It is to be considered an introductory review ranging from design to architecture, with some fantastic digressions; four architectural projects in chronological order; nine furniture design projects.Looking at the sequences of drawings, witnesses of the different design paths undergone by Bellini, it is clear that the drawing is the place where the project takes shape. Drawing becomes an instrument of research, of thought, of examination of reality; an effective means of communication to visualize, verify and share an idea; a powerful memory aid, which refers to the personal repository of images and references, stratified over time, which the architect can use – even unconsciously – whenever he undertakes a new interpretative or design adventure.
“Mario Bellini. Il disegno del progetto”
September 12 – October 5, 2018
Exhibition space “Galleria del progetto” Politecnico di Milano
Via Ampère, 2, 20133 Milano
This exhibition is also an opportunity to reflect upon the development of the architectural drawing and designing tools from analogical to digital, where the sketch remains the indispensable element of continuity in the heuristics phase of the project.
Much of the materials on show are project sketches made by Mario Bellini: often fragmentary and immediate, these annotations are aimed at fixing a thought, an impression, a suggestion, at crystallizing an idea that is still blurred and contradictory. They deal with the initial intuition and ideation, therefore being the depositaries of infinite potentialities. The first sketches of a project, in fact, contain in nuce everything the project will be and also what it will never be, but could have been.
The successive sketches summarize the initial ones: selecting, deepening, refining, perfecting the initial idea, tracing a path that becomes little by little univocal, insofar as the alternative solutions are eliminated, within a dynamic process of the reduction of the indeterminate.
In the sequences on display, the role of the sketch as a key moment in the design process emerges clearly: it is a non-linear process, often dominated by unconscious and non-objective elements. Here téchne and inventio, technical know-how and inventive capacity, constraints imposed by the functional program and references deposited in the architect’s knowledge, culture and personal memory meet.
Other works presented in the exhibition, such as hand-made technical drawings or photomontages, recount practices and methods of expression that have fallen into disuse in a professional practice nowadays profoundly changed. In this sense, the exhibition outlines a sort of archeology of the contemporary architectural drawing, which has been so much transformed over the last two decades that it was not easy to bring to light some practices that were usual until twenty years ago, and then very quickly disappeared, and are now almost unknown to the architects in training (the handmade technical drawing, all the different king of supports, the tools, the modalities of reproduction, etc.).
So the works on display dating from the Eighties and Nineties bring the visitor back to a very recent yet ancient world, but they do so without any nostalgic intent, instead trying to retrace the thread that led to the techniques of contemporary drawing and architectural representation, to grasp their specifics and potentials, also looking at Bellini’s personal biography, with its projection into the future, its special curiosity and irony.
Bellini has always had a multifaceted and omnivorous intellectual curiosity, always in search of innovation, within the realm of design as well as of architecture, and always careful to use the new technologies a source of the reinvention of forms (but without any enslavement to the technology itself). Precisely his curiosity seems to find in the new 3D modeling softwares a brand new horizon of possibilities in the field of form creation. This is how the projects of the 2000s were born, and the project for the Louvre Département des Arts de l’Islam is the most emblematic example. In these works the most advanced parametric design experiments become the tool to create new forms that were once only imagined, drawn from a personal vocabulary of archetypal shapes and references that range in every sphere and discipline. The use of new drawing technologies leads to a radical change in the cognitive paradigm and in the elaboration of design thought, and creates an unprecedented hiatus between the mind and the hand, changing also the epistemological status of the very act of drawing, which is no more autographic but allographic. Even in this case the hand sketching remains the indispensable instrument of thought and representation, an element of continuity in the conceptual phase of the project.
The characteristic gestures of Mario Bellini’s sketches seem to be a constant and recognizable element, whereas, on the contrary, the absence of a recurrent stylistic characteristic in his works has often been highlighted. In fact, contrary to other architects and designers, Bellini has never pursued a recognizable autographic reference in his projects, but has always had a rhabdomantic, peremptorily non-self-referential propensity.
Bellini’s way of drawing is free in gesture, but at the same time strictly functional; it is the witness of an untiring reflection on space, on objects, on ways of use, on forms and scale relationships.
The drawing is the place of experimentation and imagination. It is aimed at finding solutions and it is often traced on impromptu supports (including poor papers or coffee shop placemats), which witness the immediacy of the assiduous and compulsive draughtsman, applied with the same creative tension to the big work of architecture or to the small object of industrial production, to the small interior design or to a great temporary exhibition, always remaining in an anthropocentric and anthropological perspective.
For Mario Bellini the act of drawing is an instrument of the investigative process and it is a privileged terrain of representation, but, as shown by the sketches shown on the introductory wall of the exhibition, it is also a “white space” of freedom, in which imaginative thinking is manifested over and over.