One of the first architectural books Rush and I purchased as students was the epic “Aldo Rossi | Architecture 1981-1991” edited by Morris Adjmi. I remember pouring over Rossi’s pen and ink sketches, some washed with watercolor others with pencil or pastels, some very formal others with notes scribbled as if to remember a fleeting design thought. It was a view into his process - very personal, a signature, perhaps a piece of him. The sketches were often collages of floor plans, 3d perspectives and details; evidence of a master designer who understood how each influences and informs the other. His hard line drawings were arranged intuitively and his floor plans had such rigor - they looked simple and obvious. But designers know the path to simplicity is not simple.
As far as Rossi’s overarching architectural statement during this time period, I humbly yield to Morris Adjmi’s words from his opening essay “A New International Style.”
“The idea of a “new International Style” comes from a specific attitude about architectural design as well as from the changes that are reconstituting the world as a global village. It is an architecture that has regional and global components - one that is inseparably universal and inherently specific. Rather than approaching each project as an imposition of some ideal image or utopian solution, Aldo tries to understand the specifics of the site and the cultural spirit of the city and country. This is not to say that his work is without personal identity; rather, the projects share common themes and forms…He uses the city as his palette. Everything is a potential source: high and low, classical and vulgar. The poetry in Aldo’s work comes from his ability to carefully blend these artifacts and experiences into a coherent whole.”
And simply in Rossi’s own words:
“One cannot make architecture without studying the condition of the city.”
In the almost 28 years (is that even possible?) since first laying eyes on these words and images, the design teams I have been a part of endeavored to achieve small examples of this ‘blending’ described: honoring context, learning from history, deciphering the vernacular and creating a new iteration specific to the client, building, moment in time. The book is well-worn, coffee has been spilled on it, pages have been bookmarked, it crinkles when you turn certain pages, but it still remains a beacon of how we see design process and ultimately architecture.