Sometimes you engage in a proposal, making plans full of ideas, of desire, without fear of dispersion. You draw projects to substantiate dreams. It happens that the public power seeks to know its variety, its extent, its probability, to make new assumptions. And in the end, nothing happens. What is leftover then? There remain memories of ideas, paper architectures, vestiges or fragments on site.
64. 64 is the number of applications received by the organizers of a competition which in 1967 planned to build a new wing of the Palazzo Montecitorio, a new chamber for deputies with offices, conference rooms, parking lots. The historian Manfredo Tafuri then published Il concorso per i nuovi uffici della camera dei deputati, un bilancio dell’architettura italiana,1 a book introducing the history of the palazzo by Bernini and its extensions, gathering the most innovative responses by the architects teams, and drawing critical conclusions from this epochal turning point. The chapter dalla forma vuota al vuoto della forma exposes the necessity to fill the void left by the legacy of the modernist dogma in previous years, and carry on with a polemical text on the use of meaningless forms. The architectural proposals reflect the diversity of emerging trends and the abundance of experiments or forms: a cluster of blobs,2 a city suspended on endless columns,3 a diamond-shaped star-ship, 4 giant containers in balance,5 a vortex of neo barocco volutes,6 inclined planes, 7 high-tech superstructures,8 plugged capsules on mast,9 stretched textile sails, 10 basic geometric compositions.11 The programs are also questioned. For instance, one of the projects proposes to set up a hemicycle on the rooftop to organize open-air audiences. A proliferation of concepts and resources are competing for the battle to fill the void/an eagerness to conquer emptiness.
On site you can't see any consequence of this architectural effervescence, no trace. The land plot is still vacant. Members of parliament park their cars on the spot. Besides, there is no recent construction around, apart perhaps from some urban equipment. Few meters away from the parliament, on both sides of the crossroads, under largo Ghigi and via del Corso, sinking under the pavement, you find several stairways. They are the multiple entrances of a bookstore without a proper building, la libreria Cicerone. Its owner, Massimo Botrini says that his father decided to settle the familial bookshop in this underground space in 1984. The city of Rome rents this ungrateful place, initially designed as a pedestrian passage, used as public toilets, a windowless gallery, a tunnel of 300m2 under fluorescent lights, where you can currently find rare books and city-guides for the tourists. The bookstore has six entries. There used to be more before one of the doors was walled off, the one that leads to the Palazzo Chigi, residence of the Prime Minister. The passageway, like others in Rome, has no use because it doesn't pass under the most difficult avenue to cross. It is part of a large scale project, chronically debated and always abandoned, of an underground networks, connecting streets, roads, parking lots and the subway. The basement of the new camera dei deputati was supposed to become a hub in the web of the tunnels. It is strangely in this specific bookstore where I find various books of unbuilt projects for Rome, catalogs of fantastic perspectives that will never emerge. It is curiously in this same bookseller that I find various catalogs of fantastic projects, imagined at the end of the last century, which will never see the light of day.