Surfing Complexity- The work of Marcello Guido

aprile 21, 2011

The line dominates the volume and activates the plains. The line, traced in the void or around the edge, effectively writes architecture. This is what fascinates me most, and I’m drawn to it because nothing in architecture is more difficult than to submit both the volume and the surfaces to the line. It’s fair to say that in this architectural exercise, Marcello Guido stands alone, totally alone. (Claude Parent)

Guido’s complex, angular, shifting vocabulary of the incomplete has no grid, no primary order, so it has allowed a tentative assembly of elements set where required for one reason or another. (Peter Blundell Jones)

Guido’s architecture appears as an un-finished piece of work, as an open investigation that discourages any preconceived answer, and it often appears disquieting for this very reason […]  There is nothing in Piazza Toscano, in that perplexed architecture, that hints to the new man, or to the humanity of the future. The reference is to another kind of man, another kind of humanity that sleeps in hiding among the ignored possibilities of the present. In short, the square is not conceived for parking cars, but for welcoming neighborhood associations, where the local dialect resonates, filled with words that come from Greek and Latin. (Franco Piperno)

Facades, sections and plans collapses upon each other. Lines drawing invade the nearby space, hooking it and dragging it toward himself. Abstract views join togheter, and so it is impossible to find the subject. An architectural detail appears to the centre of a plan, so it looks like a piece of a huge structure. Lines are ferociously manipulated, color patterns shade off into sky, then into a glass wall, in the end an earthwork merges itself with a remote facade. Sections get independence from other draw from other drawings: they mirror each other, they overlap each other, they give too much information. Erasures and cleanings become instrument to explore the form. (Emmanuele Jonathan Pilia)


Surfing Complexity- The work of Marcello Guido

Edited by Luca Guido | Marcello Guido

Texts by Alexander Aguilar | Manuel Yanuario Arriola | Peter Blundell Jones | Boris Brollo | Paolo Vincenzo Genovese | Luca Guido | Claude Parent | Emmanuele Jonathan Pilia | Franco Piperno | Carlos Villagomez

Ed. Libria, Melfi, 2011

Introduction (Back to the critic)

