Paper Architecture | Palaces of Words… Between Poetry and Architecture.

“Cities, like dreams, are made of hopes and fears”
—Italo Calvino, The invisible Cities.

When talking about representation we can’t avoid thinking also on literature, as both are ways of expression and communication, some times related as it is possible to see in the history of architecture. From architects working on the publishing industry, creating little-magazines or writing blogs to other architects that write poetry as means of representation, such as Raimund Abraham or Hans Hollein, among many others; the common link is the need to communicate their thoughts and ideas, their feelings and sensibilities.

In some conversations previous to the publication of the article From Line to Hyperreality, Cruz and Nathalie from WAI Think Tank pointed that by exploring the potential of tools of representation used in other intellectual disciplines, like literature, art, music, is possible to provide new ways of expanding the limits of architectural language and therefore increase the limits of our world. Trying to find-out which are this limits, Nicolò Quirico developed an artistic project “Palazzi di Parole” [palaces of words”], an exploration of cities through the language of its buildings and words. Simona Bartolena explains Quirico’s art-work:

Nicolò has stolen the soul of the town, sometimes by chance, just holding on to its various buildings that belong to different periods, built for different lives but all correlated to each other and nearly melted in one element, all sharing the same nervous and restless rhythm of the urban.

Looking at his work, it’s possible unfold new thoughts about buildings and cities, while giving new ways of understanding some old architectural concepts such as texture, skin, smell, sense.

To keep photographing the same ice
in the same river flowing beneath the same bridge
trying to link the shadow of a word to another word
staring into the same signs for nothing.

In a room like a model of a room after all
near stairs which lead nowhere
toward a bed split in two like a parody
of the ground unsteady as a cage in space

The clock deleted the right time
as I have tried to delete you
paint it on a fan; smear it on debris
pan around the bodies draped in battered paper.

Perhaps a trance will set you sane or poetry for nothing
you have lost the advantages of madness
you were grafted in the pain of a secret
to your own recessive until you reached tagency.


David Shapiro, The Sphinx, Again. A+U n.8 [1988] Extra Edition Peter Einsenman


Nicholas Quirico is not an architect, he deals with visual communication and publishing since 1985, when he graduated with honors Art Institute of Monza. From 1996 to 2004 he devoted himself to his photographic research, starting with the photographic medium to create installations of conceptual matrix. That’s why his glance on the city, through a technique full of poetry and words is a powerful message between imagination and memory, between history and fantasy. Quirico transforms existing buildings to create a new world or maybe to go back to an essential one… maybe that one referred by Tarkovsky in Nostalghia:

Where am I when I’m not in reality or in my imagination? Here’s my new pact to the world: it must be sunny at night and snowy at August. Great things end, small things endure. Society must become united again instead of so disjointed. Just look at nature and you’ll see that life is simple. We must go back to where we were to the point where you took the wrong turn.

The most interesting part of his work for us, as architects, is to see all these well-known buildings covered with new textures and shadows and to use this inspiration to rethink and re-present the city in new and different ways.

At the end, we all have grown up surrounded by papers, drawings and words. The wrinkles we can see in the papers are a reflection of time.

As we can read on the symposium Intersections: Architecture and Poetry:

‘We cover the universe with drawings we have lived’
Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 1958.

Poetry and architecture, brought together by Gaston Bachelard in his seminal investigation of lived-in space, are art-forms that nevertheless continue critically to be considered broadly apart from one another. The one concrete and three-dimensional, the other abstract and metaphorical, these two creative art forms invite further comparison. Philosophers and theorists have often used architectural metaphors in their writing – Freud, considering the canny (heimlich) as a cage that represses the uncanny (unheimlich); Bataille using architecture to represent authority and social order, that might be attacked and undermined by the destructive act of the individual; or Lyotard, proclaiming that ‘the temporal regime of the domus is rhythm or rhyme’.

Reading what Bartolena wrote about Quirico, “In a click, he is capturing life, the life that has been spent and still has to come in these buildings, to hundreds and more stories that have been told among those walls.”; we can’t avoid thinking on this close relationship between poetry and architecture, and how it has influenced the architectural practice along history.

Monuments are not made.

They arise
by the force of poetic events
to bear witness
“That beauty
to be found once more
when space and time
have passed.”*


Raimund Abraham, Monuments are not made, fragment.

*Elias Caneti, Die Provinz des Menschen.


All images by Nicolò Quirico, Palazzi di Parole.



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