured product, often designed without adequate control of technical solutions; to maintenance, monitoring and the trend of its life cycle. These actions are essential to ensure the safety of users but also the maintenance of the formal as well as functional aspects for which the object has reason to exist.
To escape the rhetoric of symbolism in which it is easy to fall into the relationship between time and architecture and bring back the reasoning on the themes, concrete, that the call extenders (Lauria and Pollo, 2020) wanted to propose through the four topics: Time as project factor/variable; Time as performance factor/variable; Time as organisation factor/variable; Time as transformation factor/variable, the intent of starting a comparison on the different weight and influence that time has on the architectural project and on the phases that characterize it clearly emerges. Influence not only with respect to the succession of sequential actions, codified by practice and the norm, but also with respect to new design paradigms that increasingly have to be confronted with the speed of innovation, with environmental and social changes, rapid and unpredictable and that impose to the project, and therefore to the object, the same speed of transformation. It refers about the “adaptivity” of Architecture, strongly linked to the continuous space-time mutation but also to economic, social and environmental sustainability; of circularity of design respecting the resources used and considered in every phase of the life cycle; of flexibility according to strategies aimed at strengthening durability, including concepts such as reversibility, recyclability and energy self-sufficiency. All these factors associated with the control of the lifecycle of the building and therefore with the evaluation over time of the expected quality levels, have to take into account new performances deriving from the relationship between the building and the context, the appropriate use of resources and adaptation to climate change. New performance, also «[…] measurable in terms of the extent of the “mission” during which certain levels of reliability and maintainability have to be maintained» (Lauria and Pollo, 2020).
Another focus proposed by the call concerns the time factor connected, right from the design phase, with the overall management of the building process. A good time planning, closely linked to costs and human resources, has a significant impact on the planning of the various phases that characterize the governance of the project. Scheduled time management does not in itself guarantee quality, but it can certainly encourage the achievement of objectives and improve results also through the use of project management procedures and techniques, which the Law on Public Works itself calls for, or through the adoption of new practices, such as lean construction, which aim essentially at improving implementation and management processes.
Certainly, time and its passing have determined important changes and transformations on the building heritage, leaving the signs of a physiological degradation – as a coating of time that does not always connote the negativity of the building – but also of relevant functional and technological obsolescence mainly due to the lack of attention to design and construction, particularly in recent decades. On the one hand, therefore, historical Architecture that has to be re-functionalized in order not to lose its value of use in addition to the symbolic value that characterizes it. On the other hand, modern Architecture where the recovery can represent an opportunity for new experiments redefining, in a time projection, spaces and functions always with a view to sustainability and respect for the environment.
To conclude, we refer to a reflection by Vittorio Gregotti, taken from his book “Time and Project” (Gregotti, 2019), which is well adapted to the contents of this issue of TECHNE: «The interpretation of time is one of the structural materials to which the architectural project gives expression. Time, together with place and space, represents an opportunity for the present to confront a poetic, disciplinary and civil past as well as many other meanings […]».