Formulated as a critique of the universalizing impulses of modern architecture, particularly the reductive aesthetics of the International Style, the Italian Tendenza looked to the historical fabric of the European city as a method to develop architectural forms. The Tendenza's loosely... [more]
Formulated as a critique of the universalizing impulses of modern architecture, particularly the reductive aesthetics of the International Style, the Italian Tendenza looked to the historical fabric of the European city as a method to develop architectural forms. The Tendenza's loosely grouped architects, ranging from Aldo Rossi to Giorgio Grassi and Giancarlo de Carlo, weren't interested in substituting one style for another, but wanted to develop a mode of analysis that valued historical sources. The need to develop new architectural forms arose immediately in the aftermath of the Second World War, when Italian architects, like their European counterparts, set about to reconstruct their ravaged cities. Many architects understood the need for maintaining some semblance of formal and aesthetic continuity in the urban fabric, and began to question the almost naive functionalism prescribed by the goals of modern architecture. Yet the emerging consensus which eventually led to the Tendenza did not, as has been often suggested, call for the repetitive and slavish imitation of history.
Spurred by Aldo Rossi's seminal "Architecture of the City" (1966), the Tendenza architects rejected the canonical notion of 'form follows function.' Instead, they turned to the complexity of the urban realm and sought to understand the way architectural forms responded to changes in historical events. Using Palladio as an example, Rossi demonstrated how the Renaissance master transformed the cross-shaped plan of medieval churches into the basic form of his villas. This careful consideration of a building type -- in this case developed by a slippage from the sacred domain into the secular world -- became the basis for Rossi's approach to design. In a similar vein, the Tendenza developed an architecture that was abstracted from vernacular forms. Their approach, as described by Diane Ghirardo, understood building types 'as rooted in the specific customs and habits of particular cities or parts of cities rather than abstract constructs independent of historical conditions.' The urban sphere became a much more organic entity, where cultural traditions were valued but open to interpretation, allowing for a remarkably smooth transition of forms from one historical period to another.