This book, that shares the destiny of many publications, is born as a witness.  It is the witnessing of a work that started more than 30 years ago, at the end of the ‘70s. It has been long time since Bruno Zevi and Sergio Musmeci were commenting the work of a young architect, who was then 26, presented at the competition Einstein’s space-time and the architectural process.  That competition, organized by the Department of Architecture of the University of Rome for the centennial of Albert Einstein birth, was the first step of a research, uninterrupted since then. The first prize was won by Reima Pietilä,  ex aequo with Luigi Pellegrin.  The second prize was won by Marcello Guido, together with others of equal merits. In the debate organized in October 1979, Sergio Musmeci, regarding the project presented by Guido asserted: “[…] Guido’s project may seem limited especially if it observed in the draft; however, if you look carefully at it, you will see that there are some overlapping and reversed sections.  This is the most interesting part.  The project clearly hints at a spatial wealth based, above all, on a kind of explosion of the traditional space, with fragments scattered all over around […].  He proposes, especially, to imagine living inside these spaces.  If we live inside them, we cannot forego a space conception that brings us close to a kind of relativism.  There are no centers, no privileged points, no privileged plans, nor are there any privileged directions.  The project’s value resides in the clear assumption that some facts lead to relativity.  It may be difficult to draw a conclusion; perhaps, from this point of view it can be seen that a definite compositional strength belongs to the hand of this architect, beyond the space representation.  Here the Einstein’s space is represented together with his poetics over it, being this probably its highest value”. (1) It is a synthetic evaluation that however reveals to us a deep critical understanding of Marcello Guido’s essential work.  It is, as well, a reading key that even today is rich with indications. In that occasion, Zevi pronounced a few clever and concise observations, informing us that in Guido’s project “there are no elements of expressionism; there is indeed an expanding space, very fragmented; let’s just look at the layout […] it is very refined”. (2) Despite the fact that the intentions of the architect, according to his saying, are in the wake of the expressionist research, it should be noted that this event is at the origin of some critical success in the milieu of the Roman architects that were Zevi’s students.  As matter of fact, the chance offered by that competition was, in some way, unique and very meaningful.  Zevi himself, some years later, underlined this by evoking the episode in the pages of L’Espresso. (3) Later, in 1997, Marcello Guido’s work was inserted in Zevi’s book Storia e Controstoria dell’Architettura in Italia (4) and, in 1998, in the book, also by Zevi,  Linguaggi dell’Architettura Contemporanea (5). However, the quotations in these books did not bring to Guido a real and shared critical success and nor, up to the present, a proven professional success.  Because of this, he has become indifferent to the communications anxieties, the expectations of success, the advertisements’ obsessions/ostentations. We must add another observation.   The marginalization that I am mentioning is also the result of a precise and intentional choice, induced by Zevi himself:  the advice to move away from the university and, even more, the suggestion, not put in practice, of not getting his doctorate was probably presenting, for the young Guido, broader and brighter horizons than those offered by the provincial environment of Calabria. Going back to critical literature, the work by Cesare De Sessa, Guido’s friend orbiting in Zevi’s circle, has been unique as much precious.  He followed the project’s course of Marcello Guido since the beginning, that is since the Temporization of the Maxentius’s Basilica (6).  He has also reviewed a number of works; above all he has investigated the language and thought in rapport with the contemporary time and with modernity in architecture. The first monographic work about Marcello Guido (7), published as a catalogue for an exhibit at the Sala 1 Gallery in Rome, in 1999 was also done by De Sessa.  To him is also due the collection of all the critical presentations on Guido’s architectures that had been published on the pages of L’Architettura, cronache e storia (8), the only magazine that reviewed all Guido’s works, until it ended its publication. De Sessa’s work, that was for long time as a single voice, in 2008 has received a critical verification with the pocket book by the publisher Mancosu (9) in which appeared the interesting essay by Laura Thermes on the expressivity of Marcello Guido’s architectures and interview conducted by Giovanni Damiani.  Other publications in books and magazines, although of good quality, practically can be counted with the fingers of one hand (10).  Even the participations of Guido at events in which he was involved were very limited, although quite prestigious:  the prize at the competition and conference Paesaggistica e linguaggio grado zero (Landscaping and zero degree in Architecture) (11) in Modena, organized by Bruno Zevi, the exhibit, within the show Dal futurismo al futuro possibile (From Futurism to the possible future) by Franco Purini and Livio Sacchi at the Tokyo Design Centre (12), the winning of a prize Daedalus-Minos (13)  in 2001, the invitation to the XVI BAQ Biennale Panamericana di Quito (XVIth Pan-American Biennial of Quito) in 2008 and, lastly, the series of lectures held in Guatemala in 2009. This book is then born as a witnessing, with the hope that it can present, in an orderly way, a work that is still unknown to many. For this reason, this introduction must be interpreted simply as a sort of a reasoned bibliography that is supporting the photographic material, the critical texts and the drawings that animate the book along autonomous and independent paths.  Having cleared this aspect, the book could however risk of being considered as the result of a partially autobiographic and self-celebratory vision. Let’s say right now that if this is the way it appears, it was not intentional. Our intention is, on the contrary, to receive further stimuli from those who will want to criticize and analyze the works presented in these pages. A warning is, however, dutiful.  Every project must be understood as a contribution placed within a broader research.  This book intends to prove exactly this finality. At the same time, we hope that we will be able to provide some incentives to others and raise some desire for proposals in those who, by chance or by choice, will run into these pages. We are completely aware of the limits of the detailed architectures and of the context in which they were born.  It is also because of this, that the book is addressed only to a few persons. There is no intention of advertising.  All the works developed in the course of a life entirely dedicated to work and research denounce, on our opinion, just the opposite: the distance from fashion and common places, from easy exhibitionism and groups of power. It is a work mostly done in loneliness, both practically and intellectually, and because of this we do not believe the easy advertisements that are possible for others. At the same time, we think that a disciplinary strictness, a love for history, an attempt to abstract the thought in architecture, so exasperated that at times it looks subversive, are emerging. The reader is not therefore pressed to “share” something, or to approve.  Rather he is simply pressed “not to ask the word that squares out every side” (14), not to search for resolution formulae.

[1] Musmeci S. , L’ Architettura, cronache e storia, n. 290, 1979; p. 707

[2] Zevi B., ibidem, p. 709

[3] Zevi B., L’ Espresso, n. 30 anno XL  29 Luglio 1994

[4] Zevi B., Storia e Controstoria dell’ Architettura in Italia, Newton, Roma, 1997, pp. 602-607, 728

[5] Zevi B., Linguaggi dell’ Architettura Contemporanea, Etas libri, Milano, 1998, p. 111

[6] De Sessa C., Le radici storiche del Movimento Moderno, Plotino e l’ architettura, Universale Architettura,  Dedalo, Bari, 1984.

[7] De Sessa C., Marcello Guido. L’impegno nella trasgressione, CLEAN, Napoli 1999, p. 15.

[8] See bibliography

[9] AA.VV., Espressioni contemporanee, Marcello Guido, Gruppo Mancosu Editore, Roma 2007,

[10] See bibliography

[11] Cfr. Zevi B., Paesaggistica e linguaggio grado zero dell’architettura, Canal & Stamperia, Venezia, 1999.

[12] Cfr.  Purini F., Sacchi L., Dal futurismo al futuro possibile nell’ architettura italiana contemporanea, Skira, Milano, 2002

[13] Cfr. Battaglia S., Gabbiani M., Catalogo Premio Internazionale Dedalo/Minosse alla committenza di architettura, L’ Arca Edizioni, Milano, 2002

[14] Montale E., “Non chiederci la parola…” in Ossi di Seppia, Mondadori, Milano, 2003



Una Risposta to “Surfing Complexity- The work of Marcello Guido”

  1. Non vedo l’ora di averlo tra le mani!!! 🙂


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