In the exhibition “Search History” at the Maxxi National Museum in Rome, the architecture and art studio Space Popular examines the theoretical work of Aldo Rossi, among the most influential Italian architects of the 20th century.
The show is the latest in curator Domitilla Dardi’s Studio Visit program, initiated in 2018 with a simple premise: to invite creative producers to interpret the works of architectural masters in the museum’s collection. In this way, the creative is not bound by the same academic constraints as a curator and can interpret the work more freely, revealing new possibilities.
The ongoing collaboration between Italian fabrics company Alcantara and the Maxxi Museum spans more than 10 years, focusing on research within contemporary art and design practices, while encouraging a cross-disciplinary collaborative approach. Dardi previously invited Nanda Vigo, FormaFantasma, Konstantin Grcic and, more recently, Neri & Hu, a Shanghai-based interdisciplinary architectural practice that deconstructed the works of Carlo Scarpa.
For this edition, Space Popular directors Lara Lesmes and Fredrik Hellberg look to the neo-rational work of Aldo Rossi, a Pritzker Prize winner. In particular they examine his notions of ‘urban fact’ (fatto urbano) and ‘analogous city’ (città analoga) to explore the possibilities of the virtual city—or the metaverse.
Rossi described the ‘analogous city’ as a sequence of spatial experiences, which, though unique, were drawn by collective memories remaining a “permanent, universal and a necessary fact.” Space Popular draws a parallel between this and the experience of designing spaces in the metaverse, and our user participation in navigating these ‘spatial experiences’ in the virtual sphere.
Space Popular’s “Search History” exhibition takes the form of an immersive installation in which densely printed Alcantara fabrics are peeled back to reveal the inner workings of the city while re-evaluating Rossi’s theoretical approach to urbanism. Simultaneously, an original audio soundscape composed by the Spanish music duo San Jeronimo plays in the background.
Space Popular’s Lesmes and Hellberg are no strangers to blending the virtual and the physical, often incorporating notions of teleportation in their work. “‘Search History’ is at once an object, a threshold, and an environment,” they said in a statement. “In its in-between stages, it is an abstract landscape of layers. It reflects on Rossi’s ideas of the building as an entity that absorbs, records, and plays back the history of the city onto itself.”