The first gift we received this season comes from Naples thanks to Cherubino Gambardella via Michela Bonomo. Volando sulla Megalopoli (Flying over the Megalopolis) gathers the projects produced for an exhibition that is still on show at the Cloister of Santa Maria La Nova in Naples: the exhibition closes Jan 7, 2016, so there are still a few weeks to visit it. If you happen to be in Naples, it is definitely a must! The work curated by Gambardella stands out as one of the most interesting recent attempts to discuss the urban condition in Italy. In Volando sulla Megalopoli Gambardella invites eleven architects to take a position vis-a-vis contemporary Naples using text and drawing, in a non-literal, imaginative way; the work is completed by eleven large models that illustrate in three dimensions an exemplary fragment of the vision of the author. While the work is very site-specific, we think it is not out of place to read in it a larger ambition to say something about the urban condition in Europe at large: Naples as a paradigm.
Naples is unique and yet exemplary: a law onto itself, the most and least Italian city, the most beautiful and the most ravaged by random development. The idea of constructing a sort of polyphonic project for Naples recalls Roma Interrotta and yet feels refreshingly bold and contemporary because of both the multimedia content and the subject itself - a city that is just impossible to define once and for all. Naples has it all, the very best architecture and a stunning landscape: it also has one of the deadliest volcanos in the world, and a too-complex-for-words social situation. Gambardella's drawing (above) is a perfect portrait of the complexities and contradictions of Naples. A couple of centuries ago, most big cities in Italy were all about gold and dirt - Venice, Rome, Palermo - but now perhaps Naples has remained the only place that can claim that. The book makes the potential of this condition all the clearest for avoiding data, statistics, and worn technical attempts at a 'scientific' analysis: its intelligence is all in the attempt to mobilize the visionary capital of the place.
The eleven positions are by no means homogeneous: from Beniamino Servino's sophisticated critique of the relationship between past and present, to Lorenzo Capobianco's plea for a rediscovery of collective open air space, from Maria Gelvi's hypothesis for a rethinking of residential sprawl, to Concetta Tavoletta's proposal for the decaying industrial heritage. These differences are what makes the book particularly compelling. We haven't visited the exhibition yet, but it looks like a very successful installation that makes the most of a stunning historical location and completes it with a gold-painted structure that is a nod to the city's rococo legacy. This is very much a choral piece of work; and yet, Gambardella's passion and commitment are very evident and function as the necessary link between the individual positions. Gambardella's own drawings stand out for their irony and confidence, pairing a Serlio fragment with a brightly coloured hand sketch. They make us smile and hope the best for Italy: to grow out of what Kant would call its 'self-incurred immaturity' without losing its sprezzatura. Thank you Cherubino for this gift!